A History of L.B. Foster Company

Lee B. Foster was only 20 years old when he founded the company that bears his name. Financed in 1902 with a small $2500 loan from his father, L.B. Foster Company has grown for more than a century to become a leader in the manufacture, fabrication and distribution of infrastructure products and materials.

Foster began the company to service a transportation need he recognized while growing up around his father’s oil business in Titusville, Pennsylvania. Lee saw that his father received many inquiries from mines, logging camps, and quarries about the availability of relay (used) train rail. Because no truck transportation existed at the time, permanent and temporary rail spurs were the only means for transporting heavy materials to and from jobsites near and far. New rail was costly and Foster saw an opportunity to resell rail that had been retrieved from abandoned and replaced railroads and urban transit systems.

To encourage the sale of used material, Lee Foster initiated a guarantee that set his firm apart from others and contributed greatly to his success: “If the material is not up to the standard represented, ship it back and we will pay the freight both ways.” This dedication to customer satisfaction became a core company value and remains today at the forefront of the L.B. Foster customer service policy.

Lee’s success attracted the notice of his three brothers, Reuben, Sydney and Byron. All eventually joined the company and the brothers worked well together. Lee changed his sole proprietorship into a four-way partnership in 1918. L.B. Foster Company soon expanded with the opening of new offices in New York City in 1922 and Chicago four years later. The company began trading publicly on the NASDAQ stock exchange (FSTR) in 1981.

In addition to transportation products, L.B. Foster Company began to focus on other infrastructure-related industries for new expansion. Today the company markets its products to businesses involved in transportation, construction, energy, utility, recreation and agriculture.

Lee B. Foster II, the founder’s grandson, managed the company as President and Chief Executive Officer from 1990 until 2002 and today serves as Chairman of the Board. Mr. Foster provides a vital and ongoing link between the company’s industrious past and its current and future success.

In 1999 the company acquired CXT Inc., a leading manufacturer of engineered concrete products for railroad and recreation markets. This acquisition positioned L.B. Foster to better serve customers with a comprehensive line of mainline, transit and industrial rail products. The purchase of CXT also expanded the company into the production of recreational and multi-purpose precast concrete buildings.

At the end of December 2010, L.B. Foster acquired Portec Rail Products, Inc. and its catalog of below the wheel rail items, worldwide manufacturing facilities and knowledgeable professional staff. Newly expanded L.B. Foster began offering a larger line of rail products that included new and relay rail, switches, track lubricating equipment, spikes, anchors, fasteners, concrete ties and wayside data collection systems. The acquisition also provided the Rail Products group with a larger international presence, expanded customer support, additional R&D capabilities and the well-earned goodwill of a century-old company.

As America has grown, L.B. Foster Company has grown as well by providing the material necessary to build and maintain our nation’s infrastructure. The company’s products are currently being used for the construction and rehabilitation of important projects such as the New Orleans Flood Barrier, Brooklyn Bridge and Panama Canal. As the world’s infrastructure continues to expand, L.B. Foster will be there with the products needed to build it strong.