DAYTON, Tenn. — Nokian Tyres P.L.C. has found a unique way to pay homage to the commercial rail industry, not too far from the famous Chattanooga Choo Choo.
The Finish tire maker is partnering with the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum to use a restored locomotive to deliver raw materials to the storage warehouse at its factory in Dayton, about 42 miles away from Chattanooga and its famous railway hotel.
According to Nokian, the locomotive will pull train cars one mile from Norfolk Southern's rail line to the facility's storage bay, enabling the tire maker to process the volume of materials necessary to accommodate demand for tires produced at the factory.
Nokian said the option is more efficient and more sustainable.
"This locomotive helps us reliably handle larger quantities of materials and streamline our processes," Nokian Transportation Manager Daniel Dobbs said. "It's a step in the right direction to support the factory as we continue to scale up production."
Nokian's Dayton facility is connected to Norfolk Southern's train line with 5,000 feet of track that ends at its rubber mixing building.
Production continues to increase at the factory as the company responds to rising demand for its products in North America. The factory's workforce has grown from 150 to approximately 330 in 2021, and the company said it is still hiring.
Earlier this year — and shortly after Russia launched its war on Ukraine — Nokian announced it was transferring some operations from its plant in Vsevolozhsk, Russia — which it is closing — to manufacturing sites in Nokia, Finaland and Dayton.
The locomotive, built in 1951, was used in Korea with the U.S. Army before being used by the U.S. Air Force to move rockets at Cape Kennedy during the 1960s. It again was used by the U.S. Army before being donated to the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum.
Today, it has Nokian Tyres branding.
"The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum supports our rail preservation efforts through a growing rail switching operation," Museum President Tim Andrews said. "These operations provide, safe, timely, and economical service to companies like Nokian Tyres that are helping to grow the region's manufacturing footprint."
Nokian's Dayton Factory Operations Director David Korda said the company wants to find ways to honor the community while respecting the environment.
"This locomotive helps us transport more raw materials to our factory in a sustainable way, while partnering with an organization that preserves rail's rich history in this region," he said.
Norfolk Southern Industrial Development Manager Jacob Weir said Nokian is "furthering our shared commitment to sustainability by leveraging a piece of rail history to serve their state-of-the-art manufacturing facility. Rail is the most sustainable method of shipping freight over land, and together we are lowering carbon emissions in moving materials, while connecting Nokian Tyres to markets across the U.S. and the globe."
Last October, Nokian was the first Rhea County company to receive a Governor's Environmental Stewardship Award, the highest sustainability honor in the state. The Chattanooga Regional Manufacturers Association honored Nokian with its Company of the Year award last year.