Published monthly by the Canadian
Railroad Historical Association
P.O. Box 148 St. Constant P.Q.
EDITOR: Fred F. Angus
CO-EDITOR: M. Peter Murphy
OFFICIAL CARTOGRAPHER: William A.
LAYOUT: Michel Paulet
CANADIAN PACIFIC SNOW PLOW 400779
stops briefly in its work so that
it and its crew can be photogra
phed. The date and place is not
known, but it is certainlY in the
steam days as can be seen by the
locomotive partly hidden by the
Pacific photo #3886.
ANOTHER VIEW OF C.P. 400779 at
work clearing a siding. One can
almost feel the cold crisp airl
Note the water tank just around
the curve in the background.
Pacific photo #3882.
ISSN 0008 -4875
CALGARY & SOUTH WESTERN DIVISION
60-6100 4th Ave. NE
Ca 1 gary, Alberta TZA 5ZB
BYTOWN RAILWAY SOCIETY
P.O. Box 141, Station A Ottawa, Ontario
NEW BRUNSWICK DIVISION
P.O. Box 1162
New Brunswick E2L 4G7
CROWSNEST AND KETTLE-VALLEY DIVISION
P.O. Box 400
Cranbrook, British Columbia
PACIFIC COAST DIVISION
P.O. Box 1006, Station A, Vancouver
British Columbia V6C 2Pl
ROCKY MOUNTAIN DIVISION
P.O. Box 6102, Station C, Edmonton
Alberta T5B 2ND
300 Cabana Road East, Windsor
Ontario N9G lA2
TORONTO & YORK DIVISION
P.O. Box 5849, Terminal A, Toronto
Ontario M5W lP3
P.O. Box 593
ST. LAWRENCE VALLEY DIVISION
P.O. Box 99
Ste. Doroth~e, Quebec H7X 2T4
THE ROTARY IN ACTION WAS A SPECTACULAR SIGHT as can be seen from this photo
taken in 1910. The scene is probably Rogers Pass after a disasterous snow
slide. Pieces of broken trees mixed with the snow were always a hazard to
operation of rotary plows.
Pacific photo #19268.
Since the middle of the nineteenth century snow has been a major
concern to the railways of Canada. In the very earliest times there ,,as
little problem. The Champlain and St. LaTence Rail Road, opened in 1836,
simply did not run in winter the first few years. This is understandable
since it was a portage railway between two waterways, and there would be
little use in operating when these waterways were frozen over. Even the
Montreal and Lachine had little or no operation its first winter. Opened
in November 1847, it soon curtailed most or all of its service, and it
was not until the spring of 1848 that it began to realize its full poten
tial. In those times winter travel, when performed at all, was mostly by
horse-drawn Sleigh, and there was little need for extensive clearing of
snow from the right-of-way.
By 1850, however, the situation was changing. Railways were now
becoming an important year-round means of transportation and this meant
the end of winter isolation for much of Canada. Of course it was vital
to clear the snow, and Canada was a leader in snow-fighting equipment.
The Grand Trunk Railway was the first to experience the problem in a
deGree. They started very early to equip loco)~otives with snow
plows, and very soon had developed large snow-plow cars, not unlike the
ones still in use, which were pushed ahead of as many as six locomotives
in forcing through heavy drifts.
In later days neer inventions ~ere made to ease the probl em of
snow re;;]oval. One notable Canadian invention was the rotary plough which
was invented by a Canadian dentist, possibly inspired by a dental drill
scaled up many times. The rotary really came into its own when the trans
continental railways ~ere built, and, pushed by several locomotives and
with the rotatinG blades powered by a locomotive-sized boiler, they could
drill through the largest drifts in the mountain passes.
Street car systems too had their troubles with snow. In the horse
car era many systems did not clear the tracks but employed large sleighs,
much like street cars on runners, during winter months. This was not due
to laziness, but simply because no one wanted the streets cleared as it
would interefere with private sleigh traffic. With the coming of electric
cars, holY ever , year-round rail operation became neces silry, and even in
the last days of horse cars some clearing was done; for example Toronto
had a sweeper hauled by twelve horses in 1891. Clearing of street lines in
the electric era was often done by sweepers which had a big revolving
brush. But on more rural lines reGular plows were used and even rotary
units (some double-ended) saw service on electric lines.
Today snow clearing is still an important part of running railways
in Canada in winter. Every storm sees fleets of plows and bulldozers out on
the 1 ines cl earing the tracks, al though cases of snowbound trains still
occur despite the best efforts. In this snowy month of February we are
devoting the entire issue of Canadian Rail to snow fighting on the railway
and tramway lines in Canada. As the winds howl and the snow comes down,
think of the rail~ay men out in the storm trying to keep the line open for
the passage of trains on the thousands of miles of railway track in Canada.
CANADIAN 40 R A I L
…. r~··· -r
THE SHAPE OF THE RAILWAY SNOIq PLOW has changed Ii ttl e over the years.
This illustration of about 1870 shows a plow in front of two engines
on the Grand Trunk railway.
R A I L
NIIEN ONE TIIINKS OF SNOW SIIEDS those of the Canaciiail Rockies co;ne to
mind. HOI,ever they were not the first in Canada as we see here frolll
these views on the Intercolonial Railway at :,Ietapedia in 1876, the
year the I.C.R. main line was opened. Crews used to say that runninG
through SHOW sheds l,as like railroading in a barn.
Courtesy New Brunswick Museulil.
SNOW PLOW I~ORK WAS DANGEROUS for no one knew ~hat obstacles might be
hidden in a snow drift. On January 14 1894, C.P.R. plow extra 570
was rounding a curve at Harvey New Brunswick when it struck a rock
buried in snow on the track. The plow swung to the right, and both
engines to the left with No. 570 crashing through the ice and dis
appearing in the waters of Harvey pond. The artist of the Daily
Telegraph of Saint .John N.ll. captured the action of this fatal crash.
By the way, No. 570 was raised from its involuntary ducking and it
survived until 1924.
Courtesy New Brunswick ~Iuseum.
R A L
ROTARY SNCW PLOWS CO:-.lTINUED O;-J TIlE C.P.R. for rrlany years. These photos
show the more modern type in three charactrristic poses: Standing alone,
with locomotive ready to go into service, and finally in full action
wi th sno~ flying. The photo of 400811 was taken in January 1926, and
the other two about the sa~e time or a little earlier.
Canadian Pacific photos 1147, 9039, 17768.
R A I L
TiiESE TWO PHOTOS DATE FRO.ll 1909 and show the effects of snow on passenger
trains. One yj,ew is captioned The first train through .Jan 31 09 and the
other depicts efforts being made to free an open-platform wooden postal
car from a dri~t;
Canadian P,cifiC photo 9039.
CANADIJJj NATIONAL 2-8-0 LOCO~fOTIVF. 2814 in the snow in Saskatche~an about
1950. Possibly this is a C.N.R. train rerouted on to C.P.R. lines since
this is a C.P. photo.
Canadian Pacific photo #12496.
TAKEN IN THE ~ID-1880IS, this photo shows C.P.R. engine number 30
looking more like a piece of snow sculpture than a locomotive! The
location is supposed to be the engine-house at Rogers Pass, but this
is by no means certain. No. 30 was built by Dubs in Glasgo~ Scotland,
and was delivered in 1882, one of the earliest engines acquired new
by the company. Sister engine 22 still exists as Winnipeg Jlydro No. 3
is used on the Prairie Dog Central train at Winnipeg. Note tile
wide smokestack and raised cab lettering which tell that this is a
very early picture.
Canadian Pacific photo # ~1282.
A LONG WEEKEND
By R.F.P. Bowman
as told to P. Webb
In February 1947, the West was still deeply frozen in. The
first snowfall of October would not emerge until the warm days of
April while February was living up to its reputation as the most
severe month on the prairies.
It was Thursday -with the temperature below zero and dropping,
an ominous northwest wind and driving snow threatened southeastern
Saskatchewan and southwestern Manitoba. In Brandon the Estevan
passenger train left on time for its 170 mile run, but at its dest
ination, a blizzard was in full force. Eight miles east of Estevan,
at Bienfait, the storm was quickly swallowing the small yard where
Canadian Pacific blocked and assembled the cars from the Manitoba and
Saskatchewan Coal Company spur. Attempting to keep the yard open,
a work train and spreader were fighting-a lo-sing effoFt, and-on one
of its backup moves it derailed at the east switch fouling the main.
With the passenger train due the dispatcher called the Frobisher
agent, 18 miles east, and ordered the train held there. Frobisher
was enough of a village that at least creature comforts of the crew
and passengers could be taken care of until the Bienfait situation
could be cleared. Stimultaneously he ordered a light engine west
from Souris to assist in the rerailing at Bienfait. What was not
realized in distant Brandon, was the intensity of the storm which
was now threatening the track at a hundred points. The engine with
only its crew aboard, had little chance, terminating its run in a
snowbank nine miles short of Frobisher.
It was now Friday and the magnitude of the situation was
becoming apparent: The line was blocked at two points by engines, a
passenger train was caught between, and on entire subdivision was
being threatened. Early Friday a pair of D-10s pushing a Russell
plow clanked out of Souris and inched its way southwestward, the
trains snail-like progress being telegraphed in by each agent in
turn. Clearing Oxbow, they started down the curving sidehill approach
to Moose Mountain Creek where drifting in the depression was even
heavier, and in one of the frequent bunts–charging and backing up –
the caboose derailed. Resisting all efforts at rerailing, it was
uncoupled and abandoned. Once again the fight was resumed, bunting
and shovelling to Rapeard, a point only five miles west of Oxbow,
where they attempted to keep the engines alive by using snow. Here,
night overtook, and exhausted they quit.
Saturday morning, and the situation was now even more desperate.
At Brandon, crews and a shovelling gang were called for 11 a .m., the
train consisting of three D-10 s, a stockmens car and a pair of
cabooses. Because of the clearing done by the earlier train, it was
CANADIAN 51 R A I L
All pictures by R.F.P. Bowman
The relief train at Frobisher, Saskatchewan, after its arrival
Particulary large drifts had to be shovelled down to size before
the plow could attempt to cut through. A shovelling gang was
also handy in case the entire train became locked in a drift.
In classic understatement, crews referred to snow clearing as
bunting or blind flying. When two engines were used conditjons
were obviously entremely severe. One would cut off while the
lead engine and plow ran at a drift at 20 mph. If it did not get
through, it backed up and tried again, thence the term bunting.
If it got stuck the other engine was able to come to its assis
tance. When conditions were not so servere a single engine and
plow at speed were used. The effect of the wedge knifing a
drift would at times send an explosion of caved snow back over
the tender, thus the tarp over the coal bunker. In the accomp
anying pictures a plow extra is bogged down on the Rosemary Sub
in eastern Alberta in 1951.
R A I L
able to get through to Oxbow fairly quickly. Bunting and shovelling
their way down the curving approach to the creek crossing, they were
Oble to dig out and rerail the caboose, dragging it back into Oxbow
out of the way. Again the extra, labored west, gaining Rapeard, where
the first plow train patiently awaited rescue. It too was hauled back
into Oxbow where by now it was after midnight. The crews were worn
out so it was decided to remain there until Sunday morning.
Early the next morning, the ten wheelers stormed the Moose
Mountain Creek curves for a third time, repetatively charging and
backing up, eventually punching through to the light engine. Its
crew had managed to drain the boiler but failed to get the condensed
steam from the cylinders, locking the drivers as if in concrete. The
relief crew set to work removing the connecting rods and once fr~e,
were able to tow the engine back into the nearest siding, Alameda,
and laboriously again start for Frobisher.
Meanwhile at Bienfait, the Manitoba and Saskatchewans own
engine had been called to assist in rerailing the C.P. engine. A
gang of shovellers worked its way from the mine into the Bienfait
yard where they managed to rerail the equipment, then tow the drained
engine back to the little engine shed where it was thawed out, steamed
up, and returned to Bienfait to continue the job started Thursday.
Now the battle shifted to just west of Alameda. Alternately
blind flying–charging the smaller drifts–and bunting, separating
the two trailing engines and train, the lead engine and plow charging
the drifts, the fight continued. At times, progress was measured in
feet as the gang shoveled but yard by yard, they gained track while
the rescue plow train patiently followed, Eventually, they broke
through to Frobisher, where after a brief pause they battered through
to Bienfait. The second plow train picked up the expertly drained
G-5 and its train, and dragged it westward following the signs of
battle, punctuated by a column of smoke on the darkening horizon.
It was late Sunday when the first train broke through to Estevan.
Overnight the Estevan roundhouse crew steamed up the G-5 and
serviced and turned the D-1 0 s and plows so that by Monday morning
the three trains were ready to try it again. The original plow train
got out first, clearing the tracks for the varnish, while the relief
train skulked along behind doing clean-up work on the sidings. All
three trains were back at Brandon by late Monday night, however, time
has clouded the details of the return of the rodless D-10 at Alameda.
R.F. Paddy Bowman began a fascinating railroad career in 1926
with Canadian Pacific. By 1940 he was roadmaster when he went over
seas, undertaking a military career which saw him assigned to the
intelligence section to Montgomerys invasion planning staff and later
being made a Member of the Order of the British Empire. He returned
to Canadian Pacific as Division Engineer in Brandon and moving up
through a series of promotions, he retired as Superintendent of the
Lethbridge Division in 1965. A graduate engineer, he is a publisher in
his own right, having authored the highly successful Railways In
Southern Alberta for the Historical Society of Alberta in 1973.
CANADIAN 54 R A I L
IN YARDS WIIERE IT IS DIFFICULT TO FIND SPACE TO THROII SNOW, the problem
can be solved by sno~ mel ters. [loth these vi e~s were taken in February
1948, one on the C.P.R. (Canadian Pacific photo #12418), and clle other
on the C.N.R. at Turcot (Toohey collection, C.R.Il.A.). The two units
are almost identical and were then pushed by steam locomotives.
CANADIAN NATIO:-JAL PLOIV 55126 pushed by steam locomotive 1311 ~ere
photographed at St. Lambert on January 31 1948.
Toohey Collection, C.R.H.A.
FOR OUR FINAL LOOK AT SNOW IN THE STEA..I ERA we see C.P.R. No. 5144
in the Crows Nest Pass area on February 2 1950. Poor
old 5144 looks as if it had just settled down for a long
winters nap, but in fact it would soon be freed and running again.
We now leave the age of steam, and turn to the diesel era where we
will find that problems with snow are no less serious.
Canadian Pacific photo #115.
CA NAD I AN
57 R A I L
WHEN THE LOCOMOTIVES COME IN LOOKING LIKE THIS its time to call out
the snow plows! Actually the plows have probably been out all night
already or else No. 8578 might not have made it through. The scene
is at Windsor Station in Montreal in the winter of 1969, and No. 8578
has just arrived from Saint John N.B. at the head end of C.P. Rails
passenger train the Atlantic Limited.
Canadian Pacific photo W25l38.
CANADIAN 58 R A I L
TillS GROUP ()F FIVE PIIOTOS by Burt Van Recs shows sno~ clearing operations
on bod! Canadian Pacific and Canadian National lines in southern Ontario
in the years 1976 1977 and 1973. An interestin8 note is that C.P. plow
No. 400780 shown here is a sister uni t to 400779 depicted on the front
cover in a view taken many years before.
All photos by Burt Van Rees.
R A L
R A I L
SNOW CLEARING IN YARDS is now done by modern snow blowers like this unit
shown at work in St. Luc yard in January 1966.
Pacific photo *1231.
R A I L
TWO ACTION PHOTOS OF C.P. RAIL SNOW CLEARING IN ONTARIO in the 1970s.
The front view is at Fergus Onto on Jan. 12 1978 where 8446, and 8767
are pushing a plow, but little is visible in the flying snow. The other
photo, taken at Lakeside on Feb. 10 1976, is of extra 4061 tackling a
big drift at full speed.
Both photos by Greg. McDonald. Canadian Pacific photos #E4556-ll
THE DANGERS OF RUNNING SNOW PLOllS ARE STILL PRESENT. This is well shown
this derailment at Lakeside Ontario on ~Iarch 2 1978. Plow 400780
ran into some hard-packed snow and derailed. making a right-angled
turn in front of locomotive 8485 which also derailed. The scene is much
like that shown in New Brunswick in 1894. and had it happened on a
steep river-bank the results might have been the same.
by Gordon R. Taylor.
WHILE ~DERN BULLDOZERS ARE NOW IN USE, the old en~y is still fighting
back. In this February 1978 view at Gull Lake $askatchew&n the bulldozer.
are havina a hard dille to free the encino frO:l the snow. So we end our
covera,e of snow i.n tho diesel era tile lue way that we fini.hed the
Iteam days -with a loco~tiye buried in the snow, showing that .now will
always be a probl~ on the railways of Canada.
canadian Pacific photo 79-34-5.
TO BE CONTINUEU
Thil photo Story of snow on railways … ·as intended to include street car
lines as well. However we were snowll.J under with iood photos, and rather
than cut some out we decided to defer the street car section until next
DOnth. So watch for the ~arch Canadiln Rail which will show how the tr~
way and Interurban linel coped with snow which was as IllUch a proble;a with
thes as with the main line railwayS.
WHAT ~1UST m.vI: IWEN A RE(.!lJIn FOR SSOh CLEAAHlr. W;iS ti,e job of cuttilf.
through thil lnow slide at Illecillewaet B.C. early (leh century, nlO
sli.Je was l500 feet Ion,. ami the ~dluQ
Canadian Pacific photo _1215,