About Reliance Foundry
Since 1925, Reliance Foundry has maintained the best in quality, service, and expertise
Reliance Foundry Co. Ltd. delivers the highest-quality stock and custom-designed products for architectural site furnishings, traffic management, and industrial applications. Since 1925, Reliance Foundry has built upon a long tradition of metal casting expertise to become an award-winning supplier for high-profile and everyday needs across North America.
Reliance Foundry was first incorporated by four foundry workers in 1925. It grew to become Vancouver’s largest working foundry—fulfilling contracts for municipal authorities and companies in the mining and forestry industries. During World War II, employees worked 48 hours per week, casting 10 tons of metal per day to supply parts for the Allied forces’ war effort. In 1966, a fire at the original Vancouver site forced the company to relocate to a new location in Surrey. By the 1990s, Reliance Foundry began outsourcing production to increase the range of offered products and expand beyond regional services to become a continental supplier. The company moved to its current location in 2005, and in 2012 was awarded the Surrey Board of Trade’s Business Excellence Award.
What We Do
Outdoor products and metal casting services
Reliance Foundry supplies outdoor products and metal casting services to clients across North America. We work with architectural design firms, property managers, installation contractors, city planners, and private businesses to find the best solutions for our customers. We are committed to ongoing innovation and development to suit a growing range of needs and applications. Our products are designed to suit any outdoor application, from high-profile architectural buildings to everyday industrial and commercial locations.
1925 – Incorporated as a company
In 1925, a group of foundrymen from Wallace Foundry decided to go into business for themselves. H. G. Ireland, Ray McDougall, and brothers Mike and Gerry Engelbeen purchased a building at 149 West 4th Avenue in Vancouver and incorporated Reliance Foundry Co. Ltd. The property cost $3,000—about $40,000 in today’s dollars. Today, single-bedroom apartments in the same neighborhood cost a half-million dollars.
Sept 6, 1925 – Gastown lamp standards
Reliance Foundry’s first contract was to manufacture 225 lampposts for the City of Vancouver at $38.50 per post. 90 years later, the original lamp standards are still being used in Vancouver’s historic Gastown. Municipal contracts were the main source of income for the company until it expanded to supply products for the mining and forestry industries.
1927 – Largest number of employees
In 1927, Reliance Foundry had 102 employees, creating the current standing record for the greatest number of employees at one time. By 1928, this number dropped to just 40. The foundry industry in general struggled in the years to come.
1927 – Fred Done hired
Fred Done had previously worked with the Reliance Foundry owners, when they’d been working at Wallace Foundry. In 1924, he had been working as a helper making 35 cents per hour. In the evenings, he studied electrical engineering and became proficient in designing electrical furnaces.
In 1927, the Reliance Foundry owners hired Fred to construct a one-ton furnace, marking the beginning of the Done family’s involvement with the company.
1934 – Second Narrows Bridge
In 1934, Reliance Foundry was awarded a municipal contract to cast chain links for the original Second Narrows Bridge that connects Vancouver to the North Shore. The contract helped sustain Reliance Foundry through the Great Depression—a time when most foundries struggled.
March 1, 1934 – Cameron Pump
Reliance Foundry produced a Cameron Pump in the early 1930s. Casting is an ideal process for metal pump housings.
1935 – Casting steel
Due to high temperatures and challenges with ductility, steel was a challenging alloy to cast. Using Fred Done’s electric arc furnace, Reliance Foundry first began casting steel in 1935. The furnace used electrodes to create electric arcing that would heat steel to molten temperatures in a heat-proof container. Casting steel opened opportunities with the mining industry.
1936 – Fred Done buys into Reliance
In 1936, Fred Done bought shares from H. G. Ireland and Ray McDougall to form a two-man partnership with Mike Engelbeen (Gerry Engelbeen passed away in 1928). The partnership would last more than eight years, and Engelbeen would continue to work for Reliance until 1957.
1940 – World War II
In the lead up to World War II, Reliance helped the country prepare for war by casting parts for gun emplacements. In 1940, with the war on in full force, the company began to produce metal plates for the bow and stern of the Canadian Merchant Navy’s Park Ships. Wartime need for cast steel and iron saw Reliance incorporate a night shift into their operations. Employees worked 48 hours per week to produce 10 tons of product each day.
November 19, 1940 – New employee contract
On November 19th, 1940, Reliance Foundry formalized a working agreement with its employees. The agreement outlined a strategy for worker representation and stated that “eight hours shall constitute a day’s work”—paying double-time for work performed over eight hours and on Sundays and holidays. It also included a cost-of-living allowance to be reviewed every three months.
1943 – Fred Done becomes sole owner
In 1943, Fred Done purchased Mike Engelbeen’s interest in Reliance Foundry to become the company’s sole owner. Fred’s purchase marked the beginning of his family’s exclusive ownership of Reliance Foundry. Mike continued to work for Reliance Foundry until 1957.
May 17, 1946 – Foundry workers strike
After World War II, foundry workers across Vancouver organized a city-wide strike to increase their wages. Fred Done opposed the strike, crossing picket lines with his son Barry. Still, the industry knew skilled foundry employees were an important part of a company’s success. Even after a new, standardized wage was agreed upon for workers, another foundry attempted to poach one of Reliance’s workers with an offer higher than the suggested wage.
November 28, 1946 – Malleable iron production closes
Wage increases meant it was no longer feasible to produce malleable iron. The company halted production, making for big news in the industry. At the time, Reliance Foundry was the only foundry west of Ontario to produce malleable iron. “We are closing down our malleable iron operation entirely and adjusting our steel operations until such time in the future as conditions change,” said Fred Done in a letter to employees.
May 1, 1948 – ESCO proposes purchase
In 1948, representatives of the ESCO Corporation approached Fred Done with an offer for the company. Fred noted in company records: “Mr. Lane was down at Reliance discussing ESCO buying out Reliance.” Fred refused the offer and later that year went on to purchase the bankrupt Westland Foundry, later selling off their equipment.
Jan 29, 1949 – Employees receive bonus
On January 29, 1949, Reliance Foundry paid employees a bonus from profits earned in 1948. The bonus was paid based on the number of days worked in 1948. If an employee was present for all 248 days of operation, he received a maximum bonus of 100 dollars. With inflation, $100.00 would equal approximately $1182 today.
1950 – First foundry to cast manganese steel
In 1950, Reliance Foundry became the first foundry in Vancouver to cast manganese steel. Manganese steel contains a higher level of manganese (1–1.8 percent) than other types of steel (typically 0.15–0.8 percent). Additional manganese makes the steel both harder and more ductile. These characteristics were very beneficial for parts cast for the mining industry. At the time, the mining industry accounted for almost 80 percent of Reliance Foundry’s business.
May 1, 1955 – Fred’s sons hired
Both Brian and Barry Done had worked odd jobs at the company when they were younger, but in 1955, they began working as official Reliance Foundry employees. Their tenure with the company would last over 45 years—a legacy that would eventually be passed on to Brian’s sons.
February 10, 1956 – Employee bonus paid for 1955
On February 10, 1956, Reliance Foundry paid employees a bonus from the company’s 1955 profits. The bonus was based on the number of days worked in the previous year. The notice states that if an employee worked all 242 days the foundry was operational, that employee would receive 100 percent of the bonus.
August 16, 1959 – New wages take effect
On August 16, 1959, a new pay schedule took effect. With the new agreement, the top workers in the foundry were paid $2.42 per hour or what would equal close to $20.00 per hour today. The new pay schedule also shows that Reliance Foundry was once again producing malleable iron.
1963 – Brian and Barry assume control
In 1963, Brian and Barry Done officially assumed control of Reliance Foundry, establishing a partnership that would last over 45 years. Their family members say there was never any doubt the two would one day take over the business. Although they took official responsibility, Fred continued to work in his office. He’d often be seen at the foundry until his death in 1979.
February 17, 1965 – United Steel Workers Union
On February 17, 1965, Reliance Foundry workers voted to join the United Steelworkers. Reliance Foundry employees would maintain their certification with the United Steelworkers, Local No. 2952, for the next 40 years.
May 5, 1966 – Fire destroys original Reliance Foundry
Fire is the heart of every foundry. In the early morning hours of May 5, 1966, the fire that had sustained Reliance brought it down. Although investigators never figured out what caught, onlookers saw the conflagration start with four explosions near the roof. The flames destroyed the building within minutes.
By the 1960s, the neighborhood around Reliance was developing. It was impossible to get permits to rebuild heavy industry in the area. 1966 saw the end of Reliance Foundry’s 40-year operation at 149 West 4th Street. The company had to move operations to Surrey, B.C.
May 9, 1966 – Workers return to work
May 9, 1966, the Monday following the fire, some employees returned to work at the foundry. Although they were surrounded by burned rubble, the office and a small amount of equipment was still useable. In a newspaper article dated May 7, 1966, Barry Done states that “there is a small area of the plant which is not totally damaged where [employees] can still work.”
July 28, 1966 – Construction of the Surrey location begins
On July 26, 1966, the company began construction on a new location in Surrey. A new road was built near 128th Street and 76th Avenue, where heavy machinery cleared a site at 7764 129A Street. The new foundry would cost a half-million dollars to complete and would be Reliance Foundry’s home for the next 39 years.
March 15, 1976 – Len Cranmore hired
Len Cranmore was hired as a foundry helper in 1976. Len has performed tasks in virtually every department at Reliance Foundry, from welding to shipping. He now works as the head of sales and is a product manager heavily involved in research and development. After nearly 40 years with the company, Len laughs about his longevity with Reliance. “When I first got here, I only wanted to try it out for a few months,” says Len. “I thought it would only be a summer job.”
Len is now Reliance Foundry’s Sales Manager.
1979 – Fred Done passes away
Fred Done passed away in 1979, marking the end of an era at Reliance Foundry. Fred had a reputation for being a man who wouldn’t budge once he made up his mind. His resolve helped drive Reliance Foundry toward the level of success it would achieve. Just before Fred died, he began to write notes about his time with Reliance Foundry on a roll of adding machine tape (pictured right). The notes offer valuable insight into the early foundry industry in Vancouver.
July 1984 – Brad Done begins
In July 1984, Brian Done’s son Brad Done began working full time at Reliance Foundry as a foundry helper. His employment marks the third generation of the Done legacy at Reliance Foundry. Brad took a year off from the foundry in 1985 to concentrate on school and travel but soon returned to the family business. Brad played a leading role in transforming Reliance into a web-based business.
February 1991 – Brent Done begins formal employment
In February 1991, Brian Done’s oldest son, Brent, was hired full time as Reliance Foundry’s controller. During school, Brent had worked summers helping in Reliance Foundry’s accounting department, before he started his education and career in computer programming and systems analysis. When he returned to Reliance Foundry, he implemented state-of-the-art, cloud-based accounting and efficiency software that revolutionized work-flow.
1994 – Bollards for Roberts Bank Superport
In 1994, Reliance Foundry produced marine bollards for the Roberts Bank Superport. Like the Gastown lamp standards and the chain links across the Iron Workers bridge, this contract leaned into Reliance’s expertise on custom castings for municipal and infrastructure projects.
1995 – Steel wheels for Vancouver’s wooden rollercoaster
In 1995, Reliance Foundry cast steel wheels for Playland’s world-famous wooden rollercoaster in Vancouver. Such wheels became the core of Reliance Foundry industrial-grade stock steel wheel lines.
February 1, 1995 – Fire in the Blood
In February 1995, Henry Bromley published Fire in the Blood: A History of British Columbia and Alberta Foundries. The book features history, anecdotes, poetry and profiles on foundries in Western Canada—including a section on Reliance Foundry (pages 104–8).
1996 – Website launch
Brent’s interest in all things IT motivated him to launch Reliance Foundry’s first website in 1996. Soon after, the company received its first web inquiry from the Little Rock Wastewater Utility in Little Rock, Arkansas. For a foundry that had earned its primary sales by supplying local industries, the prospect of international sales was huge—and an indication of the direction the company would eventually take.
1997 – Outsourcing to Asia
By 1997, the domestic foundry industry was in drastic decline. High costs and outdated equipment made it difficult for Reliance Foundry to compete with international markets. The company began exploring producers outside of Canada, contracting an Asian manufacturer to cast a lot of R-3561 double-flanged wheels. By 2003, Reliance Foundry had established an international production network to supply a larger online market.
1999 – Keel Blocks for Esquimalt Graving Dock
In 1999, Reliance Foundry cast custom-designed keel blocks for the Esquimalt Graving Dock. Keel blocks are designed to support the weight of a ship by its keel. As with steel wheel engineering, keel block design requires significant knowledge and expertise to ensure the castings will perform without failure.
2000 – Brent and Brad assume control
In the year 2000, Brad and Brent Done assumed control of Reliance Foundry. They revolutionized the company by selling outsourced products through web-based marketing. Where Reliance Foundry once catered to a local client base, it would grow to provide services to all North America.
2003 – Final in-house casting
In 2003, with the writing already on the wall, Reliance Foundry made the decision to cease all in-house casting operations. Brad and Brent had already shifted the company’s primary manufacturing operations off-site to remain competitive. However, design, metallurgical, and engineering expertise is maintained within the company. Casting services are offered on a consultancy basis, providing knowledgeable custom cast solutions for clients across North America.
July 29, 2004 – Smallville films at Reliance Foundry
A scene from the Smallville episode “Gone” (season 4) was filmed at Reliance Foundry on July 29, 2004. The scene depicts a battle between the characters Clark and Trent in a foundry. While the inside of the Reliance Foundry building clearly recognizable, unfortunately, none of the company’s employees made the final cut. Then-VP of Sales and Marketing, Brad Done, was working in the foundry at the time and says “The crew of Smallville took over our plant on Anvil Way. I remember getting to eat from the crew trucks the days they were there, and because they had to close up the plant to make it entirely dark inside, the building was hotter than it had been since our in-house foundry days!”
Watch the first scene in the compilation of “Smallville Best Saves Part 2” to see the Reliance Foundry set.
August 1, 2004 – Sale of factory site
With all casting operations being outsourced, Reliance Foundry no longer required the extensive space at its 129A Street location. After 39 years of operations, in August 2004, the company sold the location and relocated to its current site on 148th Street in Surrey.
April 19, 2005 – Union certification canceled
By 2005, only one member of the United Steelworkers Union was still employed by Reliance Foundry. The Labour Relations Board set up a polling station for the last remaining member to cast his “anonymous” vote on whether to maintain union certification. As a result, the certification was officially terminated.
2006 – Schermerhorn Symphony Center bollards
In 2006, Reliance Foundry supplied decorative bollards to the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. Located in Nashville, the Schermerhorn is a world-famous concert hall with intricately carved facades. The bollards used on site are made from ornamental ductile iron to extend the building’s traditional ambiance into the surrounding street.
March 20, 2007 – Conner Done begins
In 2007, Brent’s son Conner began working part-time in Reliance Foundry’s warehouse—increasing to fulltime by 2010. Conner’s employment marks the fourth generation of the Done family’s connection to Reliance Foundry—following in the footsteps of his father, grandfather and great-grandfather.
September 10, 2008 – Barry Done passes away
Frederick Barrit (Barry) Done sadly passed away on September 10, 2008. Barry served as Vice President of Reliance Foundry for over 40 years. He was a key contributor to the Metal Industries Association and often helped at the BC chapter of the American Foundry Society. Barry helped oversee the relocation of Reliance Foundry from Vancouver to its original Surrey location, where it operated for almost 40 years.
2009 – Bollards for Cirque du Soleil Headquarters
In 2009, Reliance Foundry supplied bollards to the Cirque du Soleil headquarters in Montreal, Quebec. The popular entertainment company selected Reliance Foundry’s signature R-7539 to be installed around the building grounds.
September 1, 2012 – Bollards for Oriole Park at Camden Yards
In the fall of 2012 when Reliance Foundry’s bollards were used to tie the old-fashioned style of Major League Baseball’s first retro-classic ballpark into its surrounding streets.
November 15, 2012 – Surrey Board of Trade Business Excellence Award
Between the years 2004 and 2012, Reliance Foundry’s sales grew faster than any another period in the company’s history. 2011 especially was a banner year, with the company’s sales increasing more than any other year in its operations. On November 15, 2012, Reliance was awarded the Surrey Board of Trade Business Excellence Award for its economic performance and business success.
October 9, 2015 – 90th Anniversary
On October 9, 2015 Reliance Foundry celebrated its 90th Anniversary in business. At the subsequent 90th Anniversary party, three generations of the Done family were in attendance.
September 2016 – Canada Profit 500 Ranking
In 2016, Reliance Foundry was nominated for and ranked on Canadian Business Magazine’s Profit 500 award – a ranking of Canada’s fastest growing companies. The Company debuted at position 288, and stayed on the Profit 500 list in the years following.
November 2016 – Canadian Chamber of Commerce & Grant Thornton Private Business Growth Awards
In 2016, Reliance Foundry was honored to be nominated for the Private Business Growth Award. This award was created to recognize and celebrate Canada’s best private businesses, judged on strategic growth in a few key areas. The company made it to the final ten businesses, and was invited to participate in several excellent workshops and events in recognition for its success.
September 2017 – Canada Profit 500 Ranking
For the second year in a row, Reliance Foundry achieved a placement in Canadian Business Magazine’s Profit 500 award rankings.
October 2017 – Surrey Board of Trade Business Excellence Award: Finalist
In 2017, Reliance Foundry again participated in the Surrey Board of Trade Business Excellence Awards. The Company was pleased to be named one of the top 3 finalists (in the 11-40 employee category) after being nominated by the Surrey Board of Trade.