This is a little history on my 25" x 25" x 5' Planer built by William Bement and Son in 1875.
During the two years that I lived and worked in Reno Nevada, I had come across an old planer in a scrap yard. The machine had been sitting in the rain for about 7 years. After about 6 months of asking about the machine on and off the owner finally sold it to me. I am a big fan of old planers and shapers, and was happy to acquire it. At the time I had no idea of the history of this machine. The only thing I knew about its past was that the owner had bought it from an older man 7 years earlier.
I had the machine loaded on my trailer and brought my new toy home to play. Because of the dry climate in Nevada, the planer was in fairly good condition. There was a lot of rust, but the years of oil and grease had saved it from pitting. After getting the machine home and going over it, I decided to start the restoration. I began removing the different parts, table, tool post, cross slide, etc... Finally I removed the bull gear and bearing blocks. When I removed the bearing blocks I found that somewhere along the line someone had put paper shims between the bearing blocks and the main casting. I'm sure that this was done to lower the bull gear from the rack gear. As the ways of the machine wear, the two gears begin to bind. So shims are placed between the bearing block to correct this problem. The shims are the size of a baseball card. When I examined the shims I found that they were old time cards from the 1880's. Across the top of the pre printed time cards was MACHINE SHOP TIME CARD, V. & T. R. R. CO. I then realized it was the Virginia and Truckee Railroad Co. This machine was from what was probably the most famous short line railroad in the country. The next day I called the Nevada State Railroad Museum in Carson City and talked to the curator of history Kyle Wyatt and told him what I had found. About a week or so later I received a package in the mail from Mr. Wyatt. In the package was quite a bit of documentation from the railroad. Part of this was a 1917 ICC survey of the railroad's inventory. On the inventory list was one 25" x 25" x 5' planer built by William Bement and son, purchased by the Virginia and Truckee railroad in 1875 for $664.00.
The Virginia and Truckee Railroad started construction of their shops in 1873 and were in operation until 1936. Over the next few years the railroad began closing different portions of their operations. In 1943 the machine shop was closed and 35% of the equipment was removed. The entire operation was officially closed by the railroad in 1946 and abandoned in 1950. It is my belief that the Bement planer was removed from the shop in 1943. It is unknown what happened to the machine until some time around 1990 when it was brought to the scrap yard. From what I was told while visiting the Nevada State Railroad Museum, the Bement planer is one of only two machine tools known that are left from the railroad. The second machine is a small Sellers lathe that was donated to the museum by someone from Lake Tahoe.
Photos of the Bement planer.