In 1904 the Babcock and Wilcox Company (B&W), founded back in 1867 by Rhode Island natives George Babcock and Stephen Wilcox, expanded its operations and purchased the Pittsburgh Seamless Tube Company in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. During World War II the B&W Tubular Products operation in Beaver Falls, which made steel tubes and associated products, was expanded into a sprawling complex.
The B&W complex was comprised of three separate areas, known as the Main Tube Plant, the East Works, and the Wallace Run Steel Plant. The steel plant was constructed nearby off of Wallace Run Road (in West Mayfield) in 1942 to supply the Main Tube Plant with a constant supply of hot steel. A railway was constructed – built across W. 4th Ave – to transport the steel and other materials from the Wallace Run facility to the fabrication facilities at the Main Tube Plant.
The B&W facility at Beaver Falls prospered during World War II and employed many local women, including my grandmother Irene LaPatka and her sister Josephine LaPatka. B&W also opened another steel-making plant in the nearby town of Koppel years later in 1959.
B&W had many plants across the country and is famous for fabricating boilers and associated components in connection with such things as New York City’s first subway system in 1902, the U.S. Navy’s Great White Fleet of 1907-1909, the Manhattan Project that led to the atomic bomb in the 1940’s, and the nuclear-powered vessels of the U.S. Navy including the aircraft carrier Nimitz. Today B&W is a major player (see www.babcock.com) in the nuclear power industry and has its corporate headquarters in Lynchburg, Virginia.
The decline of the steel industry during the 1970’s and beyond saw B&W’s Beaver Falls complex (and others including at Koppel) phased out and closed in 1986-1988. The facilities at Beaver Falls were purchased by PMAC Ltd. in 1990, which continued to run operations at the Main Tube Plant and the East Works area. The Wallace Run Steel Plant was simply abandoned and the majority of its structures were torn down in January-February 2005. A construction/storage company occupies part of the area now. The East Works area was eventually abandoned as well. Many of the crumbling structures at the Main Tube Plant and the East Works location were also demolished over the years. PMAC Ltd. still runs a scaled-down steel tube operation at the Main Tube Plant and serves as a silent testament to the valuable work that was performed there for over a century.
I talked to a great guy named Tom McCutchen at the Main Tube Plant guard house in July 2010. He was a longtime steel worker for B&W in Beaver Falls and Koppel and later came out of retirement to work as a security guard. Several companies oversaw the security operation but now PMAC runs its own in-house security operations. Tom graciously answered questions about B&W/PMAC history and provided me with this map of the overall complex: B&W/PMAC COMPLEX MAP.
A view of rolling mill operations at the Pittsburgh Seamless Tube Company in Beaver Falls, which was acquired by the Babcock & Wilcox company in 1904. The plant was greatly expanded in the coming years. (1900) Full Size
An employee monitors equipment at the B&W plant in Beaver Falls. (c1951) Full Size
An aerial view of the sprawling B&W facility at Beaver Falls, with East Works at bottom left, the main plant in the middle, and the Wallace Run plant at upper right. (1951) Full Size
(1951) Full Size
(c1951) Full Size
This is believed to be the entrance gate along West 4th Avenue (near 47th Street) to the main plant area in Beaver Falls. (c1955) Full Size
An employee badge from the B&W plant in Beaver Falls. (c1960)
(c1951) Full Size
(c1951) Full Size
The old B&W plant at Wallace Run dominates the skyline along Route 551/Wallace Run Road. Most of the plant buildings at this location have seen been torn down. (1987) Full Size
The view from the upper parking lot area along West 4th Avenue that overlooks the former B&W main plant. (Oct 2013) Full Size
Looking over the main plant area from the upper parking lot area on West 4th Avenue. (Oct 2013)
The former Control Laboratory along West 4th Avenue. (Oct 2013)
A Norfolk Southern train passes through the sprawling grounds of the old B&W facility in Beaver Falls. (Oct 2013)
A closeup of the same train. (Oct 2013)
The crumbling buildings of the former East Works were demolished in 2013 and cleared away. (Oct 2013)
A pile of twisted metal at the former East Works site. (Oct 2013)
Heavy equipment at work clearing away the debris at the East Works site. (Oct 2013) Full Size
Gene Randza, ( Geno ) #
I worked at the east Works all my years at the B&W. My brother Ed worked at Wallace Run. Thank you for the memories.
Terri Smith #
There were many families affected by the closing of these plants and we are now transplanted all across the country. Although we may be scattered and far flung from home, home is never far from our hearts! Thank you so much for this web site it brings such bittersweet memories and some great “Old wives tales” back to us!
Steve Necaster #
Absolutely thrilled to learn of this website. When my son was searching for colleges in 1999 to attend, we headed for Geneva College in Beaver Falls. As we got off the expressway and turned onto Wallace Run Rd., we spied the closed B&W tube plant. As it was, both my oldest and youngest attended Geneva and we went past the old plant MANY times. I always wondered if it was a mill, or some other facility supporting the rich steel-making heritage of Western PA. Because of this, and other websites, now I have the answer.
Thanks for the information and pictures. They bring me back to those many trips to pick up and drop off my children as they attended school.
A Happy New Year to you all!
Randy Tenor #
I got to this site after reading the article on the final demise of the old B&W building in the Beaver County Times online on January 13, 2013. I lived on College Hill from 1954 until I went to college in 1964. My parents lived on College Hill until 1988 when odor from the plant on the bottom of Ingrich Hill(31st St. extension) lowered property values to the point where they had to move. In any event, I went to 37th St School and remember the booming 1950s. We thought the good times would last forever. It is ironic that B&W is building in China since one reason the steel industry collapsed in Beaver County was Nixon’s opening to China and the cheap(dumped) imported steel. I am in no way giving the steelworkers union a pass, but U.S. trade policy was part of the issue. I hope all those folks who voted for Nixon in 1968 remember how he destroyed much of the Western Pennsylvania economy with his trade policy. Outside of the Cold War, the Vietnam War, and brief recessions the two decades after World War II were a great time to be young in Beaver County. Our great sports teams were just icing on the cake.
Stephanie Ialongo #
All I know is that my father worked at the Steel Mills. I am interested in hearing from anyone that worked with him or knew him. They used to call him, “SUPERMAN!” His name is FRED IALONGO. I seen a newspaper clipping, my Granny had of him, with his white hard hat and safety glasses. I just don’t remember what it was for. He passed on and I would love to hear from someone that worked with him or even remembered him. email@example.com I am doing research on my dad and happy to have found this website. (We were definitely one of those families affected when my dad got laid off.) R.I.P. DAD I LOVE YOU!!!
Tom Boller #
I worked at Babcock & Wilcox from 1973-1985 until I was layed off as an Inspector at the Ambridge Plant on Feb 14th…..which we referred to as the Valentine’s Day Massacre. I was one of the lucky ones who found a new career and moved away. I retired from the US Army in 2005 which happened to be on the same time line I would have retired B & W if they hadn’t layed me off. I often wonder what happened to many of my co-workers after they closed many or all of the plants after my departure from Beaver Falls in August 1985. I wanted to show my wife where I used to work “back in the day” but realize now that there is little left to show her.
Patricia D.Thomas #
My dad, Kenny Thomas, worked at the Wallace Run plant & my grandfather, Hobart Thomas, was an engineer on B&W’s train. Uncles, other relatives, and many family friends also worked at various locations. Growing up was all about the steel industry in the Beaver Valley. Dad used to bring home blue marbles that he said were used in the tube making, and I still have a handful of them. Does anyone remember anything about their use?
wes field jr. #
I worked at B&W from 1969 out of high school until the end. started in hot mill ended in Ambridge. left for two years to go to Vietnam. Returned to work till the end. I worked in every dept. Love every minute. My dad was a millwright. My life was never the same after it closed. I only wish there was some way to show my family the mill running. You asked what the blue marbles were used for. When I worked in Hot Mill on No.1 piercer they drilled holes in stainless billets so they would start in mill easier then put marbles in the hole to act as a lube.
Danny John #
I worked at the B & W for a few years have a memory that I see every day I lost 2 fingers on my right hand the summer of 1965 at the Eastworks I do remember working with a great bunch of guys there, most of the time I worked as a crane chaser really enjoyed it for the time
Joey Brozenick #
My Grandfather worked in the West Mayfield works in Beaver Falls, PA. I remember going to many ‘steel workers’ masses with him at St.Philomena’s and going for Tomczacks’s Italian bread and Smith’s bacon. My grnadparents lived right up the hill past the watertower on Jean Street. He was known as ‘Jack’ Brozenick to all of his buddies and
co-workers, and worked shifts until his retirement, even going back to help once in awhile if a problem arose. I can still hear him coming up the landing. There was a great ‘shot and a beer’ bar not far from the gate he used to bring us cherry sodas from.
If anyone knew him, I’d love to hear from you. All the best ~ Joey
Wendy Bable #
Gene Randza—did you know my grandfather, Kenny Thomas? I know he used to visit an Ed Randza and a Tilly Randza. He worked in the hot mill on Wallace Run. Mike Stefura (who always fixed Pap-pap’s lawnmowers) told me he used to call him “Orel Roberts.”
I’m also trying to find a detailed description of how the blue marbles were used and what that mechanical process would have been like.
Bob Cox #
I worked for Jacob Engineering in mid 70’s and designed the concrete equip bases for the Ambridge Mill. Does anyone have any idea of the location old plans for this remodeling effort in mid 70’s?
can you tell me if Babcock & Wilcox still in business and if there still buying metal… and the location close to me
Janie Shurlock Nannion #
My Dad Glennn Shurlock worked at B&W in the late 30“S. He worked on the furnace rolling tubes. A lot of my relatives worked for B&W. My Aunt Marie Gilkey worked in the office. It use to be a booming place and I lived on College Hill and we built a house on Wallace Run Rd. 10-2-18
Jeff Hudak #
My Father, Stephen (Steve), and at least two of his friends and co-workers (that I know of) Mike Pope, and Mark Bowder (not sure of the spelling), worked at the Beaver Falls and Koppel Locations (and maybe more). As Stephanie Ialongo has posted – My Father has passed on and I would love to hear from anyone who may have worked with him or even remembers him. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. I miss you DAD.
Marianne (Ramsey) Johnston #
I worked in the data processing center located on College Hill Beaver Falls as a keypunch operator from 1970-1976. When I worked the evening shift we would order from Corner Tavern. My favorite was their spaghetti. Good place to work. Good friends. Good memories.
Joyce ( Matthews ) Gruber #
My father, John Matthews worked at B&W for at least 30 years. He worked at the BF, Koppel and Ambridge locations as an Inspector. He retired at age 62 in order to leave before B&W closed the mills. He always wanted me to take a tour of the plants; but I never seemed to find time. Wish I had.
Thomas Wardle #
My father, Richard T (Dick) Wardle, worked at the Beaver Falls Mill from the early 60’s until his death in 1970. I spent two summers during college working at the Wallace Run Steel Mill, and the Beaver Falls Lab. Started full time with B&W in 1971, straight out of college, in the Metallurgical Lab. I left the BF Mill in 1986 for B&W’s Power Generation Group (PGG) in Paris, TX and later relocated to Barberton, OH. I retired from B&W in Barberton, OH after 43 years in 2014. The customer service position I held in Beaver Falls was the best job I ever had. REALLY!!! I find that I miss the people and the Valley in general.
Tom Murray #
I went to work in the Beaver Falls General Sales Office in 1976. A dream job that I though I would have for life. Transferred to Cleveland where I worked with Billy Kaminski and then to Philadelphia and finally to Houston at the peak of the oil boom in the 1980’s. A great place to work, great people to work with and the best damn tubing in the world came out of Beaver Falls.
Mark Rechner #
When I started at B&W in Barberton in 1977, one of the first things they did was put us on a bus and send us to Beaver Falls to visits the tube mills so we would understand that part of the business. I worked with Tom Wardle in Barberton and remember him always talking about Beaver Falls!
STEVE MELNICK #
I WORKED AT WALLACE RUN AS A 3RD HELPER ON THE FURNACES, AND AT KOPPEL AS A CRANE OPERATOR FROM 1966 TO 1968, THEN I LEFT FOR THE SERVICE, THEY CALLED ME ROCKY, BECAUSE OF THE BROWN CANVAS HAT THAT I WORE, LIKE ROCKY AND BULLWIKLE. A GREAT BUNCH OF GUYS TO WORK WITH, I MISS THEM ALL.
I was out near the PIT airport the other night and stopped by one of the local watering holes. I had a brief chat with the bartender, who it turns out is from Beaver Falls. I mentioned to her that I had worked there back in the early 80s; erecting an office building along 4th Avenue. Sadly I couldn’t remember the name of the owner of the site, but was certain of the location and that they were a major player in the steel industry and world renowned for their seamless tube. I also mentioned that we would eat breakfast at a pancake house that was a few blocks from the work site. She said that she was born in 1988 and none of what I was saying was even vaguely familiar.
After some Google maps and a bit or research, I found this site. I believe that the office building we erected is now the U-Haul/storage facility, and the pancake house might have been where the Edgewater Inn is now, but I’m not totally sure of either.
Like all construction jobs; this one was temporary, and I couldn’t have been happier when this one ended, as it was 89 miles (I remember that part clearly) from my home. Since then B&W has been out of my mind for almost 40 years. I was saddened to learn that B&W has gone the way of the majority of the steel producers in our area. And I found it a bit curious that someone raised in that area had no knowledge of B&W and the impact it had on the Beaver Falls area, and the world. But as I learned from this site, she was born at the same time B&W was closing its doors, so I guess I’ll have to give her a pass.
Thanks much for this site; it provided a bittersweet trip down memory lane.
The pancake house mentioned by Jon was Perkins, I’ll bet. Maybe he ate some DeAngelis donuts too!
I heard once that the East Works was built by the US government during WW II, to make tread pins for tanks.
Tammy flesher #
I remember my dad Leigh flesher work here aircondiction and refrigeratetion in 1973 t0 1982
Bill Jackson #
I worked there from 1973-1983. The picture of the guy at the controls was the control panels for #2 Billet furnace at the main plant! What a place it was!
I work in cold draw in Beaver falls now. I have a photo of one of the cold draw benches that is supposedly from 1941 and the bench looks exactly the way it did back then as today!
Pat Mc Dole #
Memories and sounds of the mill were easily heard from my grandfathers house where you would hear the tubes being moved about thru the day and the whistle blow during the day. My grandfather coming from Eastern Europe in the early 1900’s was lucky to have employment there after coming to this country. His three sons were also employed there. As WW II broke out they left there jobs there, served their country, came back to their jobs at the B&W after the war was over. In the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s everyone seemed to feel more secure family and employment wise. It was fun for us kids to go to the Union Hall and the old BFHS auditorium at Christmas for toys.
Joe Tondo #
Joey Brozenick, you brought tears to my eyes, your grandfather and grandmother were friends of my mother and father,the were at our house on 4th ave many times. Jack was an usher at St. Phil, as was I at the old age of 17, my father was also an usher. I also can remembering my dad going for bread at Tomsics bakery, they had the best hard rolls and crusty bread. I seem to remember that your gradfather and grandmom had a daughter. I am 76 years old and many things exscape my memory now. I also worked at B&W from the mid 60s till they shut down.God Bless you boy for making an old man happy.
Javier Vidaurre #
Just heard Joe Willie Namath Interviewed on the Howard Stern Show so I followed up on his home town and came to this fascinating page. Joe, who is 76 years old now, was raised in Beaver Falls. He recounted being taken to the furnace where his father worked when he was just 11 years old. The raw power of the industrial process empressed him so that he vowed then and there that he would do what it took to not ever work there. It was also evident that the values instilled in him growing up there served him well in life.
michael brodigan #
My father Thomas Brodigan worked at B&W through to his retirement. He was the plant metallurgist at B&W in Beaver Falls. We lived in Beaver during that time period. We moved to Bryan/College Station, TX (Texas A&M University location) in 1979-1980 when he worked to help set up a B&W plant in cooperation with McDermott Oil and International from Texas to build oil well tubing. A number of guys who came to work for my dad in TX were from the Beaver County area. As a kid I went to work with him a few times and enjoyed seeing the plant. Also loved the Christmas party as a kid, they would give each child a gift.
patty vrankovich #
My father henry young worked at b&w as a supervisor, he did the christmas partys, lawn s and overall maintnance, he worked with bob serveck and bill jenkins
Jeff Sherrill #
Looking for ANY information on the INGRAM RICHARDSON MANUFACTURING COMPANY that was on the 24th street extension. Should not have been far from B & W facilities.
Gordon Snyder #
I worked for General Refractories Company and visited the Wallace Run melt shop several time in May 1981 to install porous plugs in the bottom of the steel ladles. Nitrogen gas was use to stir the molten steel. I have good color pictures of ladles, porous plugs being installed, melt shop personnel shoveling alloys into the EAF, fettling the EAF, tapping the EAF, etc. I do not know the names of any of the people shown in the pictures. What would be the best way to get copies of the pictures to you to post on your website.