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"imagine the rotary plow's fanwheel blowing a cloud of snow 40 feet in all directions"
February 9, 2010 6:37 PM   Subscribe

The logistics and beauty of snowplowing or snowblowing by train (not always successful).

More information on snow plow trains including plow action shots, the snowfighting photo gallery, independent snowplough sightings, and and telling the difference between a spreader and a flanger. You might also enjoy the world's largest railroad rotary snowplow, a brief history of the rotary snowplow, and some plowing photos from the Winter of '49. Can't get enough? Buy the DVD!
posted by jessamyn (33 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite

That name again is Mr. Plow.
posted by Dick Laurent is Dead at 6:40 PM on February 9, 2010 [5 favorites]

i'm on a train
nowhere to go
all i'm a-doin'
is a-blowin' snow
ain't movin' fast
just movin' slow
all i'm a-doin'
is a-blowin' snow
all i'm a-doin'
is a-blowin' snow
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:42 PM on February 9, 2010

We have wormsign, the likes of which even God has never seen.
posted by penduluum at 6:51 PM on February 9, 2010 [5 favorites]

ok, that's just neat!... Ironically I had just come in from snow blowing about 5 inches of snow off the driveway, and was feeling pretty, well, potent as I sent that snow flying... now, not so much...
posted by HuronBob at 6:51 PM on February 9, 2010

Doing it steam punk style (a/k/a Dampfschneeschleuder) in the Swiss Alps. Or in a garden.

One of my favorite trips was a month on the RhB in February about 10 years ago. It was a year of exceptional snowfall (and avalanches) and I somehow lucked into a ride in the cab of the locomotive coming down from the Jungfrau - absolutely awesome!

Great post - especially this winter!
posted by webhund at 7:07 PM on February 9, 2010 [4 favorites]

I never really had a dream job until today.
posted by futureisunwritten at 7:18 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Those videos are awesome! I took a great photo of a rotary snow eater train in Luzern once, but never imagined how exciting they are in motion!
posted by Nelson at 7:26 PM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

I take my town snowplowing for granted in Vermont. Clear roads a day after the storm. I was in DC today and realized how blessed I am. There were giant frozen ice chunks in the middle of every road.
posted by Xurando at 7:30 PM on February 9, 2010

That was awesome.
posted by Divine_Wino at 7:48 PM on February 9, 2010

Snowploughing trains are neat. I've always loved wild photos like these from the British Columbia interior. Imagine being given the job of ploughing through 37ft of solidified snow!
posted by ssg at 7:49 PM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

yeah trying doing the philly streets right now in a wheelchair

i was in the store today and this guy was telling me all about how i needed snow tires. i was like, you magically transport them here and now, great. otherwise, please stop talking

nyc, how i miss thee. you know how to do snow better
posted by angrycat at 7:51 PM on February 9, 2010

" the Swiss Alps. Or in a garden."

posted by lonefrontranger at 7:52 PM on February 9, 2010

The third link had me enthralled until the train got to the crossing. I saw this huge hawk-faced train, all black steel and sharp lines, unstoppable and absolute, and then it turns out it's just a big plow attached to a normal train. :(

Dream train shattered.
posted by lholladay at 8:52 PM on February 9, 2010

I was reminded of this little garden railway snowplowing vid, which has a certain charm of its own.

Of course, real snow removal gear is steam powered.

It's fun to drive the train through snow as well.

Of course, watch where you stand when watching the trains plow.

Of course, if you have 500 tons of locomotive and only a couple feet of snow, you don't even need a plow.

posted by pjern at 9:04 PM on February 9, 2010 [6 favorites]

FINALLY a villain for my Thomas the Tank Engine reboot!
posted by cowbellemoo at 9:08 PM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


I bring you Snow Command.

Streets & Sanitation coordinates Chicago's snow and ice control efforts from Snow Command located in the 911 Center on West Madison Street. This high tech command center allows us to make effective use of advanced technologies such as Doppler radar, Global Positioning Systems on all of our trucks, ground and pole mounted pavement sensors, access to a network of 1000 cameras, and communications with meteorologists and the National Weather Service.

Snow Command closely monitors incoming weather systems and deploys our main fleet of 274 Snow Fighting Trucks, or lesser numbers of trucks, depending upon need. Once on the roadways our trucks patrol, plow or salt our routes as necessary. When temperatures fall into the teens, our trucks often spray our road salt with calcium chloride to make the salt work more effectively at lower temperatures. We have also been making frequent use of more environmentally friendly deicers that are made with salt water, sugar beet byproducts and calcium chloride. When time and breaks in the weather permit we will apply this pretreatment to our bridge decks and overpasses to slow down the formation of ice on the driving surface.

Streets & Sanitation is responsible for maintaining winter roadway safety on a route system of 9,456 lane miles, the equivalent distance of going from Chicago and Canberra, Australia (9,387 miles).

I live in DC now and believe me, there's a huge difference.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:54 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I am so glad you finally posted this. Good timing, too!
posted by not_on_display at 9:55 PM on February 9, 2010

This post wins Teh Meatfilter.

Seriously awesome.
posted by The Potate at 10:33 PM on February 9, 2010

I know I just posted, but...dammit...The only thing that could possibly make this more awesome is if these mofos were clearing the way for fast trains full of people.

The world needs more awesome.

posted by The Potate at 10:49 PM on February 9, 2010

Awesome post, my son and I loved it.
posted by nostrada at 11:52 PM on February 9, 2010

This is a wonderful post. Years ago my now-wife and I, crossing Canada in the winter by train, got shunted onto some northern Ontario freight tracks because of a wreck on the VIA line, and we saw much similar equipment. Riding that train through those desolate landscapes, with the snow flying and the red flags fluttering from the engine, was like something out of Dr. Zhivago.

You must live in one of those cold, dark, northern climates to have even thought of this. (Here, about 65 miles to the northwest of you, it's warmed all the way up to 20° F. at the moment.)
posted by LeLiLo at 1:37 AM on February 10, 2010

Nice timing, I was just reading The White Cascade, a book about the Wellington Avalanche. Rotary plows play a significant role in the book, and there's quite a bit of talk about their strengths and weaknesses.
posted by true at 6:18 AM on February 10, 2010

Logistics? I bring you Snow Command.

If there is any justice in the world, this agency is headed by a man named Jason.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:50 AM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

So my BF was supposed to go a conference in D.C this week and managed to get down there during the lull in the storms. He gets down there late, suffers a long, terrifying cab ride on icy streets, only to find out the Federal government had ben sjuit down while he was on the train and the conference is canceled and more snow is coming. Thinking quick, he got a ticket for the next train out, tomorrow at noon - which happened to be last train out of D.C for the duration of the storm. He nearly missed this train because he was so tired he fell asleep in the hotel lobby.

This is the same person who got their luggage lost 4 times in a row (and once, it was kidnapped) and got trapped in Denver for a week due to snow almost a year ago and who;s trip to Berlin was heralded by a freak, crippling ice storm that made transit impossible.

I think I'm gonna tattoo a St. Christopher medal on his chest or something.
posted by The Whelk at 8:00 AM on February 10, 2010

Snow Command link is down here's a different one (may not be the right spot).
posted by zenon at 8:32 AM on February 10, 2010

Anybody have links to Russian snowplow trains? I bet they have some impressive equipment.
posted by Quietgal at 9:00 AM on February 10, 2010

I was just wondering if they used trains to plow train tracks. I figured they must, and here is a post on it! Thanks jessamyn.
posted by Mister_A at 11:11 AM on February 10, 2010

The plow is like an evil train helmet! I have to get that for my Thomas the Tank Engine wooden railway! Er, my kids' railway I mean.
posted by Mister_A at 11:14 AM on February 10, 2010

posted by Quietgal:
"Anybody have links to Russian snowplow trains? I bet they have some impressive equipment."

This seems to be a start, maybe? I don't have time right now to watch them to see if they're russian, but I got it by Googletranslating "snowplow trains" into Russian, and then doing a Google Vid search for that phrase.
posted by not_on_display at 12:50 PM on February 10, 2010

this is pretty awesome.

i'll be in my bunk.
posted by rmd1023 at 1:40 PM on February 10, 2010

FINALLY a villain for my Thomas the Tank Engine reboot!

Just make sure they're diesel powered...
posted by drezdn at 1:47 PM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Wow. Those trainplow videos are the stuff of scenic nightmares. It's like that terrifying train in the coors light commercials. The tracks could be anywhere!
posted by wam at 7:42 PM on February 10, 2010

The MTA uses rotary plows too.
posted by Skorgu at 12:55 PM on February 12, 2010

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