Rotary Snow Plow Returns to Donner Pass; Video

Rotary Snow Plow Returns to Donner Pass; Video


Rotary Snow Plow Returns to Donner Pass; Video


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On February 25th, 2017, the rotary snow plows returned to Donner Pass to battle the heavy Sierra Snow along the UP Roseville Subdivision.

The rotaries are somewhat of a legend along the railroad. Only used every 10 years or so, the rotaries are rarely seen. Flangers and spreaders work tirelessly through the winter months to keep the tracks open. When they cannot keep up with Mother Nature, the railroad turns to the rotaries. “They were sometimes called War Wagons” said retired Southern Pacific superintendent Bill Lynch, “Going to war against Mother Nature.”

It has been a difficult winter for the Union Pacific Roseville Division. Intense storms have dropped over 13 feet of snow in the mountains, making it difficult to move trains along the Donner Pass Route (Roseville to Sparks via Truckee). The Feather River Route, which can often alleviate rail traffic from Donner Pass, has been closed for weeks due to massive washouts near Portola.

Keeping the lifeblood of the American economy moving is the responsibility of the Truckee-based snow fighters. They are an elite group of railroad employees, often with decades of experience working on Donner Pass. A combination of their experience and the power of the rotary snow plow allow the railroad to contend with the worst of Mother Nature.

Here is an announcement from Union Pacific regarding the recent use of the rotaries:

“To Our Customers,

Union Pacific’s most powerful snow-removal machine, the rotary snow plow, was in full operation this past weekend during the third snowiest winter in the Sierras in recorded history. The plow cut through snow that reached depths of 13 feet, across 14 miles near the Donner Pass. The railroad’s first and second lines of defense against snowstorms – flangers and spreaders – were unable to keep the tracks clear due to the depth of snow walls, so the rotary was required to clear large amounts of snow in a timely manner.

We have three one-of-a-kind rotary snow plows to use as needed during winter months. Union Pacific’s plows were originally built in the 1920s and operated by steam, then overhauled and converted to diesel electric in the 1950s. In 2012, we made the first major makeover in more than 60 years to one rotary plow enhancing its productivity, reliability and power. We plan to enhance another rotary plow in 2017.

Union Pacific is working diligently during the winter months to keep our lines cleared of snow and ready for your business.”

In this video, you come along as the rotaries work through Troy and Norden, California.

© 2017

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