- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 11, 2014

MUNCIE, Ind. (AP) - If you visit England in coming years, don’t be surprised if you see a reminder of home rolling down the British railroad tracks.

Progress Rail Services on Tuesday offered invited guests a rare opportunity to visit their Cowan Road factory. The occasion was the presentation of a newly designed locomotive, one of 21 the Muncie plant has contracted to produce for Great Britain Railfreight.

John Smith, managing director of the British firm, brought 10 of his employees across the Atlantic to Muncie for the announcement. He encouraged those on hand - officials from both companies, Progress Rail workers and elected officials and their representatives - to “give an epic cheer and a round of applause” when a name plate on the new locomotive was uncovered, proclaiming the train “The Hoosier State.”

Smith acknowledged some in his homeland might not be familiar with the word “Hoosier,” adding, “They certainly will (be) once this things starts rolling around the railways.”

Smith told The Star Press (https://tspne.ws/1xISmea ) his firm’s purchase of the locomotives was “hugely important to us in terms of our business.”

“What you’re building is almost iconic in the U.K.,” he told Progress Rail employees.

Progress Rail has said little publicly about its local operations - including the number of employees at its Muncie facility - since the October 2010 announcement the firm was coming to Muncie.

On Tuesday, however, Billy Ainsworth, president and CEO of Progress Rail and Electro-Motive Diesel, said the Muncie plant had “built over 200 locomotives destined for international locales.”

Before the ceremony, Ainsworth told The Star Press that he believed his employees would “take great pride” in producing the locomotives for GBRF.

There were no announcements that the GBRF work would result in an increase in manpower at the Cowan Road plant.

The event drew local elected officials - state Rep. Sue Errington, state Sen. Doug Eckerty and Delaware County Commissioner Sherry Riggin - who addressed the crowd, along with representatives of Gov. Mike Pence and federal officeholders.

Smith noted that Progress Rail safety rules prohibited him from raising a glass of beer in tribute to the plant’s workers. He maintained if any of the employees wanted to look him up in England, he would “buy you a pint” at a local pub.

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Information from: The Star Press, https://www.thestarpress.com

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