*** ONLINE AS OF AUGUST 5, 2011 ***
    



Babcock & Wilcox Company (B&W) - Beaver Falls, PA

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


An employee badge from the B&W plant in Beaver Falls. (c1960)


(c1951) Full Size


(c1951) Full Size


(1976)


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


(1976)


Former guard house and entrance of the East Works next to the softball fields on 37th St/Route 251. In the background you can see several refurbished old buildings used by PMAC (AMEREX) after B&W vacated the sprawling facility in 1987. (Apr 2010)


Old sign posted by B&W advising folks about parking in the lot beside the guard house at the East Works entrance. (Apr 2010)


Sign of AMEREX, a division of PMAC, which took over the East Works facility sometime after B&W departed. AMEREX, now headquartered in Houston, Texas, has abandoned this facility and it sits vacant. (Apr 2010)


One of the dilapidated extrusion mills at the East Works site. I took this photo – looking west – from behind old St. Philomena Catholic School located at 40th St and 6th Ave. (Apr 2010)


The old South Gate guardhouse. This portion of the old Main Tube Plant is still in use by PMAC Ltd. (Jul 2010)


Inside the old South Gate guardhouse at the Main Tube Plant area. (Jul 2010)


Heading west on West 4th Avenue the old B&W main offices and Control Laboratory are visible at the Main Tube Plant area. (Nov 2010)


Many a worker would have passed through this turnstile over the years. The Control Laboratory is visible in background. (Jul 2010)


Looking east from West 4th Avenue over a portion of the old Main Tube Plant that has been demolished. Machine shops sat in this area. Some homes on 5th Avenue are visible in distance. (Apr 2010)


Taken from the same spot as last photo but looking more towards the southeast. The turnstile from a previous photo sits just off to the middle right of this photo. (Apr 2010)


Standing on West 4th Avenue and looking west into the old Wallace Run Plant area. A construction storage company owns the facility now. Railroad tracks once ran across the road just to the left of this point connecting Wallace Run to the Main Tube Plant area. (Jul 2010)


The former main entrance to the old Wallace Run Plant off of Wallace Run Road. (Jul 2010)


The waters of Wallace Run pass thorough this property. (Jul 2010)


Looking west near the main entrance to the Wallace Run Plant. Not much left here. I believe the old guardhouse sat right about here. (Jul 2010)


Looking across the property at the Wallace Run area. The structures in this area were demolished in early 2005 and a lone building is all that remains. The building is used as construction-related storage by its new owners. (Jul 2010)


Concrete foundations and a few piles of steel tubes serve as a remainder of the bustling steel plant that once stood in this area. (Jul 2010)


A visit to the former Wallace Run complex in late 2010 reveals the whole area has been cleaned up and graded. Looks so different with all the vegetation and scrap metal gone. This is a shot of the former entrance to the Wallace Run plant. (Nov 2010)


The view from the former entrance area looking back towards Beaver Falls. You can barely see a new access road has been paved from Wallace Run Road to the building on the right. The company owning this property has really cleaned it up. You can see the lone remaining structure – once open on the side – has been renovated into a modern storage building. (Nov 2010)


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

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Comment

  1. 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.
    Gene

    Gene Randza, ( Geno ) · 08/16/2013 07:08 AM · #

  2. 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!

    Terri Smith · 12/08/2013 07:20 AM · #

  3. 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!

    Steve Necaster · 12/30/2013 05:16 PM · #

  4. 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.

    Randy Tenor · 01/15/2014 05:52 PM · #

  5. 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. sialongo1301@comcast.net 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!!!

    Stephanie Ialongo · 02/15/2014 09:17 AM · #

  6. 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.

    Tom Boller · 04/23/2014 04:03 AM · #

  7. 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?

    Patricia D.Thomas · 10/06/2014 07:02 AM · #

  8. 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.

    wes field jr. · 11/22/2014 11:03 AM · #

  9. 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

    Danny John · 03/26/2015 08:47 AM · #

  10. Hi Everyone,

    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

    Joey Brozenick · 03/26/2015 04:01 PM · #

  11. 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.

    Wendy Bable · 05/20/2015 09:10 PM · #

  12. 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?

    Bob Cox · 03/19/2016 02:55 AM · #

  13. can you tell me if Babcock & Wilcox still in business and if there still buying metal… and the location close to me

    kennedy · 04/15/2016 05:42 PM · #

  14. 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

    Janie Shurlock Nannion · 10/02/2016 03:08 PM · #

  15. 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 jeff.hudak@comcast.net. I miss you DAD.

    Jeff Hudak · 12/16/2016 03:25 PM · #

  16. 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.

    Marianne (Ramsey) Johnston · 05/27/2017 03:48 AM · #

  17. 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.

    Joyce ( Matthews ) Gruber · 05/27/2017 10:17 PM · #

  18. 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.

    Thomas Wardle · 06/01/2017 07:12 PM · #

  19. 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.

    Tom Murray · 06/29/2017 02:23 PM · #

  20. 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!

    Mark Rechner · 09/28/2017 02:32 PM · #