FOLLOWING its acquisition of the Adtranz freight wagon business in Siegen, Germany, earlier this year (RG 2.00 p118), US-based builder The Greenbrier Companies is strengthening its foothold in Europe. Using Siegen as a design and contract management office, the company is developing manufacturing activity at the Swidnica plant in Poland, in which it acquired a majority interest from Fabryka Wagonów Swidnica in March last year.

According to Bill Bourque, Vice President International, Greenbrier has spent more than US$10m on improvements to manufacturing, offices and staff facilities at Swidnica. He says that both management and shop floor staff have participated in exchange visits to Greenbrier plants in North America as part of a training programme.

Acquisition of the Adtranz business gave Greenbrier access to Western European wagon designs, such as 200 small-wheel rolling motorway wagons being built for an Austrian intermodal operator - although these are being assembled by another subcontractor and not at Swidnica.

Bourque estimates demand for wagons in Europe to be from 10000 to 12000 a year, and he says the company’s Polish plant has the capacity to produce ’several thousand’ of these. But he couples his remarks with a warning that there is too much wagon building capacity in Europe and that consolidation is inevitable - as has happened in North America where there are now only six main builders.

Swidnica is currently putting together six wagons a day, although some of these are part-finished products. They include container flatcar underframes for a US waste disposal company; Greenbrier chose to fabricate them in Europe as its American plants had full order books. The work meant that Swidnica had to be certified by the Association of American Railroads and other North American bodies.

Greenbrier expects to display three wagons at the Innotrans event in September. As well as a tank wagon - the traditional Swidnica product - there is likely to be a sliding door wagon and a flat wagon. Bourque says the investment made in the plant is now beginning to pay off, and notes that it has been fascinating ’watching the butterfly open up’.