Company President Bob Buchanan, a former Amtrak engineer, notes the economic food chain extends farther still because he sub-contracts work to painters and buys from local welding equipment suppliers.
"It goes deeper," he said. "I bet we generate $200,000 a year in secondary operations that we send out locally."
In Gladstone, Mich., the 30 employees of the Independent Machine Co. do business with Amtrak and other rail companies, supplying them with gear cases, wear plates and the plows attached to the front of locomotives to clear debris from the tracks. The company started in a garage in 1975 with a single lathe used to knock the flat spots out of worn locomotive wheels.
"It's very beneficial to us," sales manager Wendy Wils said of the increasing business. "The more locomotives they have out there, the more replacement parts we build."