Rotary Snowplow List

A list of all surviving railroad rotary snowplows in North America. 

Compiled and maintained by Webmaster ().  
Last modified 21 December 1998
Version 1.70

Historical Information
List of Rotary Snowplows
List of Power Cars

Historical Information

The first rotary plow was designed in 1869 by Toronto dentist J.W. Elliot. His design, similar to but more primitive than the later Leslie type, was never built. Several other plow ideas also died a similar death. Some were built in prototype form and scrapped, others never were built. These included the Hawley plow, the Marshall plow, the Blake Machine Plow and the Kryger steam snow shovel. The first successful rotary plow was designed by Canadian Orange Jull. He had it built by the Leslie Brothers, owners of a machine shop, and tested it in the winter of 1883-84. The Leslies' soon purchased the manufacturing rights to the plow and went into business building 'Leslie type' rotaries. This is the type of plow most people think of when you say 'rotary.' It has one large circular plow blade rotating on a shaft parallel to the tracks. Between 1885 and 1903 the Leslies had 62 plows (plus 2 for export) built by several locomotive works. They then sold the rights to the plows to ALCo. However, the Leslies' company exists to this day. From 1905 to 1937 ALCo built 67 plows (plus 4 for export). Two homebuilt, 42 inch gauge Leslie plows were built by Reid Newfoundland. Lima-Hamilton built the last four commercially produced steam rotaries (and the last commercial Leslie types) in 1949-50, under license from ALCo. Five homebuilt Leslie types (4 diesel, 1 electric) were built between 1950 and 1971. One of these was the last Leslie type built. Over the years Leslies were built in US Standard Gauge, 3 foot gauge, and 42 inch gauge, and possibly other gauges for export. Of the Leslie type plows, there are 44 left.
There also were several other types of plows, some successful, some not: Jull Centrifugal Snow Excavators: Orange Jull, the inventor of the Leslie type plow, decided to build plows to another design to compete with the Leslies. Between 1890 and 1892 11 Jull type plows were built. These plows had a large spiral screw placed diagonally across the front of the plow to clear the snow. They were not as good in deep or heavy snow as the Leslies, and never really caught on. All 11 are now scrapped. Cyclone Snowplow: This device was invented by E.P. Caldwell. It featured a large spiral screw projecting forward from the body of the plow. Imagine a very large tapered drill bit mounted on the front of a boxcar. The only plow of this type was scrapped in 1904. Bros 'Sno Flyr' and 'Sno Meltr': These plows were a result of the severe winter of 1949 (see below). The Flyr was a snowblower-type machine, and the Meltr was a snow melting machine. Neither type was particularly successful, and only three were built. Snowblower-type machines: In recent years several non-Leslie rotary plows have been built. These plows generally use two large snowblowers, essentially larger versions of a driveway snowblower. These plows are included in this list, but they are more like a highway or runway snowblower than a true railroad rotary plow.
The Winter of 1949 1949 was a particularly harsh winter, and the northern/western railroads were buried. The then-standard steam rotaries proved incapable of dealing with the snow. The railroads looked at several possible solutions to the problem of insufficient plowing ability: * Union Pacific had two large steam rotaries of conventional design built. These were successful plows, but were infrequently used. * CB&Q converted an old steam plow to electric power. This proved to be the best solution, and large numbers of conversions followed. * CB&Q, NP and UP sponsored construction of the Bros Sno Flyr, a snowblower-type plow. This plow was superior to the Leslie types in light snow, but could not deal with the heavy, deep snow the Leslies could handle. Thus the Bros plows were not produced in great numbers. The Winter of 1997 Heavy snows in January 1997 hit the northern/western US very hard, crippling BNSF operations. BNSF called out at least 6 plows (5 ex BN, 1 ex ATSF), but two plows had severe mechanical problems, so they could not plow. Even the operable plows had trouble dealing with the very heavy snow conditions. Union Pacific's 900082 (the largest rotary in the country) was sent to help BNSF clear out, and it performed much better than the BNSF plows, due to greater power & size. The UP & BNSF plows spent about two weeks clearing the snowed-in lines. As of this writing it was planned to lease UP 900080, UP's smaller plow, to BNSF for the rest of the winter. In addition to the BNSF and UP plow, two SP rotaries were called to clear Donner Pass on 23-24 Janaury 1997. This extent and duration of rotary use has not been seen since 1949.

List of Rotary Plows

Format of the listings: Owner: Current Owner & Locations History: Current number followed by previous numbers Builder: Builder, Builder's Date, Builder's Number/Serial Number Power: Steam, Electric, Pure Electric or Diesel Modifications: Rebuild and conversion dates Status: Operational, Stored, Derelict, etc. All plows were steam powered as built, except as noted. Electric plows are powered by electricity from a trailing locomotive or power car; pure electrics plows are powered by electricity from overhead wires; diesel plows are powered by an internal diesel engine. All plows are non-self propelled, except as noted. All are Leslie types unless noted. Plows are arranged alphabetically by owner.
Unknown plow: probably at a musuem in Bonanzaville (Fargo) ND. No details known. Owner: unknown, Breckenridge, CO History: "DL&G 01", C&S 99200, DL&G 064, DSP&P 011 Builder: ALCo (Cooke), 2/89, 26 Power: Steam Modifications: unknown Status: Stored, owner and condition unknown; retired 3/1951 Owner: Alaska Railroad, Anchorage, AK History: ARR 3 Builder: ALCo (Cooke), 4/30, 66424 Power: Electric, power from slug mother Modifications: Rebuilt to electric around 1960, rebuilt 1985. Status: Operational, last used in 1995. Owner: Burlington Northern Santa Fe, Topeka, KS History: ATSF 199361, ex ATSF 199398, ex ATSF 199802, nee ATSF 99802 Builder: Cooke, 12/1892, 44 Power: Electric, power from slug mother Modifications: Converted to electric 11/59, rebuild used frame and trucks from tender of 4-8-4 #3765. Status: Operational, used 1/1997 but broke down Owner: Burlington Northern Santa Fe, Grand Forks, ND History: BN 972550, ex NP 43, ex D&SL 10201, nee DNW&P 10201 Builder: ALCo (Cooke), 12/06, 41454 Power: Electric, power from RSPU or GP28P Modifications: Rebuilt 1957 Status: Operational, stored Owner: Burlington Northern Santa Fe, Northtown, MN History: BN 972551, ex NP 45, nee NP 41 Builder: ALCo (Cooke), 11/25, 66278 Power: Electric, power from GP28P Modifications: Rebuilt 1967 Status: Operational, stored Owner: Burlington Northern Santa Fe, Glendive, MT History: BN 972552, ex GN X-1507, ex GN 95007, nee GN X-800 Builder: ALCo (Cooke), 12/07, 44700 Power: Electric, power from RSPU 972575 Modifications: Rebuilt 12/63, overhauled 1994. Status: Operational, last used 1/1997 Owner: Burlington Northern Santa Fe, Minot, ND History: BN 972554, nee NP 42 Builder: ALCo (Schenectady), 11/37, 69029 Power: Electric, power from BN RSPU 972570 or 972570 Modifications: Converted 1958, rebuilt 12/65 Status: Operational, stored Last ALCo built rotary. Owner: Burlington Northern Santa Fe, Whitefish, MT History: BN 972555, ex GN X-1509:2, nee GN 95009 Builder: ALCo (Cooke), 11/25, 65423 Power: Electric, power from RSPU or GP28P Modifications: Rebuilt 1960 Status: Operational, called out 1/1997 but not used to to poor condition Owner: Burlington Northern Santa Fe, Lincoln, NE History: BN 972558, ex CB&Q 205099, nee CB&Q 205028 Builder: ALCo (Cooke), 10/15, 55013 Power: Electric, power from BN RSPU 972573 Modifications: Rebuilt 12/49, first electric conversion. Status: Operational, used 3/1998 Owner: Burlington Northern Santa Fe, Alliance, NE History: BN 972559, ex NP 47, ex NP 46, nee CR&NW X-4 Builder: ALCo (Cooke), 9/15, 54787 Power: Electric, power from RSPU or GP28P Modifications: Rebuilt 1966 Status: Operational, used 1/1997 Owner: Burlington Northern Santa Fe, Dilworth, MN History: BN 972560, ex NP 50, nee Bros Machinery demo Builder: William Bros Machinery, 3/50, serial number unknown Power: Diesel, 16-567B (built as diesel) Modifications: None known Status: Operational, stored Bros type plow, originally Bros Machinery demo unit. Owner: Burlington Northern Santa Fe, Tacoma, WA History: BN 972561, nee X-1510 Builder: ALCo (Brooks), 11/27, 67540 Power: Electric, power from RSPU 972577 Modifications: Rebuilt 1961 Status: Operational, last used winter 1992-93 Owner: California State RR Museum, Sacramento, CA History: SP MW210, nee SP 7210 Builder: ALCo (Schenectady), 10/37, 69019 Power: Electric Modifications: Converted 1968, retired 1983 Status: Display Owner: Camas Prairie RailNet, Lewiston, ID History: CsP 24, nee NP 6 Builder: Portland Loco Works (Maine), 1/1891, 34 Power: Steam (possibly converted?) Modifications: Unknown Status: Retired 1974, Stored Last surviving Portland built rotary Possibly sold or scrapped...need confirmation Owner: Camas Prairie, Lewiston, ID History: CsP 26, assigned BN 972553, not re#, ex GN X-1508, ex GN 95008, nee GN X-801 Builder: ALCo (Cooke), 12/07, 44701 Power: Electric, power from any available locomotive Modifications: Unknown Status: Operational, last used winter 1993-94 Sold to CsP April 3, 1974. Owner: Canadian National, Montreal, QUE History: CN 50560, ex CN S4 8032 Builder: Alco, 5/64, 76447 Power: Diesel, self powered & self propelled Modifications: Converted from S4, date unknown Status: Operational, used in Tascherau Yard. This is an old switcher fitted with a conventional plow at one end and a snowblower at the other end. Use to clear yard tracks and load the snow into gondolas for removal. Owner: Canadian Railway Museum, Delson, Quebec History: CN 55361 Builder: ALCo (Montreal), 12/38, 67650 Power: Steam Status: Display Owner: Colorado RR Museum, Golden, CO History: C&S 99201, ex C&S 0270, nee C&S 03 Builder: Cooke, 1/1900, 59 Status: Steam Modifications: Built as 3 ft. gauge, to standard gauge soon after delivery, to 3 ft. gauge 1935, to standard gauge 1943, rebuilt 1949. Status: Display Owner: Conrail, Buffalo, NY History: CR 64599, ex CR 60021, ex NYC X-659, nee NYC&HR X-659 Builder: Cooke, 1/1889, 28 Power: Electric, power from slug mother Modifications: Converted 1951, overhauled 1978. Status: Operational, last used winter 1993-94 Owner: Conrail, Buffalo, NY History: CR SB1000 Builder: Belihack, Germany Power: Diesel (built as diesel) Status: Operational Imported snowblower-type plow, self propelled. Owner: Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Ry, Chama, NM History: D&RGW OM, nee D&RG 1 Builder: Cooke, 1/1889, 24 Power: Steam Status: Stored, severe rot in wooden body 3 foot gauge. Owner: Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Ry, Chama, NM History: CATS OY, nee D&RGW OY Builder: ALCo (Cooke), 11/23, 65053 Power: Steam Status: Operational, used each spring to plow out the line 3 foot gauge. Owner: Forney Museum, Denver, CO History: UP 900099, ex UP 099, ex LNP&W 099, ex CW&E 099, nee LHP&P 099 Builder: ALCo (Cooke), 12/09, 43670 Power: Steam Status: Display Owner: Hanna, WY History: UP 90098, ex UP 098, ex LNP&W 098, nee CRN 9 Builder: ALCo (Cooke), 12/17, 56162 Power: Steam Status: Display Owner: Hermiston, OR History: UP 900076, nee UP 076 Builder: L-H, 12/49, 9388 Power: Steam Status: Display (retired 6/1985) Last class one steam rotary, last used on Rock Island RR, March 1977 Owner: Hermiston, OR History: UP 900083, ex CMStP&P X900212, nee CM&PS 14 Builder: ALCo (Cooke), 2/10, 46931 Power: Electric Modifications: Converted to pure electric by CMStP&P, to UP 1982, converted to electric, retired 1988 Status: Display Owner: Illinois Railway Museum, Union, Il History: UP 900075, nee UP 075 Builder: L-H, 12/49, 9387 Power: Steam Status: Display (retired 4/1979) Formerly at Kansas City RR Mus./Smokey Hills NRHS Owner: Lake Superior Museum of Transport, Duluth, MN History: NP 2 Builder: Cooke, 12/1887, 7 Power: Steam Status: Display Owner: Manitou & Pikes Peak Ry, Manitou Springs, CO History: M&PP 22 Builder: M&PP Shops 1973-74 Power: Diesel, 12 cyl. Cummins (built as diesel) Status: Operational, Stored Built using parts of a runway snowblower and frame of an old homebuilt Leslie type plow. Self Propelled, cog railway, hydraulic drive for propulsion and blade. Owner: Mid Continent Ry. Museum, North Freedom, WI History: OSL 762, ex UP 900051, ex UP 051, ex UP 02011, nee OSL 762 Builder: ALCo (Rogers), 11/12, 51166 Power: Steam Status: Operational, display, last used 1985. Owner: Museum of Transport, St Louis, MO History: UP 900081 Builder: UP Omaha Shops, 1966, no serial # Power: Diesel, 3000 hp (built as diesel) Status: Display (retired & donated 1994) Owner: Nevada Northern History: NN B Builder: ALCo (Cooke), 11/07, 44596 Power: Steam Status: Derelict (1986) Owner: Ogden Historical Society, Ogden UT History: UP 900061, ex UP 061, ex OWR&N, nee OR&NCo Builder: ALCo (Rogers), 11/12, 51167 Power: Steam Status: Display Owner: Puget Sound and Snoqualmie RR, Snoqualmie, WA History: NP 10 Builder: ALCo (Cooke), 11/07, 44037 Power: Steam Status: Stored Owner: Red River Valley & Western, Breckenridge, MN History: RRVW 113, BN 972566, GN, US Army Builder: William Bros Machinery, date and serial unknown Power: Electric, power from trailing GP9 (built as electric) Modifications: None known Status: Operational, used extensively winter 1996-97 Bros type plow. Owner: State of Alaska, Anchorage, AK History: ARR 4, ex CMStP&P X900207, nee CM&StP 10 Builder: ALCo (Cooke), 8/08, 45425 Power: Electric Modifications: Converted 1958, to ARR 1981, retired 1984 Status: Stored Owner: Steamtown, Scranton, PA History: LIRR 193 Builder: Cooke, 11/1898, 55 Power: Steam Status: Stored, derelict Owner: St. Maries River RR, St Maries, ID History: Unknown Builder: Unknown Power: Electric? Modifications: Unknown Status: Unknown Reported as an ex Milwaukee (CMStP&P) plow. Existence confirmed mid-1990's. Owner: Union Pacific, Sparks, NV History: SP MW205, ex SP 7205, ex SP 706, nee SP 715 Builder: ALCo (Cooke), 11/20, 56591 Power: Electric, power from F7B MW8205 Modifications: Converted 1958 Status: Stored Owner: Union Pacific, Eugene, OR History: SP MW206, ex SP 7206, ex SP 710, nee SP 709 Builder: ALCo (Cooke), 11/23, 65353 Power: Electric, power from F7B MW8206 Modifications: Converted 1958 Status: Operational, Stored Owner: Union Pacific, Roseville, CA History: SP MW207, ex SP 7207, ex SP 711, nee SP 708 Builder: ALCo (Brooks), 10/26, 67038 Power: Electric, power from F7B MW8207 Modifications: Converted 1967 Status: Operational, last used 1995 Owner: Union Pacific, Sparks, NV History: SP MW208, ex SP 7208, ex SP 712, nee SP 707 Builder: ALCo (Brooks), 9/27, 67429 Power: Electric, power from F7B Modifications: Converted 1970 Status: Stored Power unit not currently attached. Owner:Union Pacific, Roseville, CA History: SP MW209, ex SP 7209, ex SP 713, nee SP 706 Builder: ALCo (Brooks), 9/29, 68038 Power: Electric, power from F7B MW8208 Modifications: Converted 1968 Status: Operational, last used 2/1998 on Donner Pass Owner:Union Pacific, Roseville, CA History: SP MW211, nee SP 7211 Builder: ALCo (Schenectady), 10/37, 69020 Power: Electric, power from F7B MW8211 Modifications: Converted 1957 Status: Operational, last used 2/1998 on Donner Pass Owner:Union Pacific, Roseville, CA History: SP MW221, ex SP 7221, ex SP 708, nee SP 717 Builder: ALCo (Cooke), 11/22, 58143 Power: Electric, power from F7B MW 8221 Modifications: Converted 1966 Status: Operational, stored Owner: Union Pacific, Roseville, CA History: UP 900080, nee UP 080 Builder: UP Omaha Shops, 1958, no serial # Power: Diesel 16-567C 1750 HP (built as diesel) Status: Operational, last used early 1993, leased to BNSF 2/1997 Parts from an old rotary used to build this one. Reassigned to Roseville 1997. Owner: Union Pacific, location unknown History: SP MW222, ex SP 7222, ex SP 709, nee SP 718 Builder: ALCo (Cooke), 11/23, 65353 Power: Electric, power from F7B snail Modifications: Converted 1958 Status: Operational, stored Owner: Union Pacific, Cheyenne, WY History: UP 900082 Builder: UP Omaha Shops, 1971, no serial # Power: Diesel, 2500 hp (built as diesel) Status: Operational, used 10/1997 Owner: Unknown History: WP&Y 2 Builder: Cooke, 9/1900, 61 Power: Steam Status: Stored Probably sold to Georgetown Loop RR. NOT stored as Sumpter, OR as is sometimes reported (as of August 1996). Owner: White Pass & Yukon, Skagway, AK History: WP&Y 1 Builder: Cooke, 1898, 56 Power: Steam Status: Operational, last operated April 1999. 3 foot gauge.

List of Power Units

Union Pacific (ex SP) Power Units Union Pacific's ex-SP rotary power units (known as snails) are all F7Bs. They all have the original 16-567B prime mover and the original steam generator. They are semi-permanently coupled to the rotaries. Although the snails and plows originally had matching numbers (MW820X+MW20X), they pairs have been switched around and the numbers no longer match. History: Current number and previous numbers Builder: EMD builder's date, builder's number, order number Modifications: Year converted to snail Location: Storage location and assigned plow History: MW8205, ex SP 8091, nee SP 6145C Builder: 6/49, 7137, E1310 Modifications: Rebuilt 4-9/70 Location: MW205, Sparks, NV Not attached to plow. History: MW8206, ex T&NO 541:2, ex SP 8097, nee SP 6148C Builder: 6/49, 7143, E1310 Modifications: Rebuilt 7-9/70 Location: MW206, Eugene OR History: MW8207, nee SP 8299 Builder: 2-3/53, 18149, 3160 Modifications: Rebuilt 7-9/70 Location: MW207, Roseville, CA History: MW8208, nee T&NO 545 Builder: 12/52, 17223, 3157 Modifications: Rebuilt 10-12/70 Location: MW209, Roseville, CA History: MW8209, ex T&NO 540:2, ex SP 8088, nee SP 6144B Builder: 6/49, 7134, E1310 Modifications: Rebuilt 4-6/70 Location: Sacramento, CA History: MW8211, nee SP 8292 Builder: 2/53, 18161, 3166 Modifications: Rebuilt 7-9/70 Location: MW211, Roseville, CA History: MW8221, nee SP 8300 Builder: 2-3/53, 18150, 3160 Modifications: Rebuilt 7-9/70 Location: MW221, Roseville, CA History: MW8222, nee T&NO 544 Builder: 12/52, 17222, 3157 Modifications: Rebuilt 4-6/70 Location: Roseville, CA Burlington Northern Santa Fe (ex BN) Rotary Snowplow Power Units (RSPU) BNSF's ex-BN RSPUs are old F9As and F9Bs. The new GP28Ps #1590-1599 are designed to be slug mothers or rotary power units, so the old RSPUs may be eliminated soon. BN 972568 F9A (ex BN 778, ex BN 9811, ex NP 6705B, nee NP 7010D) Spokane, WA BN 972569 stripped for retirement 1998 BN 972570 F9A (ex BN 784, ex BN 9818, ex NP 6704C, nee NP 7011D) Minot, ND BN 972571 F9A (ex BN 812, nee NP 7003A) Minot, ND BN 972572 F9B (nee NP 6701B) Willmar, MN BN 972573 F9B (ex BN 755, ex BN 9809, ex NO 6704B nee NP 7011C) Lincoln, NE BN 972575 F9B (nee NP 7009B) Glendive, MT BN 972577 F9B (ex BN 777, ex BN 9811, ex NP 6705B, nee NP 7013C) Tacoma, WA

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