Work truck: 1943 Chevrolet power pole digger restored to pristine working condition
Utility vehicles: Valley Electric Association restores cooperative’s first truck, preserves piece of Nevada history.
Pahrump, NV – Utility trucks: In an effort to honor the rich history of southwestern Nevada and celebrate the longevity of Valley Electric Association Inc. (VEA), the Pahrump-based cooperative has restored its very first truck, a 1943 Chevrolet power pole digger, to pristine working condition. The digger truck, which was the first piece of mechanized equipment utilized by the nearly 50-year-old electric cooperative, will now continue to serve the community as an accessible piece of the past, slated to roll down city streets for parades and other community events.
The digger truck, once used to drill holes for power line poles, was restored over a period of five weeks. This included approximately 2,000 hours of labor by a skilled team of mechanics and machinists at Top Notch LLC in Pahrump. The military-designed truck had been deteriorating for years while on display in a field at the Pahrump Valley Museum, until Tom Husted, CEO of VEA, arranged for the company to take possession of the vehicle and provide it with a comprehensive makeover earlier this year.
“We observed that a key piece of VEA’s legacy in Pahrump was sinking further and further into disrepair. I’m grateful to the Pahrump Valley Museum and Historical Society for providing VEA with the opportunity to bring it back to life and share it with the community,” Husted said. “This truck is not only a significant symbol of Nevada’s past, but also of rural cooperatives and how they have helped provide energy for our country’s agricultural regions. Restoring this truck keeps that heritage alive.”
The digger truck, which still has 95 percent of its original components, will continue to play a key role for VEA. While the cooperative does not intend to put the truck back to work in the field, it will enter the vehicle in parades and car shows within the cooperative’s service area.
The truck represents the beginnings of VEA, initially formed as the Amargosa Valley Cooperative in 1963 to provide essential power to farmers and their families. The cooperative’s 138-kilovolt transmission line, first energized in March 1963, was a major part of this endeavor. Amargosa soon consolidated with the White Mountain Electric Cooperative, and the organizations incorporated as VEA in 1965. The Chevy digger was used throughout VEA’s service area until 1969.
VEA has grown alongside southwestern Nevada, providing new jobs and opportunities for community members. The cooperative has pursued ambitious projects in recent years, including launching a large-scale solar water heating program and landing federal contracts to serve Creech Air Force Base and the Nevada National Security Site. VEA also joined the California Independent System Operator Corporation balancing authority in January 2013, opening the door to a host of opportunities in the renewable energy market.
The digger truck’s restoration was overseen by Butch Caple, manager of support services for VEA. Caple hailed the project as an overwhelming success for VEA and its members.
“I feel fortunate to have taken part in the restoration process, which has brought back this valuable part of the co-op’s history for the enjoyment of our members,” Caple said.