Pencoyd Iron Works (1852-1900)

Biography of Pencoyd Iron Works (1852-1900)

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Name Pencoyd Iron Works
Pencoyd Bridge & Construction Company
A&P Roberts Company
Formed 1852; Began Bridge Construction 1887
Defunct 1900
Succeeded by American Bridge Company
Headquarters Pencoyd (Bala Cynwyd), Pennsylvania
Key People Algernon Roberts (Founder)
Percival Roberts (Founder)
Railroads Served Baltimore & Ohio Railroad
Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad
Kansas City Southern Railway
Louisville & Nashville Railroad
Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad
Missouri Pacific Railroad
New York Central Railroad
Northern Pacific Railroad
Pennsylvania Railroad
Likely others
Shop Location Pencoyd, Pennsylvania

John Roberts was one of several Welsh Quakers who met with William Penn in London to secure the purchase of 40,000 acres of farmland in the American Colonies. In late 1863, John Roberts arrived in present day Pennsylvania, and started a farm known as Pencoid (later respelled Pencoyd).
Six generations later, Algernon Roberts did not wish to take over the family farm, and instead went to Rensselaer to learn the trade of iron working. He took the eastern half of the farm, and partnered with his cousin Percival Roberts. In June of 1852, the two men hired several carpenters and laborers and began manufacturing railroad axles under the name Pencoyd Iron Works.
By 1859, the company was manufacturing some bridge parts, but the big break came from manufacturing the iron for the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition buildings in 1876.

Truss Bridge
One well known project, a Waddell A-Frame Truss. Located in Parkville, Missouri.

After this successful endeavor, Pencoyd Iron Works grew exponentially. Starting in 1887, the company began fabricating entire bridges, instead of just structural components. By the late 1890s, Pencoyd Village was built, featuring company housing, a public school and a library.
In 1900, the company was one of several merged into the newly formed American Bridge Company.
The iron foundry closed in 1927, and the remaining property was sold to Carnegie-Illinois Steel Corporation in 1937. Manufacturing continued at the site for several more years.
Today, the property has largely been redeveloped. While the main office building remains, much of the manufacturing buildings were demolished in the years after the closure.

Historically, many railroads seemed to have used the company to build bridges. In the Midwest, Northern Pacific Railroad, Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad and Kansas City Southern Railway are confirmed to have used the company.

A sample of plaques and projects completed by Pencoyd Iron Works can be seen below. It is important to note that there are two distinct markings on each plaque. Prior to 1895, the plaques state the bridge was built by Pencoyd Bridge & Construction Company. After 1895, the plaques state that the bridge was built by the A&P Roberts Company and Pencoyd Iron Works. It is unknown why this distinction was made.

Pencoyd Iron Works plaque

1896 plaque on a M-K-T riveted pony truss bridge in Callaway County, Missouri

Pencoyd Iron Works plaque

1892 plaque on a KCS through truss bridge at the Kansas City Union Station

Pencoyd Iron Works plaque

1897 plaque on a M-K-T pin connected through truss bridge in McKitterick, Missouri

Pencoyd Iron Works plaque

1898 Plaque on Waddell A-Truss bridge at Parkville, Missouri

Pencoyd Iron Works plaque

1895 Plaque on a M-K-T through truss bridge in Geary County, Kansas

Selected Works
Freight House Pedestrian Bridge (Kansas City, Missouri)
Katy Trail Massie Creek Bridge (Case, Missouri)
McKittrick Trail Bridge (McKitterick, Missouri)
Old Katy Bridge (Geary County, Kansas)
Parkville Waddell "A" Truss (Parkville, Missouri)


Source Type


Company History American Bridge Building Companies 1840-1900 by Victor C. Darnell
Merger Information Tennessee DOT document on bridge companies

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