THE REBIRTH OF A keystone Skimmer Shovel

Keystone Driller

Content Tools

RD #2, Charleroi, PA 15022

My formation began in a factory called the Keystone Driller Company, Beaver Falls, Pa., that was engaged in business since 1882 in the manufacture of keystone portable and traction well drilling machines for making water, oil and gas wells, mineral prospects and blast holes; since 1907, in the production of Downie deep well pumps, direct steam driven and geared from power; and since 1913, in the manufacture of Downie centrifugal pumps.

My birthplace, Beaver Falls plant, covered 14 acres of ground and they employed approximately 300 men. The plant included departments such as boiler shop, forge shop, brass and steel foundries, machine shops, wood working and pattern shops and an erecting shop.

The manufacture of the Keystone shovels began here in 1914. My great granddaddy was one of the originators of the backhoe.

Many patterns were made, fitted and assembled. Over 6,000 shovels were made in this factory and behold, I was born, Keystone Skimmer Shovel Model #4 in the year 1920. I must say I was the most modern and the envy of every contractor/excavator engineer within the United States. I am told my brothers drilling machines were sent abroad.

I have had vast experience and background in excavation of foundations, streets, sewers, railroad beds, street car beds and even airports. During all my youthful days, my steam never ran out, my flues were always cleaned and my whistle blew loud and clear. Progress and industry demanded new and faster techniques, thus gasoline engines were introduced and I was put to pasture for a long rest.

One sunny day, Thomas Redd, the father of Dean Redd, shook my timbers, so to speak. He took away my steam heart and transplanted it with a gasoline engine. He took me out of retirement and back into the swing of life...road grading, coal stripping and foundations.

However, sadness came when Tom was called away in October 1937, and I was again tucked away this time I thought for good.

In 1943 a young rascal, Dean Redd, dusted me off and put me into action until 1953. From 1953 until 1960 nothing much happened to me. Cobwebs and rust formed. Paint all gone. My roof rotted away and blown off. I was in a terrible state mentally and physically.

But something happened! I was being taken apart by strong, determined but gentle hands...bolt by bolt, nut by nut, gear by gear... stripped to my main frame, sandblasted, primed, two coats of brand new red and green paint (with, I might add, a very eye catching trim, plus an added feature of an artist's touch who very legibly printed my name, where I was born, model number, etc. on my frame for all to see). Now I perform at various fairs: National Pike Steam, Gas and Horse Association, The Tri-State Historical Steam Engine Association, the Canfield Ohio Fair, and even as far away as Glenford, Ohio.

This pleases me to no end, however, one thing disturbs me and that is my long ago transplanted gas engine. I believe I have E.S.P. as recently my engine has been removed. A lot of talk about how my original steam engine a 2 cylinder 6x6 link reverse 40 HP geared to traction and shovel operating mechanism and boiler got junked. Also, my owner has been searching for 26 years but only has come up with half an engine, looking as far as California, Canada and England and finally making the decision to make the other half. The process of finding a pattern maker and getting the pattern made has taken over a year's time as this was only done in spare time.

My thanks to a couple of good friends, Earl Hamilton of Lisbon, Ohio and Clyde Lightfoot of Beaver Falls, Pa., who helped in the engineering of the patterns and in the great amount of machine work that will finally give me 'steam' life.

I will be on display at the 1982 shows hopefully, if everything goes according to plans. So come on out as I believe I am the only one of my kind in existence Let's all blow off some steam to celebrate my rebirth as a full-fledged 'steam' Keystone skimmer shovel.

Dean Redd has also restored: a Model #3 skimmer shovel which has a single cylinder engine, 14 HP, built in 1915; 2 gasoline crawler type skimmers built in 1926; a steam Keystone water well driller, size 3 traction.