EAST CHICAGO, Ind. (AP) -- Union Tank Car Co. has closed its northwestern Indiana factory, shifting production to plants in Texas and Louisiana and putting nearly 450 people out of work.
The Chicago-based company cited a declining market for railroad tank cars and the cost of operating the older facility in East Chicago.
Friday was the final day of work for the 70 salaried employees and 375 hourly employees.
''It's sad. It's like when you graduated from high school and everyone went their separate ways. Only this was 30 years instead of four years,'' said Jim Sheridan of Munster, an X-ray welder who lost his job three weeks short of his 30th anniversary with the company.
Company spokesman Bruce Winslow said most of the workers received their checks and benefits explanations on Thursday, a process he said went well.
The plant, in operation for more than 40 years, was building about 60 tank cars per week as recently as September, but the company laid off about 100 workers early this year as production dropped to 30 tank cars a week.
Winslow said some accounting department personnel will remain at the plant for about three months to close the books.
''It's a sad day,'' he said.
Kelly Hounshell of Valparaiso, president of Local 524 of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers and Helpers, was upset by the closure.
''I'm thankful I had a job here for 21 years,'' Hounshell said. ''I just can't believe this membership contributed to making billions of dollars for the company. It makes no difference now. It's just a slap in the face.''