Keystone Driller Direct Link to the Past

Wisconsin man restores a Keystone Driller that drilled holes for Smith Well Drilling

| October 1998

  • 1900s Keystone Driller
    Bill Smith, who restored this early 1900s Keystone Driller, said he's never seen another one like it. He learned to operate the rig as a boy, and demonstrates its operation annually at a show near his home in Baraboo, Wis.
  • Bill Smith is shown here with the rig, which can be operated by one man
    Bill Smith is shown here with the rig, which can be operated by one man. The rig was company rated to 500 feet.
  • Experts say detailing like this was common on catalog models
    Experts say detailing like this was common on catalog models. Bill Smith, though, finds the paint job a bit overdone. "I think it looks like a circus wagon," he said.

  • 1900s Keystone Driller
  • Bill Smith is shown here with the rig, which can be operated by one man
  • Experts say detailing like this was common on catalog models

The steam-powered drilling rig was a once-common sight in rural America, as farmsteads sprouted in remote areas. Today's water wells, though, are drilled with modern equipment. But a carefully restored relic in Wisconsin recalls a different era. 

"We were just lucky enough that it wasn't scrapped," said William J. "Bill" Smith, Baraboo, Wis., as he considered his Keystone Driller.

In the early '80s, Bill took a look at what was by then "just a pile of iron," and decided to restore the driller.

"The wood frame was rotted down, and the iron was so badly worn that we had to rebuild all of it," he said. "There were a few small parts we had to recast."



The original frame, he said, was probably built of red fir. But he used oak timbers for the restoration. The gleaming brass gauge reads "Keystone Driller Company."

"I was lucky enough to have a gauge that read 'Keystone' on it," he said. A friend gave him another, for a backup. Finally, it was time to paint the frame, and a wagon that hauled supplies. Bill had a copy of an old catalog promoting the rig, and the painter was enthusiastic.