National Alabama Rail Car Manufacturing Facility

National Alabama Corp.
Cherokee, Alabama
2.2 million square feet
Albert Kahn Associates
Construction Management

Walbridge and its joint venture partner, Yates Construction teamed to build a 2.1 million-square-foot behemoth of a railcar manufacturing plant that sits on a 635-acre site in Cherokee, Ala. From one end to the other, it measures three-quarters of a mile. The day it opened, it became North America’s largest railcar plant. The project required 900 onsite craftspeople, movement of 2.9 million cubic yards of dirt, 22,600 tons of structural steel and 75,000 cubic yards of concrete. And it was built in just 18 months.

The project team, which included designer Albert Kahn Associates, worked diligently to stay in close contact throughout the build cycle. Use of the latest technology, coupled with people meeting regularly and sharing updates, kept everyone in the loop, minimized errors and maximized results.

An aggressive schedule required fast-track design and construction techniques in order to deliver the project on time. And staying on top of the nearly $300 million budget was a critical requirement.

One construction method used to cut time from the schedule was the use of on-site precast concrete for the building enclosure. Panels, typically spanning 30 feet between column footings, were poured in on-site setting beds, cured, and then moved into position around the building. This compressed the schedule by eliminating formwork erection and delivery logistics. Sequenced panel installation was timed to closely follow steel erection, which further expedited construction.