Wear Parts for Industry

History

An American family business with over 100 years of industrial manufacturing expertise.

Columbia Steel circa 1933

The Northwest at the turn of the century
In 1901, Portland’s natural port via the Columbia River made the city a hub of commerce for inland industries like logging, mining and agriculture. The demand for cast steel products spurred immediate growth for Columbia Steel, the first steel foundry in the Northwest. Products of the time included railroad track switches and crossing frogs; parts for ships, such as stern frames, rudders and anchors; and parts for gold dredges. In 1916, Hobart M. Bird — whose descendants continue to operate Columbia to this day — first joined the company as a member of the foundry team. He ultimately became the President and Owner of Columbia Steel.

From 1904 to 1962, Columbia Steel was located at NW 9th and Johnson in Portland, Oregon.
Brochure for Columbia Engineering Works circa early 1900s.
Columbia Steel bandsaw wheels circa 1920s. The logging industry was a mainstay for us in our early years.

Years of World War I
The horseless carriage was beginning to catch on, creating a need for better roads — and a growing demand for crushed aggregate. Columbia Steel manufactured parts for stamp mills and Blake-type jaw crushers, and later Gates gyratory breakers and overhead eccentric jaw crushers. The development of the steam shovel allowed loading of larger feed material, and by 1910, gyratory crusher feed sizes had grown from 18” to 48”.

The Roaring ’20s
In 1923 the first three-phase electric arc steel melting furnace west of the Mississippi River was installed at Columbia Steel. In those days, Columbia made manganese steel by the “duplexing” method of melting ferromanganese in a cupola and mixing it in a ladle with steel from the arc furnace.

Columbia Steel dredge bucket circa 1920s. We're still supplying wear parts to dredging operations today.
A sampling of Columbia Steel products circa early 1900s.
Employees in 1934 show off their Christmas turkeys.

Surviving the Great Depression
The Wall Street crash of 1929 seriously impacted many of the manufacturers who relied on Columbia Steel castings. Fortunately, the company had established a strong reputation in the gold dredging industry, and this market made up about eighty percent of Columbia’s business, ensuring its survival during the ‘30s.

Wartime castings in the ’40s
Immediately after the country’s entry into World War II, a major ship building industry was rapidly established along the banks of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers. Columbia Steel’s foundry had a remarkable capacity for the times, making it a principal source of large steel castings for the US Navy. Columbia’s performance in this production effort was acknowledged by the award of the Navy “E” flag for excellence in achievement.

During WWII, Columbia produced parts for US Navy ships like this TS2 Tanker.
Columbia employees finish a steel propeller during WWII.
Columbia mold maker Billy Muscamp receives Ships for Victory Award in 1943.

New directions
During the late ’40s and early ’50s, new copper mines were being opened in the Southwest, and this was good news for Columbia, thanks to its ability to produce replacement parts for metallic mining equipment. The 1960s were devoted to upgrading facilities to produce larger parts, thicker sections, complex configurations, tighter tolerances, and new alloys. During the ‘70s, Columbia began pouring high strength martensitic steels. In 1986, the company introduced a premium manganese steel, trade named Xtralloy®, which proved highly successful in aggregate and mining crushers. By 1990, Columbia Steel was one of the larger domestic manufacturers of replacement wear parts for industry.

1955 Columbia product brochure features a photo of the scenic Columbia River Gorge.
In 1961, Columbia Steel mold making apprentice Donald Sprague was the first Oregonian to earn first place in the American Foundry Society's contest. The award was presented by Governor Mark O. Hatfield.
In 2001 employees gather to celebrate Columbia Steel's 100th Anniversary.

Today’s Columbia Steel
In 2016, Columbia Steel celebrates 115 years of service to its customers, and continues to focus on markets that need its unique capabilities in engineering, metallurgy, casting, machining, and assembly. Columbia employees are proud to live and work in the Pacific Northwest, and to provide real, value-added wear parts to industries around the world.

Our wetland neighbors are frequently spotted around our facility.
People stay in the foundry business because they love it.
Sunrise over the Columbia Steel Foundry

Industry affiliations
We are proud members of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI); the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association (NSSGA); the National Mining Association (NMA); the American Foundry Society (AFS); and the Steel Founders’ Society of America (SFSA).

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