With one foot in the past and one in the future, Hull-Oakes Lumber Co. took a big step last year. A timber-milling outfit famous for having one of the last steam-powered sawmills in the United States, Hull-Oakes converted the last of its daily operations to electric power in July 2013.

“It was a very difficult decision,” said Todd Nystrom, grandson of the mill’s founder, Ralph Hull, and the owner and president of the company.

However, Nystrom said the decision was necessary for the business, which employs around 65 people, to continue in the long term. “If steam power was the most efficient way to make lumber everybody would be doing it,” he said.

The mill, which was founded in 1937 and has a steam engine dating back to 1906, is on the National Registry of Historic Sites. Its milling operations have not been computerized even through the changes.

Nystrom added that the mill, located north of Monroe, still has all of its steam machinery in place and operates with steam power a few times a year to make sure the equipment is in good condition. But, he said, it was expensive to operate on a daily basis with machinery for which parts are no longer made.

From the Statesman Journal: http://www.statesmanjournal.com/viewart/20140303/NEWS/303030075/Lumber-company-embraces-niche