Hold on to your shovel, it’s time to clear the snow!, Part 2

A Portec RMC Hurricane Jet Snow Blower operated by the New York City Transit Authority, Coney Island, New York, January 2014. New York City Transit Authority.

Greetings, my reading friend. Are we ready for more mind blowing stories of jet-powered snow removal? Why the puzzled look? Don’t you know that, until recently if not until now, some organisations on North American and / or European soil were still using these ear shattering devices?

New York Central Railroad Company, for example, put its first device of this type in service in 1960-61. The General Electric J47 jet engine of this in house design came from a recently retired Convair B-36 Peacemaker long range heavy bomber of the United States Air Force (USAF). This snow blower proved able to do in hours what conventional snow ploughs and humans with shovels needed days to accomplish. Like all machines of its type, however, it had to be used with caution as any item not fastened to the earth, from small chunks of old ties to steel spikes, would be sent flying. Incidentally, the J47 was the engine mounted on most North American F-86 Sabre jet fighters, a type of aircraft mentioned in Part 1 of this article. Small world, isn’t it?

The New York City Transit Authority, on the other hand, apparently still has 2 or 3 jet-powered snow blowers. Initially fitted with engines that came from Boeing B-52 Stratofortress long range heavy bombers of the USAF, these giant rail machines received more modern and fuel efficient engines in recent years. These vehicles may, I repeat may, be Portec RMC Hurricane Jet Snow Blowers. These awe inspiring rail machines can guzzle up to 3 400 litres (750 Imperial gallons / 900 American gallons) of fuel in a single run. And yes, that’s a lot of money. Originally an independent American company known as Railway Maintenance Corporation, the Portec RMC Division of Portec Incorporated, itself a subsidiary of Fairmont Tamper Corporation, seemingly produced several Hurricanes as well as one or more examples of a similar model known as the Typhoon. In Boston, Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority can count on the power of a Hurricane Jet Snow Blower affectionately nicknamed “Snowzilla.”

And yes, there were / are at least six jet-powered snow blowers / melters in Canada. These mean machines were / are the property of the Canadian National Railway Company and the Canadian Pacific Railway Company. The latter for example may have introduced Canada’s first jet-powered snow blower as early as 1951. The Canadian Pacific Railway operates / operated two ESSCO Sno / Snow Jet snow blowers acquired in 1997, in Eastern and Western Canada, as well as an unidentified vehicle, also in Western Canada. The Canadian National Railway, on the other hand, operates / operated at least three jet-powered snow blowers.

If yours truly may so bold, and I do realise I am stepping on the toes of a colleague, wouldn’t it be grand if the Canada Science and Technology Museum, in Ottawa, Ontario, managed to acquire one of these machines at some later date? I would pay good money to feel, hear, see and smell this jet-powered snow blower in action on the grounds of this national institution. No touching of course. We would not want to damage this priceless heirloom.

This thought brings us to another matter. By and large, today’s jet-powered snow blowers are fitted with engines that came out of the factory a few decades ago. Maintaining what one could describe as museum pieces can be time consuming. Given this, what does the future hold for the jet-powered snow blowers of this world? Planet Earth would be a rather less interesting place without them. Given this, again, will you join me in creating a Society for the Protection of Amazing Machines (SPAM)? Please do not all shout at the same time.

The author of these lines wishes to thank all the people who sent information. Any mistake contained in this article is my fault, not theirs.

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Rénald Fortier