| September/October 1980

New Ashford, Massachusetts 01237

Photo #1: A Keystone back hoe in some localities called a back drag bucket excavating a cellar, notice the outriggers or braces to the right of supervisor and the extended length of boom.

The January-February 1979 Iron Men Album the editor, Mr. Lestz, displayed three pictures of the O.N. Geer Livery teams and dump wagons with an old piece of steam excavating equipment. I sent in a letter and check explaining my tentative identification of the steamer as a Keystone shovel with a skimmer attachment, however a man by the name of Geer was first. I was glad to hear this as he is more entitled to the pictures than I. If he should read this I would appreciate his comments. Also in his return letter the editor stated he would consider my story about this type of equipment, so after a great amount of reminiscing, checking and searching through files and photos I came up with this:

First about the wagons: these were known as dump wagons, belly dump wagons, drop dump wagons and gravel wagons mostly to distinguish them from the rear or tip-type dump wagons and the one-horse two-wheel dump cart. At the time I knew about eight different makes, but now can only recall the Watson, the Eagle, Owensboro and the Double Diamond. The principle was simple; a latch released the two bottom doors and the load was neatly dropped through. Then a hand lever and dog turned over a winch winding up a chain that closed the doors for the next load. They were made in one and one half cubic yard and two cubic yard capacity. The ones shown appear to be the heavy duty or two cubic yard type.

Photo #2: Keystone with shovel front. Posing are lineman, operator and fireman. AH early models were half swing, that is boom could only swing 90 degrees to either side.

The last large job in the East that used these extensively was in New York State on the construction of the Taconic Trail in 1926-28. The contractor used 25 teams and wagons under two Erie steam shovels along with a few Reo dump trucks. This was the last time they used dump wagons. After the job was completed they sold them off to individuals for $25.00 per wagon. Returning to the Geer Livery stable from about 1912 to 1924 most large livery stables had two or more for hire. I knew of one which had twenty available. I still have some of grandfather's records from 1900 to World War I showing he paid $2.50 per 10-hour day for a complete outfit of a two horse team, teamster and dump wagon. Miles and miles of roads and railroads were built with these wagons. I still have one which needs rebuilding and some day will 'get around to it.'