What Is a Boneyard?

A boneyard is a storage space for obsolete items. Similar to the term's original meaning, a cemetery, boneyard refers to the storage or cannibalization of retired items and machinery with no utility. Any useful parts are typically removed and put to use before being stored. 

The terms "boneyard" and "graveyard" are often used interchangeably.

Key Takeaways

  • The term boneyard is used to describe a scrap yard for heavy equipment, such as vehicles, aircraft, and trains.
  • In an office context, boneyards are storage rooms for functionally obsolete computers, printers, and other business hardware.
  • A boneyard may be a storage facility, it may resell or recycle scraps or parts, it may act as a museum, or it may do all these things.
  • Boneyards can be located outdoors when the equipment in question consists primarily of heavy machinery, or they can be located indoors, such as a storage room filled with outdated office equipment.
  • One of the largest and most famous boneyards in the United States is at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, AZ—the 2,600-acre property holds an estimated inventory of over 4,400 decommissioned aircraft.

Understanding Boneyards

Commonly, the term boneyard is used to describe a scrap yard for heavy equipment, such as vehicles, aircraft, and trains. In a business office context, it is used to describe storage rooms for functionally obsolete computers, printers, and other business hardware.

Types of Boneyards

Boneyards exist in many different environments. Items, either in whole or in part, may be stored there permanently or until they are transported for disposal. An example of a whole item stored in a boneyard is the antiquated payphone. An example of part of a system stored in a boneyard is the heavy, bulky computer monitor capable of displaying only limited information at low resolutions.

The automotive and industrial industries saturate boneyards with obsolete items. These storage sites feature vehicles and other equipment that are no longer in working order but may have value as a source of spare parts. Boneyards can also include parts stripped from the original equipment that may be useful to repair equipment in better condition. Scrap metal boneyards may have items whose only value is in the material in which they were made, such as the aluminum in vehicle frames.

Real-World Examples of a Boneyard

Some of the most notable boneyards include those used to store decommissioned aircraft. One of the largest within the United States is located at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, AZ. The 2,600-acre property typically holds an estimated inventory of over 4,400 decommissioned aircraft.

The aircraft are grouped into categories—Type 1000, 2000, 3000, 4000—with the planes in the 1000 category being stored for eventual return to active service. Type 2000 means the aircraft can be used for parts. Type 3000 means the plane is on hold in temporary storage, waiting for transfer or sale, or to be reclassified to another type. Type 4000 means the plane has already been stripped down completely. These planes can be melted down or recycled for scrap metal.

In Las Vegas, NV, the Neon Boneyard houses a variety of neon signage that local casinos have decommissioned. While the facility functions as a storage site, it also functions as a museum. This allows the items to be shared with the public for their historical value despite their low functional value.