ENGINES, BOILERS AND ALL KINDS OF MACHINERY REPAIRED. LOCOMOTIVE WORK A SPECIAILTY. IRON AND BRASS CASTINGS AND FORGINGS. BOGY WHEELS OF ALL KINDS AND SIZES FURNISHED AT SHORT NOTICE. ALL ORDERS FOR NEW OR REPAIR WORK ATTENDED TO WITH PROMPTNESS AND DISPATCH. YOUR TRADE SOLICITED.

SIW was founded in 1894 as a machine shop by R.D. Whitehorn of Suffolk, Virginia. How long Whitehorn operated the business is uncertain but it is possible that it had been in existence since the Civil War, according to history. At that time it was basically a blacksmith shop, but it did some machine work for peanut mills. Shortly before the turn of the century, a Mr. Tyler and Riddick Robert Harrell purchased the copy from Whitehorn. Both men were active in the operation. Soon after purchasing the company they moved from an area near the Liberty Street Industrial Access Road to their current address on Washington Street.

In 1921, Robert Riddick Harrell Jr., son of Riddick Robert, graduated from college and returned to Suffolk where he purchased Tyler's interest in the company. SIW offered machine shop services, welding and some metal fabrication from 1921 until it was incorporated in 1960. Robert became president and eventually gave a portion of the stock to his children, Betty Ann Harrell Kyle, Robert R. Harrell III and John C. Harrell. During that time SIW purchased the city's first electric welding machine (pictured above). The company also had one of the first telephones in Suffolk - The phone number was 9 according to the history. In 1963, John C. Harrell graduated and joined his father full time with the company after a six month stint in the Army. He had already spent some summers in the shop since the age of 14. In 1974, when Robert R. Harrell Jr. decided to step down as president, John took over.

Business was good in the 70's. SIW was able to purchase larger metal fabricating machinery, and begin a crane service with the acquisition of three hydraulic cranes and the diversification into the engineering, design, sales and installation of large bulk material handling systems, such as hydraulic truck dumpers and the bucket elevators.

The company continued to broaden its customer base through the 80's but when the 90's rolled around trouble hit. Much of the work was for the peanut industry, but in a period of about 5 years, that industry died when all but one mill disappeared. "We were able to survive the changes in Suffolk" Clifton said but they had to learn other ways to do it. John Clifton Harrell Jr., is the fourth generation president of Suffolk Iron Works who took over in 1991 and helped begin the process of reinvention and diversifications, especially into areas like power where there is a constant need. SIW focused on structural steel and industrial services for the power industry as well as a new branch devoted to the railroad industry. They build components for subway tracks and specialty ties for rails in every major US city.