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Union Pacific's Snow Plows

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This page was last updated on December 13, 2014.

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Union Pacific has owned and operated a variety of snow fighting equipment. As early as the 1870s, the earliest examples were large wedge plows mounted directly to the front of locomotives. As technology and engineering techniques improved, separate wedge plows were mounted on flat cars, and by the mid 1880s, Union Pacific and its subsidiary companies was one of the earliest users of rotary snow plows.

The blizzards of 1949 resulted in Union Pacific building a fleet of wedge snow plows mounted to retired steam locomotive tenders. In late 1949, an experimental "Snow Loader" was tried, with an added "Snow Melter" to aid in the removal of large amounts of snow from switching yards where it was more difficult than simply blowing the snow to the side of the tracks.

The following was published in 1998 by Andrew Toppan on various web sites:

The first successful rotary plow was designed by Canadian Orange Jull. He had it built by the Leslie Brothers, owners of a machine shop, and tested it in the winter of 1883-84. The Leslies' soon purchased the manufacturing rights to the plow and went into business building 'Leslie type' rotaries. This is the type of plow most people think of when you say 'rotary.' It has one large circular plow blade rotating on a shaft parallel to the tracks.

Between 1885 and 1903 the Leslies had 62 plows (plus 2 for export) built by several locomotive works. They then sold the rights to the plows to ALCo. However, the Leslies' company exists to this day. From 1905 to 1937 ALCo built 67 plows (plus 4 for export). Lima-Hamilton built the last four commercially produced steam rotaries (and the last commercial Leslie types) in 1949-50, under license from ALCo.

Wedge Snow Plows

Russell Snow Plows

Based on Union Pacific records, and available photographs, Union Pacific is not known to ever owned or operated a snow plow like those built by Russell Car & Snow Plow Co. These wedge-style plows were built until 1951 by the Russell Car & Snow Plow Company of Ridgway, Pennsylvania. The design was patented in 1903 by James Russell. (link to patent) (link to Mid-Continent Railway Museum description) (link to HO scale model produced by Walthers)

Rotary Snow Plows

Snow Loader / Snow Melter


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