Trackmobile LLC (Trackmobile) was founded in 1947 by ex-Navy fighter pilot Marshall Hartelius under the ownership of the Whiting Corporation. With an in-plant locomotive constantly getting stuck on the tracks, the team was determined to find a better solution for moving materials and equipment. The first successful prototype, The Mule, went to work in the factory in 1948. After a few years, Hartelius decided to explore the market opportunities for his machinery. Since put into production, Trackmobile has produced more than 10,000 mobile railcar movers.
The ownership of Trackmobile has changed hands a few times since its early years with Whiting Corporation. One of the more significant acquisitions was in 1987 when Trackmobile became a member of the well-established, and very successful, privately owned Chicago-based Marmon Group. “After some of the most successful years in Trackmobile history with Marmon Group, we were acquired in 2008 by another successful group in Berkshire Hathaway,” explains Jason Hill, regional vice president of sales for Trackmobile.
Today the Trackmobile team is headed by a strong and experienced management team, which includes not only Hill, but also Ralph Przybyszewski, president, and Keith Sellers, executive vice president of finance. Together, the team leads more than 60 employees who have been involved in unique builds to meet the changing needs of a broad customer base.
A Strong Team Allows Strong Presence
The company has established a global presence with unique, efficient and safe in design equipment. Trackmobile’s three current models, Titan, Hercules and Viking, still utilize many of the same designs principles developed from the Mule prototype.
“Known as mobile rail car movers to the industry, trackmobiles have the capability of operating not only with their steel rail wheels on rail but also on road tires that allow for exiting off the rail and onto the road,” Hill details. “Another principle design of the machine is a coupler lift system that allows for the borrowing of weight from the railcar it’s coupled to by hydraulically lifting on the railcar’s coupler to increase the machine weight and thus its rail traction.”
Hill is proud to note that clients can find the company’s equipment through 16 distributors across North America, with a comparable number of representatives internationally. The company’s presence is well-established, as Trackmobile’s domestic distribution network is built upon experience and knowhow.
“Along with a strong background in engineering and design, it is our distributors who are the backbone of Trackmobile’s success and who have been a vital part of our business plan from the beginning,” Hill says proudly. “More than half of the original distributors initially signed up during the early 1950s and 1960s are still in business today representing the product.”
With all its success domestically, Trackmobile also works directly with an extensive international clientele to build custom machinery. Especially for customers abroad, Trackmobile’s ability to make adjustments for rail gauge and other factors is crucial.
A Stand-out Portfolio
Aside from the usual suspects within its broad customer base – such as those in the chemical and energy sectors – the Trackmobile crew has been privileged enough to work alongside private space contractors based in, and around, the Cape Canaveral area. “These are independent and private entities who on a regular basis transport and provide satellite services for any number of companies directly involved in space communication and exploration,” Hill explains. “For about 10 years now we’ve played an instrumental role in helping launch their high powered rockets into space. Even though it’s generally just a short trip a few hundred yards away from the rocket’s construction platform to the launch pad, altogether its easily one of our most exciting projects to-date.”
Trackmobile has also been active in transit municipalities, specifically those in and around the San Francisco Bay area. “They utilize our machines primarily in their railcar repair shops where the movement of passenger cars in need of maintenance is managed,” Hill elaborates. “Mainline repair work that is performed outside the confines of their repair facilities on public thruways or city streets has in the past been prohibited; however, we’ve recently had discussions of possibly incorporating our machines into their maintenance-away fleets.”
Another unique work setting that Trackmobile has been involved with was a project where the team partnered with an electrical communications specialty contractor and a contract with the local New Jersey transit authority. According to Hill, the contract involved upgrades to the railway tunnel and its utilities.
“It just so happened that this particular stretch of subway was one of the main tunnel thruways from the New Jersey side of the Hudson River over to Manhattan,” Hill details. “Two of our units were purchased to assist in the routing of fiber optic cable in the tunnel under the river. The machine specifications and designs for the project were very specific. Careful considerations were made for safety and the coupling of our machine to that of our customer’s makeshift railcars that they’d developed specifically for the project. The railcars were designed to carry cable, tools and equipment needed to complete the work.”
Safe and Effective
No matter what the end-user function, customers can count on lifetime service and assistance for this machinery. Through its distributors, Trackmobile offers diverse personnel, including experienced sales and service technicians, to support buyers after the sale. “Many of our distributors are already heavily immersed in the material handling industry with other product lines,” Hill explains. “We feel it only makes sense that we partner with these substantial leaders in our industry to better support our customers and their primary goal of keeping their product moving.”
Part of Trackmobile’s customer support is through proper installation and training of the equipment onsite at the company’s facility. “There’s really not a true regulatory agency with guidelines for private facility use of rail equipment,” Hill notes. “We take it upon ourselves to make sure the machinery we manufacture is safe and the installation and training by our distributors is thorough and sound.”
As technology across many industries is changing, Trackmobile is bracing for growth in several directions. According to Hill, maintenance-away could become a larger portion of the team’s business. “We’re finding out more and more that private rail contractors are seeking a more reliable piece of equipment when contracting for the large Class One railroads,” he elaborates.
There is much for the company to look forward to, as Trackmobile also sees an expanding role in an already volatile oil and gas industry that seems to be growing substantially each year. Hill notes that the energy sector is booming and the involved companies are constantly upgrading facilities and equipment to keep fuel and petroleum based products moving.
A strong team allows Trackmobile to continue to innovate, providing useful and safe products for industries across the globe. The company has a low turnover rate and the staff is dedicated to the success of the business.
“We have a family atmosphere,” says Przybyszewski proudly. “Our people like coming to work in the morning. Our key performance indicators are not all about the bottom line. We want our operations and our products to be safe and we want good customer response. That’s how we know we are doing well.”
Trackmobile takes safety and performance seriously; however, Hill says Trackmobile gets to have some fun, too. “We rented two of our Hercules models for the studio filming of a motion picture a few years back,” he details. “In the most recent Lone Ranger remake, most of the visuals are obviously CGI and the Hercules was edited out; but whenever you see a train sequence in motion, apparently there was a Trackmobile involved.”
The company foresees growth ahead, likely in the more serious sectors of the industry. Hill notes that Trackmobile is expecting growth abroad, especially in Asia and the Middle East. However, domestically, oil and gas continue to drive business with more than 25 percent of the company’s contracts. Nonetheless, whether pushing trains along a set rail for a movie or bumping cars around the yard for the regional transportation authority, Trackmobile LLC continues to provide efficient and safe mobile rail machinery that is reliable, innovative and offers value to customers.