Battling Mother Nature with Snow Removal

Because when it comes to snow removal, blowing it away sure beats shoveling it.


| January 2016



blower mouth

The blower has a fairly large “mouth” where the snow enters.

Photo by Clell G. Ballard

At least half of our country has to deal with snow during the winter months. In some areas it gets quite deep, and wind-blown snow causes huge drifts. For centuries, travel was restricted during the winter. Horse-drawn sleighs and sleds were used almost exclusively until spring came.

Railroad changes everything

It wasn’t until the advent of the railroad that long-distance travel was possible in ordinary conditions. When deep snow arrived, even rail movement came to a stop. Unbeknownst to most, the rail tycoons – whose influence on economic activities in early years had become the 900-pound gorilla in our country – were convinced they could continue their activities in spite of the snow problem.

In the late 1800s, many attempts were made to keep rail lines open during the winter. The idea was that locomotives, which were extremely heavy and powerful, could plow snow off the tracks as they moved forward. Huge V-plows were built and affixed to the front of special locomotives. In some cases, they were successful. In really deep snow, they failed miserably. Believe it or not, efforts were even made to connect five heavy locomotives and propel them into a running start to bash into snowdrifts. The result: a huge train wreck! Mother Nature won and the rail line remained closed.

It wasn’t until about 1900 that the railroads created gigantic rotary snowplows. What they came up with would today be called snow blowers. Huge amounts of horsepower provided by the locomotive’s steam engine powered a disc with protrusions on its face. As the train moved slowly forward, those protrusions cut into the snow, chewed it up and blew it out to the side of the track. No amount of snow or hard snowdrift was immune to those plows. Trains could roll no matter the weather. 

No easy solution for homeowners

For individuals, the only way to “get on top of a snowfall” or to create a path through the white stuff was backbreaking shoveling. Not only was it hard work, but thousands of people unaccustomed to strenuous physical labor suffered heart attacks as they tackled snow removal. Mechanical removal of snow requires so much horsepower that, for a long time, it was impractical for the average homeowner. Small gasoline engines were widely available and were used for such things as lawn mowing, but using them as snow handlers didn’t seem possible.

Sears Craftsman products are well known throughout the U.S. The company’s first lawn mower was introduced in 1934. Sears is proud of its long history of providing equipment for homeowners. However, it is impossible to get verification that Sears was one of the first companies to market a walk-behind snow blower. Like many large companies, Sears chooses to ignore its early products that weren’t huge successes. Well, early Craftsman snow blowers were made and I have one. I’ll bet you have never seen one like it.