by Diana Barnum
ANTIOCH, IL – In 1947, Vern Thelen purchased his
first gravel truck replacing the horse and wagon he had used to haul sand
and gravel years before. With that simple purchase, he founded Thelen Sand
In 1955, Thelen purchased their first gravel pit in nearby Spring
Grove in northeastern Illinois. The land has since been reclaimed and
boasts a residential subdivision where the trucking and mining operations
once stood. But the main office is still located about six miles from this
Today, in addition to the full-scale mining operations, there are
three ready-mix plants and over 200 employees at Thelen Sand and Gravel’s
plants and offices in Antioch and Waukegan, Il, and Wilmot, WI.
Excavation Division handles large road construction projects, site
development, residential foundation and driveway installations, and
large-scale sewer and water system installations.
Thelen also recycles
concrete and asphalt from old road projects using the material in top
quality products like sand, gravel and ready-mix concrete products and
“One of the plants we’re using for concrete
product is a 1987 Rex plant,” said Steve Thelen, president of Thelen Sand
and Gravel. “We added an Erie Central Mix to the plant in 2000. So now it
has two lanes.”
“The Rex plant had two dry lanes,” said Bill Francis,
District Sales Manager for the Erie Strayer Company in Erie, PA. “We
converted one lane to a central mix or wet batch operation.”
plant was originally configured to have two dry batch loading lanes, each
set up with a dry batch holding hopper. In 1998, Steve Thelen asked Erie
Strayer to quote on converting one of the existing dry lanes to a wet lane
with an Erie 12 Cu. Yd. Central Mixer. Initail site evaluation, determined
the conversion was feasible.
Erie used existing drawings and field
measurements to design the modifications to the existing plant. The Erie
mixer was shipped in November 1998 and installed the next month. The
installation went smoothly in accordance with Erie’s design and
parameters. A smooth start-up and reliable day-to-day operation left
Thelen pleased both with Erie and the mixer.
Plant operations are run from an automated
computer system. Part of that system includes a truck tracking component.
Dispatchers know when trucks reach a job site, when material is poured and
when the truck returns. This system is also linked with the National
Weather Service, receiving minute-by-minute forecasts to help with job
Thelen uses Telebelt truck-mounted telescopic conveyors from
Putzmeister America. They have two 105-footers, one 180, and two
“The newer Telebelt TB series has updated hydraulics and
electronics,” said Randy Ziarek, Midwest regional sales manager for
Putzmeister. “They have radio remote and smoother operations.”
modes of control assure that smooth operation:
• Battery-operated radio
• Truck controls
• Plug-in or hardwire control
The plug-in is ideal for work in areas that have radio frequency
conflict like in hospital zones.
Thelen’s onsite equipment also
includes a 75 foot conveyor, rows of ready mix trucks, semi dump trucks,
six-wheel dumps, loaders, and four Kenworth trucks with McNeilus
“The oldest piece of equipment we have is our 150 Komatsu with
a hammer,” Bruce Coon, division superintendent at Thelen’s excavation
site. “And we use a loader impactor that’s four years old.”
and Community Education
Thelen Sand and Gravel takes every opportunity
to educate its customers and the neighboring community
routinely hosts educational concrete seminars at their Antioch plant.
Seminars range from equipment demonstrations to concrete finishing.
recent concrete seminar focused on the effects of weather on quality
concrete finishing and the effective use of admixtures in concrete
finishing. The belief is that once educated, customers will make best use
of Thelen’s products and services. Topics included insulated concrete
forming systems and a comparison of steel versus synthetic fibermesh.
Volunteers attempting to break two concrete samples, one with fiber and
one without, learned firsthand that fiber improves tensile
Attendees also learn the advantages of flowable fill.
Flowable fill is ideal for: filling voids under existing pavements,
foundations and other supporting structures; backfilling narrow trenches;
and filling abandoned underground structures such as culverts, pipes,
tunnels, storage tanks, wells and sewers. Flowable fill eliminates the
need for clay stockpiles; requires less equipment; requires no compaction;
and is self-leveling
Thelen takes a proactive stand concerning
community relations. The company works hard to present a positive image.
Among their efforts is a program opening the quarry to school tours and
other groups allowing them to study glacial deposits under active mining
For more information on: Thelen Sand and Gravel Company;
28955 W. Rt. 173, Antioch, IL 60002, 847-395-3313 (ph), 847-395-3452
(fax). Erie Strayer Company, PO Box 1031, Erie, PA 16512; 814-456-7001
(ph), 814-452-3422 (fax). Putzmeister America, 1733 90th Street,
Sturtevant, WI 53177; 800-884-7210(ph), (262) 884-6338