History

1010 4th Street, P.O. Box 878

Durant, Iowa 52747

Phone: (563) 785-4461 + Fax: (563) 785-4463

The Advocate News (Wilton-Durant, IA) Thursday, December 6, 2001. To view the article in its original form, tap or click here (4.98 MB)

Russelloy Foundry celebrates 50 years

Casting business carries on in Durant

by Dawn Luethye

The year 2001 marks the 50th anniversary of Russelloy Foundry, Inc., which has been in business in Durant Since 1951.

Gray iron and ductile iron castings, ranging in size from five pounds to over 2,000 pounds, are produced by the foundry at its 1010 Fourth Street location.

"We're primarily a jobbing shop," said president/general manager Leo Behal. "Ninety-nine percent of what we make is for other people and a big percentage of that is for pump companies such as Carver Pump."

Russelloy currently employs 32 people from Durant and surrounding communities and is running at about 60 percent capacity according to Behal.

Among the employees who keep things running smoothly are plant manager Ray Cole, plant superintendent Lonnie Ehlers, lab manager Tim Behal, and an office staff that includes production scheduler Jan Petersen, receptionist/secretary Janet Suhr, and CPA Steve Swingle.

"We're constantly looking at the future," Behal said. "We try to improve our machinery and equipment so we can produce what our customers want."

One of the primary advances was the replacement of a coke-fired cupola with an electric induction furnace in 1985.

Behal said the electric furnace can melt 3,000 pounds of iron at a time and is much cleaner than the cupola.

"It melts similar to a Crockpot with no noise and not a lot of smoke and dust," Behal said. "We can be pouring a little at a time and the shop doesn't heat up as much."

"It's a cleaner operation all around and doesn't take as many people to run as the cupola did," Behal noted, adding that a lot of the hard labor has been taken out of foundry work.

A Bit of History

Russelloy Foundry was founded 50 years ago by Russell Swartz, who at the time was a part owner of Riverside Foundry in Bettendorf.

When Riverside changed from a gray iron foundry to a steel casting foundry in 1951, Swartz went in search of a way to stay in the gray iron business.

RUSSELLOY

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Hot Stuff (image)
Hot Stuff - Melted iron from a 3,000-lb. induction electric furnace is dispensed into 1,500-lb. pouring ladle by Russelloy Foundry employee Gene Otto.
Photo by Dawn Luethye

RUSSELLOY

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According to Behal, Swartz found an empty foundry in Durant, bought it, and named it Russelloy Foundry.

When Behal joined the Russelloy management team in 1966, he already had logged 14 years in the foundry business.

As a young Davenport lad, Leo started working summers at Riverside Foundry in 1952. A 1955 graduate of Central High School, Leomet and married Sue Swartz, the daughter of Russell Swartz.

Behal worked full-time at Riverside Foundry and at Sivyer Steel, which bought Riverside in 1956, before moving his family to Durant to help out at his father-in-law's business.

All Shapes and Sizes (image)
All Shapes and Sizes - Customers' patterns are stored and maintained as a service of Russelloy Foundry. President Leo Behal checks one of the over 1,000 patterns ready to be used to fill an incoming order.
Photo by Dawn Luethye

"I learned a lot in the years following and when Russell passed away in 1971, the family felt I had enough education and experience to run Russelloy Foundry." Leo explained.

A board of directors was formed for the family owned operation which has flourished over the years despite withstanding two major fires.

According to Behal, the first site started on a Sunday morning in 1977 when a hot water heater malfunctioned.

"We lost the office, chemlab and cleaning room as well as a lot of patterns." Benal said "We were back in operation in a couple of weeks and were able to rebuild most of the patterns."

The second fire began on a weekend in 1992 in the core room area of the main shop.

"It had been going for hours before being discovered and it did extensive damage." Behal said. "We lost about 225 feet of building."

"We started back up about a month later with 50 percent production and it was six months before we got in a good days work he said.

As a result of the fires, Russelloy operations are now carried out in several different structures.

The main foundry building where the molds are cast remains intact. Measuring 250 feet by 100 feet, it also houses the core room as well as the steel scrap and sand reclaiming areas.

Across the street are the pattern storage and preparation building and the maintenance building, which includes a laboratory for testing metal chemistry.

The Russelloy offices moved across the street in 1978 and are now located in a house that was newly remodeled four years ago.

The cleaning and grinding room, where the finished castings are shipped from, is located about a block west of the office.

Russelloy Foundry's quality casting production will hopefully continue to be a leading industry for the city of Durant for another 50 years.

Quick Inspection (image)
Quick Inspection - President/general manager Leo Behal checks some core boxes outside the main shop of Russelloy Foundry in Durant. The office building is visible across the street in the top right of photo.
Photo by Dawn Luethye
Decision Making (image)
Decision Making - Plant manager Ray Cole and receptionist/secretary Janet Suhr look over an Order With production scheduler Jan Petersen (seated) in the Russelloy offices.
Photo by Dawn Luethye
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