Made in Milwaukee

Avalon Rail keeps rail cars rolling, worth riding in

The former Allis-Chalmers site in West Allis has largely been redeveloped into a shopping center and an office park with health care, educational, technology and other uses taking up space formerly occupied by heavy manufacturing.

However, one facility in the northeast corner of the site is still used for heavy manufacturing – for the rehabilitation of passenger rail cars.

Avalon Rail Inc. has been working on the site for 10 years, retrofitting rail cars for government-run passenger rail systems in North America, and for private companies and collectors that have their own private rail cars.

When it receives a rail car or series of cars from a customer, Avalon’s crew guts it and replaces all of its fixtures, ranging from windows to insulation to electrical and plumbing to furniture, electronics and cabinetry.

“It’s a complete tear down,” said June Garland, president and co-owner of the company. “It’s like taking a house down to the studs. But these are moving vehicles – not RVs (recreational vehicles). There are a lot of regulations you have to abide by if you’re going to be pulled by Amtrak.”

Rail cars are usually 10 feet wide by 85 feet long, which gives Avalon’s designers and workers a lot of room to work with. There are few limits on what Avalon Rail can install for woodwork, fabrics, unique furniture, electronics and technology, Garland said. The company has installed many different types of features into cars, ranging from gyms to lavishly decorated board rooms to well-stocked bars and much more.

Read more in the latest Made in Milwaukee profile in BizTimes Milwaukee.

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