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Stories of Old Nevada: A backhoe with a history

Stories of Old Nevada: A backhoe with a history

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Dennis Cassinelli

Dennis Cassinelli

After I retired from NDOT, I started my own business as a contractor. I soon found that I would need some construction equipment for the business, so I bought a 1979 Ford truck from my father and a new John Deere backhoe. With this equipment, my sons and I started our construction company.

One of our first jobs was a contract with the Glenbrook Homeowners Association at Lake Tahoe. For eight years my sons, Tim, John and I with our crew performed snow removal with the backhoe. We also used it for landscaping and construction work at Glenbrook. One of our customers at Glenbrook was the entertaining duo, Captain and Tennille.

One day the Homeowners Association brought up the old Locomotive “Glenbrook” that had once hauled logs from the Glenbrook pier to Spooner Summit where they were sent to a mill at Carson City down the canyon on a V- flume. This was done as a fundraiser to restore the locomotive.

Due to donations from the homeowners and others, the locomotive has been restored and can be seen at the Nevada State Railroad Museum.

One of the projects we did for the Homeowners Association was constructing a retaining wall using the pier pilings from the old Glenbrook pier near where the steam ship SS Tahoe was launched in 1898, using our backhoe to dig the footings. While we were working at Glenbrook, I brought up my 1926 Dodge car to use for doing estimates and working with my crew.

At the Sierra Nevada Golf Ranch in Carson Valley, I was planting trees using the backhoe alongside the road approaching the clubhouse one day when I started digging up some small rusty horseshoes. Also alongside the road was a sign that said that this was where the Pony Express route crossed the road leading to the clubhouse. Since I knew the people at the Nevada State Museum, I took the rusty Pony Express horseshoes to donate to the museum.

After we left Glenbrook, we started doing work in Carson City and other locations. I used the backhoe to dig the plant holes at the Carson City Main Post office. I also dug the plant holes with the backhoe for the Carson City Court House. We used it to do snow removal at many locations around Carson City, Lakeview, Franktown and Timberline.

In 1999, we were using the backhoe to dig the footing for a dumpster enclosure at the Nevada State Museum in Carson City. My equipment operator informed me he was digging up a bunch of “rusty old bearings.” When I went over to see what he had found, I realized they were not bearings at all. What they were was a cluster of coin dies from the old Carson City Mint that had been disposed of by burying them in the ground alongside the mint building.

I notified the archaeologist at the museum, Dr. Gene Hattori who came out and conducted a search of the area. By the time he had finished, he had recovered over 900 of the dies. He then told me to bury the area with my backhoe so it could be studied further in the future.

In 2010, Nevada State Public Works called for bids to relocate a row of graves at the Northern Nevada Adult Mental Health cemetery in Sparks. My crew and I used our backhoe to remove the remains from 18 graves. We were then required to store the remains and later re-inter them in a new area where a memorial obelisk was being installed with the names of over 600 former patients of the asylum who had died over a long period of time. In addition, we were given several other sets of remains that had been discovered alongside 21st Street by the main historic cemetery dating back to the 1880s.

After the memorial obelisk was installed, we used our backhoe to bury the new caskets that had been provided to us in the area surrounding the obelisk. Like me, the old backhoe has now been retired and is in pretty bad shape after so many years of hard work.

Dayton author and historian Dennis Cassinelli’s books can be ordered at a discount on his blog at


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