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Dashing Through the Snow ... On Screws

| 2/24/2010 12:03:23 PM

Sam Moore   
Sam Moore   

By now, most Rusty Iron fans have probably seen the video of the Fordson tractor and the Chevrolet car rigged up with spiral tubes instead of wheels to pull them through snow.

(If you’ve missed it, jump over to “Snow-Motors Inc. Conversion” and you can watch the entire film.)

However, there’s some misinformation on some sites where it’s claimed that the thing was invented by Henry Ford and that Ford himself is the tractor driver in the film.

Now for the truth about the snow gear and the film.

In the March 29, 1906, issue of The Automobile there was the following tidbit titled, “To the North Pole by Auto.” Under a dateline of March 26 from Minneapolis, the story reads:

A special to the New York Times says that Charles E.H. Burch and Frederick R. Burch, Minneapolis men, will attempt to reach the North Pole in an ice automobile of their own invention. The vehicle is supplied with all the comforts one might expect to have in a houseboat. The inventors have engaged in exploration in Alaska more than once, and it was for the purpose of making trips on the trackless wastes of Alaska in quest of mineral wealth that their idea was perfected and a working model was built.

After they had the vehicle in working order, the idea of a polar exploration suggested itself and the brothers announced that while their original plan was not to discover the pole there was no reason why they could not make the trip if the proper interest was shown in the expedition. They have the automobile in operation at Lake Calhoun, where it was inspected yesterday by interested residents of Minneapolis. It is built like a large streetcar and is heated by hot water. The Burch brothers assert that they have selected a route to the pole that is as sure as their means of locomotion is certain. They believe they will be able to obtain ample financial backing for the venture.

The Burch brothers were actually from Seattle, Wash., not Minneapolis, and Charles’ initials were E.S. and not E.H. as stated in the article. In 1901, Charles E.S. Burch was awarded a patent for what he called an “Ice Locomotive.” The patent drawing (see below) shows the huge “streetcar”-like contraption with which the Burch brothers proposed to reach the North Pole.


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