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Northeaster Hits: Vintage Snow Removal Vehicles From the Past

Yesterday, when the Northeaster that has been crossing the country hit here in Vermont thoughts turned to featuring historic vehicles removing snow from streets, railroad tracks and the sidewalks over the last one-hundred years. Today’s assortment of images dates from the 1960s to the late-1800s.

We begin with the lead image of a 1950s Chevrolet dump truck plowing snow during the mid-1960s in Hingham, MA, on the South Shore about 15 miles southeast of the City of Boston. The image is courtesy of the Boston Public Library. Please comment on what you find of interest in this set of photographs. 

  • A General Motors Truck from the Detroit Public Works Parks and Boulevards division plowing snow in the “Motor City” in December of 1937. Courtesy of  Wayne State University.

McCloud River Railroad Company wooden plow and a pair of steam-powered Locomotives in California 1918. Courtesy of CSU Digital Collections.

  • Chicago Milwaukee and Saint Paul steam-powered locomotive snow plow circa late-1800s. Courtesy of the Minnesota Digital Library.

26 responses to “Northeaster Hits: Vintage Snow Removal Vehicles From the Past

  1. Great snow removal photographs, especially the steam train plows !!

    In the lead picture, following the CHEVROLET truck plow, is a 1964 CHEVROLET Biscayne Station-Wagon.

  2. Is that an early windshield heat / defrost
    device on drivers side of the Dodge Truck

    Horses or Mules ? In the Boston snow
    Plow hitch …….

    Always look forward and enjoy the daily
    postings , your efforts most appreciated

    BTW : Ground covering of snow in
    Nashville. This morning ….

  3. My wife’s family is originally from McCloud, California. The plow in the McCloud photo was called the McCloud Tool. According to my wife’s Dad it didn’t work very well. Last time I went through Dunsmuir it was still there, parked near the Railroad Motel.

  4. For an exciting and scary account of railroad snow plows in action, see “The White Cascade,” by Gary Krist. It’s the story of the 1910 Wellington avalanche in the Washington Cascades, in which a hundred or so people were killed after their train was stuck in a blizzard (and still, I believe, the most deadly avalanche in US history). The plow crews attempted to reach them from both ends, but the snow was falling so fast that it was as deep behind as ahead. The book gives you a real taste of what it was like to operate those plows in the worst conditions imaginable.

    • Given the time period of the photo, it’s more likely the earlier MG 1100. We didn’t get the Austin America until late 1968.

  5. In the Boston picture the horse on the left looks like a big Belgian. Those guys weigh 2,000#. I don’t know my horses well enough to say that the one on the right is also a Belgian. Wonderful, gentle animals but they sure do eat a lot.

    • My first thought on seeing the horses was that the one on the left looked like a Shire. Most American Belgians are chestnut, while Shires are generally darker and slightly larger. The one on the right looks like it’s at least part Clydesdale (before Budweiser selectively bred them to limit coat color and sabino facial blazing), both because of the sabino markings and the overall conformation – it’s shorter than the other horse (until the mid-20th century, the Clydesdale was noticeably smaller than Shire, Percheron, or Belgian draft horses), and the barrel doesn’t look round enough to be a Suffolk Punch (the fifth common draft horse breed in the US).

  6. I noticed all the trucks lacked chains and what we would consider snow tires, except for the first Chevy with chains. Did they just rely on the weight of the load in back, which would seem to be a bit scary in even medium hilly country.

    • Yes, the weight was a definite advantage, and mostly just cleanup work. Chains were for trail blazin’, like the 1st photo. I’ve never seen just the outside dual chained however.

  7. Now, now, you go through this every year. I love these snowy scenes, now that I don’t have to deal with it. 60 and sunny in the High Plains today. ( make no mistake, I put in my time in the Badger) Besides, you didn’t include the KING of vintage snow pics, the UP of Michigan (der hey) One picture I saw, depicted 4 men standing on the roof of a boxcar, shoveling around a transformer on top of a pole.

  8. The “Winners are”: The Belgian Horse Two- Hand Team !, (No one cared how much they ate , (Just like 31 Cadillac V-16 Owners didn’t care about 4 t o 6 MPG! No way! Hay or Gasoline prices were “Tertiary” !!! Belgians PULL!!! The next Winner is the Mc- Cloud River (Dual )Locomotive Team with: small diameter “Mountain service drive wheels”! (Power!!!) also the Winner: Federal (WW-1 Surplus) Water Tankers with Salt Slurry H2O, @ 7 pounds per gallon for ballast plus compound Low gearing!, designed for supplying “trench (thick mud) warfare”. The “wedge panels” on the R.R. Plow blades are for: Keeping the snow moving! ( They can also be: Steam heated !)

  9. Before plows snow was rolled so sleds and horses could get to town . My Great Grandfather built a roller about 8’ high; harnessing it to a team of four. He had the contract to roll/ compact the snow on US -20 from Stockton Il. To Freeport. John C

  10. First photo: weren’t Simcas around during that time. Not disagreeing with the other guesses. But they were similarly sized…

  11. Had a truck like the Chev in the first picture with Shell tanker on it . Here in central Canada with the tanks full it
    was nearly unstoppable. Used it as a tow truck many times. Also had a Austin car in 1965 that looked a lot like
    the second car. I think it was called a 1100 up here. Bet the cafe in the second picture changed its name after
    Dec 7 1941.

  12. Relooking at this one, I see that the McCloud locomotives can be identified by number. Both #11 and #12 were Baldwin locomotives. #11 was a 2-6-2 Vauclain compound built in 1904 for McCloud, builder’s number 23875. #12 was actually a renumber of McCloud #1, a 2-6-0 built in 1891 for the California Railway and acquired by McCloud in 1897 (the year they started operation), builder’s number 11627. #12 was scrapped in 1932 and #11 was scrapped in 1939.

    McCloud River was primarily a logging railroad, hauling logs to the sawmill at McCloud and lumber to the Southern Pacific. For anyone who’s seen the movie Stand By Me, the steam locomotive in that film is McCloud #25, which was sold to the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad in 2011.

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