The History of Snow Removal

The early history of snow removal of the 1700’s is that there was none. The early settlers walked around on snowshoes and within cities men would try and beat down the highest drifts of snow to make the road passable for horse and cart. Outside the cities movement was non-existent. Inside some cities, ordinances where put in place for their citizens to clear their sidewalks, this came in the form of snow been trod down not removed. However as time passed equipment for snow removal was born.

It wasn’t until 1840 that the first type of snow control came into play in the form of a snow plow that was made to attach to a cart and was powered by a team of horses. The first city to come up with a patent was Milwaukie in the year of 1862. Although this method would seem crude by today’s standards at the time it was well accepted. It was not long before this type of snow removal became popular in other cities that had their streets plugged with snow.

This type of snow plow didn’t come without some criticism from the citizens especially when salt was used on the streets. Citizens complained that this type of plow and salt ruined their streets for sleighing and ruined the shoes and clothing of those who walked upon the streets. Despite this the plow gained popularity.

Trains had come on the scene a few years before the snow plow but it did not take long before the idea of strapping a plow to the front of a train became popular. This would see much needed merchandise from point A to point B with very little problems of removing snow from the train tracks. This ensured that badly needed goods could continue to be transported during the winter months.

The invention of the snow plow caused another change within cities that were badly affected by snow during the winter months. This change came in the form of municipal responsibility where each city’s municipal infrastructure cleared the main streets of their city. This still had a few draw back as only the main streets enjoyed the luxury of being cleared which left the side streets piled higher than previous years from snow that piled up when the snow plow went through. This did not sit well with merchants that were established on side streets or with the pedestrians that had to maneuver over these mountains of snow.

All it took was enough complaints from the cities’ citizens to make changes. It wasn’t long after the invention of the snow plow that cities soon incorporated people with shovels and horse drawn carts to move the mounds of snow from the streets of a city to the nearest rivers where it was dumped. This helped in two ways. It relieved the cities of the mounds of snow and it employed many people during the hardest part of the year.

Another change was made by using sand on the streets instead of salt. Perhaps the most successful of all changes came when the railways built raised steam railways through the major routes of their cities. These were erected high above so that they wouldn’t encounter the huge drifts that sometimes caused problems for snow removal. These would prove to be more successful than anticipated and kept cities supplied with goods when other means of travel came to a halt below.

Snow removal was growing in leaps and bounds until the great blizzard of 1847. This blizzard left cities realizing just how little control they had over the harshness of winter. This storm led to the idea of placing trains underground and in 1899 the idea became a reality in Boston and a few years later it was picked up by New York.

By 1913 snow removal was exploding in many different ways. Motorization was now the invention of the day and with it came motorized snow removal in the form of plows and trucks. The horse and cart was becoming non- existent instead the Caterpillar tractors where buzzing the streets and held powerful plow blades to move the snow. The removal method of the snow had changed as well with steam shovels, cranes and flatcars taking the excess snow to the rivers. The conveyer belt was perhaps the biggest change at the time which took the snow and deposited into the trucks waiting to take it to the river. Snow removal was on its way and changes were still coming.

In 1920, the Cadillac of snow removal appeared on the scene when the form of Barber-Green snow loader was born. This was a long overdue invention. The snow loader was built on tracks and had a wide huge scoop plus a conveyer belt. It worked wonderful by plowing the snow, picking it up and delivering it to the dump trucks. It did not take long for cities to realize they were on to a good thing and several were purchased the same winter it was invented.

Of course with the invention and popularity of the motor car this added to the problems of snow removal during the winter. This brought the need to keep side streets clear as well as the residential streets. With this problem it was not long before the cities resorted to the mixture of salt and sand to keep the slippery streets walk able. With so many automobiles in use it also posed a problem for proper snow removal. This is not so different than most cities experience today.

Since the early 1900’s, the equipment of snow removal is evident in what we enjoy today. All it took was the first motorized Caterpillar to get us on the way to bigger and better things.  This can be seen by the effective methods that most cities use today to keep their streets flowing with merchandise and people during the winter. Snow removal certainly has come a very long way.

Snow removal has never been an easy problem for any city and so it continues. Although machinery have come a long way you can see the tried and true old fashioned shovel still being used despite all of the inventions. Today you can enjoy the modern snow blowers and plows that attach to your own truck but you also know there is a storm just around the corner that will make snow removal just has hard as it was in the past. The history of snow removal is still in the making.