No, this isn’t one of those rail mounted shore guns that you have seen pictures of from time to time but rather, a super-sized, jet-powered, mega snow blower!
With the recent snowfall that blanketed the Midwest, there has been a lot of conversation about snow removal on the Nickel Plate chat groups that I belong to. While there was the usual discussion of various snow blows, rotary snow blowers and various wedge-shaped snow movers like a Jordan spreader, it took a while before one of the “old hands” mentioned the jet-powered snow blowers that were used by various railroads on an experiemental basis.
Shortly after aviation was revolutionized by the jet age, various forward thinking people looked to other applications of these new jet engines. Perhaps you have heard of the high speed experimental efforts using jet engines on passenger trains but the news of jet power for snow removal was certainly new to me.
The concept is simple actually. A jet engine was mounted towards the rear of a flat car and its exhaust was pointed downward at the rails. When in use, a combination of the heat and high velocity exhaust literally blew the snow right off of the tracks. There was only one problem… the power was also great enough to scoop up loose ballast and send it flying as well, much like shrapnel from a hand grenade! There were stories of those whose autos were parked too close to the tracks being pelted with the damaging stones. It kind of sounds like the Keystone Kops but I’m sure it wasn’t funny at all to those whose cars were damaged.
A quick search on the Internet still shows jet powered snow blowers in use today. Perhaps they have toned them down a bit so as to minimize the flying stones but I can still see how a few loose stones or small chunks of ice could still be sent flying. I’ve also seen photos with the blowers’ exhausts shaped more like a sweeper attachment and pointed down at a much sharper angle to the ground. This was no doubt done to minimize flying projectiles as well.
One thing is for sure… necessity is the mother of invention and I’m sure that those who used to have to go out with shovels & brooms to clear yard switches were very appreciative when the first snow blowers came along… unless it was their car that got pummeled.
From what I have seen, this looks like an easy model to build. I would start wit a flat car, add a box with a pipe sticking out the back of it and plenty of air intake vents on the front side. Some tanks (perhaps an N scale single domed tank from a tank car) along with a little piping from here to there and you would have a good start for sure. I’ve also seen some that looked kind of like they may have started life as a crane tender car. Those are available at swap meets and on Ebay all of the time. Should you get amtitious and knock something out to remove the snow from your layout, consider sharing with the rest of us by sending a picture of your efforts to email@example.com and I’ll gladly post it here.