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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Branch Assembly Plants Chapter 2- Twin Cities

Henry Ford, Bill Knudsen, Ernest Kanzler along with James Couzens decided in the early 1910's that the erection of Branch plants in strategic locations would allow Ford Motor Co. to save huge amounts of money in railroad shipments.

Before this time completed cars assembled at Piquette Avenue plant were shipped in railroad cars, but the completed cars took up more space than boxes of parts & completed chassis, it was also not cost effective to ship assembled cars. This is where the idea of Branch plants came about.

While you could get 6  or 8 assembled cars in a railroad boxcar, you could get 20 or so 'knocked down' cars in a single boxcar.

Here's some info on the Twin Cities plant.

Ford acquired a warehouse in Minneapolis in 1912 where these knocked down cars would be assembled. However they outgrew that building and moved into a rented 10 story building in downtown Minneapolis a few years later. They outgrew this building also due to the extreme popularity of the Model T and it was decided to build their own factory, known simply as "The Twin Cities Ford Plant"

The Twin Cities Ford Plant was built in 1924 in the Highland Park neighborhood of St. Paul, Minnesota, directly on the Mississippi River. Henry Ford was an adamant supporter of using water as a source of hydro-electricity as well as transport of parts, equipment and various other items needed in the production of Ford cars & trucks.

Model T Fords were the first vehicles produced here as well as the Model A starting in 1928. Twin Cities plant was one of the oldest Ford plants still being used for the production of vehicles, the last ones being produced at this plant were Ford Ranger trucks in 2010. The plant is slated to close in 2011.

One of the unique facts about the Twin Cities plant is the sand mine underneath the plant. This sand is used in the production of glass. The mine has been in continuous operation since the late 1940s.

Many theories abound as to what the plant will become now that it is closed, perhaps a tourist center or tied in with the nearby baseball stadium. Who knows, but this Albert Kahn designed building should be saved!