Dixline Corporation in Galva keeps it all in the family

Beth Welbers
Geneseo Republic
Bins of cast pieces are ready to be plated

On a quiet side street next to a closed rail road crossing is one of Galva's best kept secrets.  

Dixline Corporation is a fourth generation family owned business that will celebrate its 100 year anniversary in 2024. The metal fabrication, injection molding, electroplating and vacuum metalized coating business creates decorative hardware almost exclusively for the funerary industry.  

The company does it so well, in fact, at a time when foreign competition is driving local manufacturing out of business, Dixline is running two ten-hour shifts five days a week just to keep up with the orders. Eighty-five employees help to keep the production rolling. They are the last remaining American supplier in their industry. 

A sample of a finished piece, ready to pack and ship

Kevin Thomson, President of Dixline, refers to  employees as family.  "We have numerous family members who work here. Husband and wife, brothers and sisters, cousins, it's a good place to work."

Recently, Thomson was the recipient of the Lifetime of Service Award given by the Casket and Funeral Supply Association of America in April of this year. Ironically, his own father, Will Thomson was the recipient of the same award in 2012.  

Founded in 1924, by LeRoy Thomson, the first manufacturing plant was located in Galesburg, Illinois. His son, Willard, moved the manufacturing operations to Galva. His son, also named Willard, saw the manufacturing entity grow, adding additional lines to the existing operations, before turning it over to his son, Kevin and his brother David.  David retired in 2018, leaving Kevin managing operations today.  Kevin's son, Presson is employed in the family business as well. 

Dixline Corporation is celebrating five generations of family leadership. Left to right, Presson Thomson, Kevin Thomson, Will Thomson.  The workforce has many instances of family members working together.  "Treat everyone like family, with honor and respect" is the secret to a happy group of employees.

More: Other local family manufacturing businesses

Thomson also explained that it is not unusual for himself or another family member to jump in and man a machine or process if an employee is gone.  They have all worked the manufacturing floor, and understand all the steps.

Tenacity must be in the family's DNA, the plant has survived and rebuilt after two fires, survived a Depression and the ups and downs of nearly a century of commerce.

Dixline puts out over 75,000 pieces per day of various cast and extruded embellishments, to be shipped to casket manufacturers across the country.  The full line of adornments includes both metal and resin materials. Depending on the kind of base, finishes are either electroplated or vacuum metalized, with all stamping, extruding and finishing done in-house.  

Completed pieces in a bright metal finish

Molten zinc is injected into molds or dies for some of the higher end decorative items.  Once cooled and cleaned up, these are ready to be electroplated and burnished. Other parts are stamped out of sheet steel. Racks of the metal parts are immersed in a chemical bath, with an electric current running through it to put a thin metal layer, in this case bronze, brass or nickel, on the underlying zinc form. Once dry, the finish is burnished by hand by an employee, to create an antiqued finish, and then prepped to be shipped.

Other pieces are injection molded out of plastic. Racks of these plastic parts are then headed for the vacuum metalizing process. The racks of parts are placed inside a machine, the air is removed from the chamber, and a filament is used to vaporize a metal. The metal then deposits onto the pieces, creating the finish. 

Finished handles are boxed and ready to ship

Dixline has an assortment of die cast, steel stamping and finishing services. In addition to casket hardware, Dixline can produce door and window hardware, furniture hardware, and aviation and automotive components as well as lighting and plumbing hardware. Powder coating finishes are also available. For very special orders, genuine gold plating can be done. Thomson said that fewer than 150 of these orders are placed in a year. 

More: Another Galva business that fuels local economy

One of the coming enhancements to the process will occur next year with a major upgrade to the waste water treatment system that they have in house, making Dixline one of the few zero discharge facilities in the United States. Laboratory services are also on site, to insure consistent quality of processes.