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The Winter Road Beckons – Seven Vintage Snowy Road Scenes

By Charlie Beesley:  Although the details have changed in over a century of motoring, winter driving has always been focused on getting somewhere safe and warm without mishap. Bad roads and skinny tires plagued early motorists, especially before 1904, when Harry D. Weed of Central New York invented tire chains. Weed got the idea from watching folks wind rope and vines through the spokes of slipping wheels. His invention was an immediate success. In 1908, the Thomas Flyer that won the New York To Paris Race wore Weed Chains. As did Harry Houdini.

Weed Chain

  •                           “The Automobile” January 28, 1905 – Weed Chain Tire Grip advertisement.

It happened at Keith & Proctor’s 125th Street Theatre in Harlem on April 10th, during the 1908 New York Automobile Carnival. Weed representatives wrapped Houdini in eight sets of Anti-Skid Chains, two of them on the mounted tires hung over his shoulders, and then added handcuffs, leg irons and padlocks – over 400 lbs. in all. Houdini spent around thirty minutes freeing himself, the crowd roared, and Weed Chains got free publicity in every newspaper in the country the next day.

Here are a few snapshots that recall the beauties and trials of winters past, chained and otherwise.

  • The lead image taken somewhere in rural Minnesota, on March 22, 1941 features a 1936 Chevrolet.

1932 Kenworth Truck

  • Consolidated Freight Line 1930 Kenworth truck with interesting lighting. 

Driver Gale Missler and 1930 Kenworth, with 1932 Washington plates, fog lamps, Woodlite and radiator blind. Seattle-based Kenworth sprang from the Gersix, an all-steel, six-cylinder truck introduced in 1915 for the Pacific Northwest logging industry. Consolidated Freight Lines (later Freightways) resulted from the merger of four Portland, Oregon short-haul companies in 1929.

I believe the location here is US 10 at Snoqualmie Pass, fifty miles inland from Seattle. Keeping this major east-west route plowed year round began only in 1931. Previously, snow in the Cascades meant a long detour through the Columbia River Gorge. Perhaps the novelty of a wintertime pass crossing called for photographic proof.

Pines Winterfront - Rollin coupe

  • 1924 or ’25 Rollin coupe with a Pines Winterfront radiator shutter and a young passenger.

Rollin H. White designed the flash boiler that made the White steam car a success. Following his father’s death in 1914, he left the family business to establish the Cleveland Tractor Company, builder of the Cletrac crawler. In the early 1920s, he hatched a plan to add an automobile line to the tractor plant. With Studebaker engineers Fred M. Zeder and James G. Heaslet involved at different stages, the first cars came to market in autumn 1923.

Four-wheel brakes and DuPont Duco finishes gave some weight to ads touting ‘The only fine small car being built in America’, but Cleveland’s Templar had gone broke trying to sell Americans a ‘superfine small car’ the year the Rollin debuted. By the end of 1925, The Thoroughbred Of The Thoroughfare was history. Of some 5750 Rollins built, at least a couple went down with the freighter ‘Lakeland’, which sank in Lake Michigan on December 3, 1924, just off Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin.

1917 Hudson Shire's Stage

  • Shire’s Stage ran this 1917 Hudson touring car on the 18-mile Prineville-Redmond run in Oregon.

Model A Ford and Snowblower

  • I believe we’re looking at the clearing of a ski area parking lot. The Model A Ford roadster and the two guys to the left of it seem to be on solid ground. For now.

1934 Oldsmobile 1934 Lafayette

  • 1934 Oldsmobile and 1934 Lafayette. Dad, Dale, Edith & Robert at our lane, Christmas 1935.

Model T  Roadster

  • Black radiator Model “T” Ford roadster with tire chains and an interesting crew.

5 responses to “The Winter Road Beckons – Seven Vintage Snowy Road Scenes

  1. Pictures like these remind me how soft we have all become. Who would dare go out in these conditions today without a AWD SUV and heated seats?

  2. It’s always funny to me, when you see pictures of outstanding winter scenes, you wonder if winters were really worse back then, or these were isolated storms. Either way, they sure were ill-equipped for it. Travel wasn’t what it is today, so many just didn’t go anywhere, except those truckers. Which leads me to the CF picture, of course. It seems, many early CF pictures show Fageol’s, so this may have been an O/O. Not sure about the “Woodlite”, perhaps they gave a pencil beam, as I heard they weren’t the best on their own. Notice the “PSC” ( Public Service Commission) tag, and the side mounted spare tire with the tire chains, which appear shiny ( hence used) behind the driver.
    The model A /snowblower scene is pretty intense. The snowblower has a resemblance to the “Sno-Go” one in the Old Motor topic dated Oct. 27, 2015, and very well could have been California. 40’s all week in the Badger. and no snow ( subject to change with little notice) Thanks for the pics.

  3. Black model t has the feel of late winter up-state NY to me… Looks very rural, old stone wall, sun is out and young folks are thinking about spring.

  4. Reminds me of the many nights I spent plowing out 30 plus driveways in W. Mass. with our 4 cylinder Jeep during the 50’s & 60’s. Always required chains as it still, had the military lug tires on it. What a pain getting those chains on and then having to repair them on the tire when a link would break.
    Also plowed a large ski lift parking lot for every storm. Jeep held up well over the many years we did this. That Jeep did pretty good piling up the snow but usually late in the winter we had to get a bucket loader in to move the huge piles back. That was winter back then. Kids today have no idea.

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