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Story #84Mid-America CarKansas City, MO

Growing up, working hard was never optional. When Mom and Dad started Mid-America, we had two guys, a pickup, and a second mortgage on the house. That’s all we had to get started.

Founded in 1978, Mid-America Car performs comprehensive repair, maintenance, and customization for the nation’s Class I railroads, industrial lines, and commuter light rails. Amidst a landscape dotted with train tracks in all directions, a network of rails gives clients easy access to the family-owned company’s state-of-the-art facilities. BNSF, Union Pacific, CSX and Kansas City Southern all rely on Mid-America’s expertise to quickly turn around challenging projects – and return critical equipment to revenue service.

Frank Blanc was just a kid when his parents launched the business. “My parents didn’t understand child labor laws,” Blanc jokes. It gave him the opportunity from a young age to work every odd job he could. “I started off at the bottom, loading up all the service trucks, cleaning the vehicles, stocking supplies. I worked my way through the track departments, and mechanical departments, working summers in high school and through college.”

Armed with a business degree from Kansas State University, he came back to Mid-America with a fresh perspective – and an appetite for growth. “My dad and I were sitting down with a demanding customer, and I laid out a schedule with a seven-day cycle time. Dad looked at it and said, in front of the customer, ‘that requires 14 days!’ I had to nudge him under the table and say, “Well actually, Dad, we have been doing seven days for quite awhile.”

The younger Blanc is now president of the company. “It’s an exciting time,” says Frank. “There are a lot of changes going on in our industry with emissions reduction, with fuel technologies and with the rising interest in municipal light rail.”

Frank Blanc is ready for the challenges, backed by a veteran team of engineers, machinists, and mechanics whose expertise, vision and loyalty give Mid-America the foundation to move confidently into the future.

 

Photos by David Rice and Judah Rice

  • Mid-America Car President Frank Blanc and his son Jordan on the platform of their meticulously restored vintage Electro Motive Diesel SW1 switching engine. Originally built in 1947 for the Southern Railroad, the six cylinder, 600 horsepower locomotive is small and ideal for maneuvering clients’ equipment around the facility.

  • Mid-America Car paint shop foreman Richard Fields.

  • Jordan Blanc in the pit beneath a 215-ton SD70ACe locomotive belonging to Kansas City Southern.

  • Mid-America Car employees prepare this EMD GP38 for a fresh repaint.

  • Before joining Mid-America, Bob Crane worked for the Santa Fe railroad building steam and diesel equipment. At age 80, he still comes into the shop every day.

  • Mid-America Car President Frank Blanc and the solar panels that power his facilities. Since installing the array, monthly power costs at the main shop have been reduced by $700. In the winter months, Mid-America keeps its main shop warm with recycled oil from incoming equipment.

  • Barbara Walty has kept the books in order at Mid-America Car since Frank Blanc’s father opened the business. She’s sat at the same desk since 1980 - a desk Frank fondly recalls stealing candy from as a young kid.

  • Derek Evans checks and confirms a clear track ahead from the window of Mid-America Car’s SW1 yard switcher.

  • Jessie Stechman sweeps up heavy blasting grit used to strip the paint from this EMD MP15DC locomotive. The grit will be re-used in the next job, which is waiting on the track outside.

  • Frank Blanc leads the monthly all-hands company meeting at Mid-America Car. Among items on today’s docket is news the company has exceeded its quarterly goals, and the employee profit-sharing will be generous.

  • Employees at Mid-America Car during the monthly all-hands team meeting.

  • Mid-America General Foreman Shane Smith walks to the fabrication shop to check on a project.

  • Matthew Neely of Mid-America Car reviews inventory from an inbound parts shipment.

  • A master welder at Mid-America Car begins the lengthy restoration of this 70-year-old EMD E8 passenger locomotive. When restored to its original Rock Island colors, it will be returned to a private collector in Iowa.

  • A shop foreman’s desk at Mid-America Car.

  • Mid-America Car General Manager David Hime.

  • Jordan Blanc and Justin Fox prepare parts for a wheel set replacement.

Business Details

Proprietor: Frank Blanc
1523 N Monroe Ave. Kansas City, MO 64120
PH: 816-483-5303 / Website
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