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
A ROTARY PLOW OF THE MONTREAL STREET
RAILWAY at work on the Amherst Park
line on February 20 1904. The
passenger car on the right appears
to be a single-truck car of the type
built in 1899 and 1900.
ONE OF THE PIONEERS OF ELECTRIC
TRACTION IN CANADA was the Ottawa
Electric Railway which was opened
electric cars in 1891. Here we
see sweeper No.2 ready to go into
service on a snowy day about 1892.
of Canada PA 33907.
ISSN 0008 -4875
CALGARY & SaJTH WESTERN DIVISION
60-6100 4th Ave. NE
Calgary, Alberta T2A 5Z8
BYTOWN RAILWAY SOCIETY
P.O. Box 141, Station A Ottawa, Ontario
NEW BRUNSW ICK DIVI SION
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 2NO
300 Cabana Road East, Windsor
Ontario N9G lA2
TORONTO & YORK DIVISION
P.O. Box 5849, Termina 1 A, Toron to
Ontario M5W lP3
P.O. Box 593
ST. LAWRENCE VALLEY OIVI SION
P.O. Box 99
Ste. Ooroth~e, Quebec H7X 2T4
and interurban lines
Snow is a problem in winter operation of street car lines and
interurban railways as much as it is on main-line railways. The cond
itions of operation range all the way from small street railways which
operated on paved thoroughfares all the way up to heavy interurbans
which closely resembled large railways.
In the early days the difference was distinct; street railways
were light and usually horse-operated, and interurbans as such did not
exist. In areas of little snowfall, the horsecar tracks would be cleared
by hand shovelling, although in some cases small plows might be used.
In cities which had much snow, the companies did not attempt to clear
the track in the winter; they would keep the lines open as long as they
could, but then would store the street cars until spring, and use large
sleighs mounted on runners. In fact there would have been complaints
from owners of priv~te Sleighs if they had tried to keep the tracks
open once the heavy snow came.
the coming of the electric cars in the late 1880s and the
1890s the situation changed greatly. Electric car service was so much
faster and more efficient than horse operation that it would not have
practical to return to horse sleighs in the winter months. This
that the tracks would have to be cleared, and equipment was built
for this purpose. Some people thought that electric cars could never be used
in cities such as Ottawa and Montreal where theI-°il was much snow,
in fact the president of the Montreal Street Railway resigned in 1892
when the directors decided to electrify the system! But Ottawa and Winnipeg had showed
that it could be done, and Montreal, Toronto, and soon
many other cities, electrified in the 1890s. In Montreal some
sleighs continued to run in 1893 and early 94, but soon full year-round
electric operation was instituted.
While plows were frequently used on city lines, the most usual
snow-clearing device was the sweeper, a car that had a large revolving
brush, usually set at an angle, turned by a motor linked to the brush by
chains. This was quite spectacular as it swept the streets during a snowstorm. Sweepers continued
in use until the 1950s, although in later
days they were less efficient due to salt and other chemicals put on the
streets for the benefit of automobile traffic. Of a course a sweeper or
plOW was absolutely vital for winter operation in Canada. One embarrasing
event happened in Saint John New Brunswick which had electrified in 1893
but had neglected to bay a sweeper. A major snow storm struck in January
1894 and the lines were closed for almost a week while the tracks were dug
out by hand by men wielding shovels. Significantly, that system bought a sweeper
the same year, and in an almost identical storm in
December 1894 the tracks, although by now more extensive, were cleared
in a few hours.
Another product of the electric era was the suburban, and later
the interurban line. Street car lines were often built well beyond the
built-up parts of cities as an incentive to developers to open up these
newly-accessible areas. Often the track was on private right-of-way,
and certainly in more open country. Here the snow problem was more like
that on regular railways, and larger plows were built to cope with it.
Some systems even had rotary plows which were smaller-si~ed versions of
their big brothers out I~est, and of course electrically powered.
R A I L
The smaller interurbans were similar to suburban lines, but
others were almost the same as the steam railways, and the snow-fighting
equipment used was very similar. Often a conventional railway snow plow
would be pushed ahead
of an electric locomotive in the same manner as
it would be behind a steam engine on a big railway. Sweepers were not
used on such lines, but as many interurbans had street operation they
would usually have some sweepers on their roster.
Today most of the suburban and interurban lines have gone, and
of the street car lines that remain rely on city street-clearing
the same as other vehicles. But for well over half a century plows and
electric lines were an important part of winter in Canada.
This issue of Canadian Rail attempts to re-capture the sights of that
now gone era, and show how snow was cleared in the days before the use
of salt, calcium chloride, snowblowers, and other late-20th century
methods of snow removal.
AN ELECTRIC SWEEPER built for Saint John N.B. in 1894.
Public Archives of Canada L 3264.
A VIVID ACTION SHOT of Ottawa sweeper No.1 taken in January 1892. This
is probably the earliest photo of a sweeper in action in Canada, and
must have been
taken under difficult conditions considering the bulky
in use at that time.
Public Archives of Canada PA .. 8420.
ANOTHER EARLY OTTAWA CAR, No, 17 surrounded by snow banks about 1892.
This is one of the earlier cars which has had the vestibules added,
probably the first winter. Note the canvas hung at the side to protect
the motors from slush.
Public Archives of Canada PA 33927.
R A I L
IN THE SHADOW OF THE PARLIA1ENT BUILDINGS Ottawa Electric Railway car 44
makes its way along a snow-covered street in the early 1890s, This car
was one of the earliest built with permanent vestibules, and cars of
this type (all built by Ottawa) were used in several Canadian cities in
Public Archives of Canada PA 8843,
IN THE HORSE CAR ERA the tracks were often abandoned during the winter
and sleighs were used. This one ran in Montreal from about 1875 until
1893 when year-round electric operation took over. This sleigh has been
preserved, and this posed photo was taken as late as June 1927, long
after this unit had been retired.
ANOTHER RELIC OF THE HORSE CAR ERA to survive is Ottawa City Passenger
Railway car 4. Ottawa also used sleighs in winter, but this shows a
regular horse car as it would appear during early-winter or early
spring operation. However this photo was taken much later as can be
the absence of a truck under the car.
Public Archives of Canada C 2458.
THE SNOVI BANKS ARE HIGHER THAN THE CAR in this view of Quebec District
Railway (Quebec City) car No. 36 on February 26 1898. The car is almost
identical to Ottawa car 44. Similar cars also ran in Saint John N.B.
Collection of Stephen D. Maguire.
RUE ESPLANADE, Quebec City in the 1890s. Sweeper 4 has just passed
through a large drift as local youngsters look on.
Public Archives of Canada PA 31907.
R A I L
A TYPICAL WINTER SCENE ON AN OUTLYING SUBURBAN LINE, this photo
is titled An exposed street! mile from Westmount, and was taken
on February 21 1904. The location is the Montreal Park & Island
line on what is now Girouard Ave. and the car is M.P.& I. No. 1014,
single-truck car built in 1896. C.R.H.A.
CANADIAN 77 R A I L
A MONTREAL PARK AND ISLAND CAR of the 1032-class passing through
Outremont on the Around the Mountain line in 1904. The snow was
five feet deep on either side, and there were two tracks to keep
clear. The big 1032s could easily get through once the plows had
broken the trail.
TWO VIEWS OF MONTREAL TRAMWAYS ROTARY PLOW No.5, taken at the
De Fleurimont snow dump in March 1916. Built in 1910, this was
one of two double-truck rotaries in Montreal, and it has been preserved.
ELECTRIC RAILWAY ROTARIES must have been almost as impressive as their
steam-driven counterparts, as these two views, taken on Montreals
suburban lines, show.
TWG QUITE DIFFERENT VIEWS OF SNOW CLEARING on eleetric lines are shown
here. The upper view is of a Quebec Railway Light and Power interurban
car running on the Montmorency subdi,vlsion making the snow fly from
the big plow moun-ted on the front (the car is r,unninf from right to
left). The lower view was taken on Prince William Street in Saint John
N.B. about 1910 and shows a sweeper aided bY a crew with shovels.
Lower photo courtesy of New Brunswick Museum.
R A I L
MONTREAL PARK AND ISLAND RAILWAY CAR 1030 on the Back River line in 1904.
was a double-truck car built in 1897 and later modified with larger
platforms. The snow is about four feet deep on both sides.
CANADIAN 83 R A I L
SNOWDON JUNCTION IN 1904 showing a 1032-class car about to leave for
Cartierville, and single-trucker 1014 bound for Victoria Avenue. C.R.H.A.
ON DAVIDSON STREET ON FEB 20 1904, a sweeper clears snow from a cutting
which was previously cut through by a rotary plow. The snow is almost as
high as the car.
BOTH ROTARY AND WING PLOW were in use in this view taken on a Montreal
line in 1927.
CANADIAN 85 R A I L
EVEN CITY SYSTEMS HAD BIG RAILROAD-TYPE PLOWS as we see in this photo
of Quebec City plow 203. Note the resistors on the roof of the car.
R A I L
CLOSE-UP VIEWS OF TWO DIFFERENT MONTREAL SWEEPERS both taken around 1910.
One shows a conventional sweeper while the other is of a large
heavy-duty unit closely resembling an electric locomotive. C.R.H.A. Archives.
CANADIAN 88 R A I L
AFTER THE SNOW STOPPED FALLING the results could be qUite picturesque.
One scene was taken in Ottawa about 1910 as a single-truck car passes
across the street intersection. The other one is on Douglas Avenue in
Saint John N.B. about 1937 and shows a plow closely fOllowed by two
street cars while snow covers all the trees.
Ottawa photo: Public Archives of Canada PA 44940.
Saint John photo: R.D. Thomas.
R A I L
AFTER A HEAVY STO~l IN QUEBEC CITY crews are clearing the street
while a street car follows a sweeper down the hill. This photo dates
from the 1940s not long before the end of service.
R A I L
THE MONTREAL AND SOUTHERN COUNTIES RAILIVAY is usually remembered for
its interurban lines; however they also had the line to Montreal South
which ran on
city streets. These two photos were taken on Jan. 6 1951,
show sweeper 303 busily at work on Desaulniers Blvd. in St. Lambert.
NEW BRUNSWICK POWER COMPANY SWEEPER No.4 at West Saint John in the
heavy storm of December 26 1947. This storm, one of the worst of the
century, was the last big one for the sweepers, as the Saint John
closed down in 1948.
AS LATE AS 1940 THE STREET CAR WAS STILL THE TRAIL BREAKER as is evident
in these two photos taken on outlying lines in Saint John N.B. Car 150
is a former open car rebuilt in 1925, while No. 122 was built in Tillson
burg Ontario in 1914.
courtesy New Brunswick Museum.
SOME OF MONTREALS ROTARIES WERE AROUND FOR MANY YEARS although not
often used in later days. Rotary No. 1 was built in 1899, and is here
seen at the Mount Royal car barn in 1949. It was scrapped soon after.
Toohey Collection~ C.R.H.A.
TO MELT ICE AT SWITCHES AND SPECIAL WORK salt was used and carried
on cars converted from passenger street cars of the 1890s. Four of
these old cars appear in this photo taken at Youville shops on
August 7 1948. Soon replaced by newer equipment, all were scrapped
except No. 274 (second from front in this view) which became the
first car preserved by the C.R.H.A. Toohey
TORONTO PLOW TP-ll and MONTREAL PLOW 108 .x-.pl1fy tho la1t Ita,cl of
street car snow plow develo~ent in Canada. Both date from the 1940s
and wero ho.a-built. ~ontreals units ran until the end of service in
19!>9, and Torontos were retired in tho latlll 1970 whon rubber-tired
oquip~ent took over the job of clearing snow f~ streets, evon those
which had strect cars.
Toohey Collection, C.R.H.A.
A HfiAVY STEEL SUBURBAN CAR of the lo4ontreal Traways Co. No, lOSS,
has a bi, plow aounted ahead of it. Such ears could keep the line
clear in batween pa3scs of sweepers or plows. 1055 wa. built in 1911 and
survived only until 1925.