The Lake Superior Railroad Museum has many unique items of railroad service equipment in the collection mostly from the local area, but also some unusual gems.
Rotary Snowplow No. 2
NP steam-powered rotary snowplow No. 2 was constructed by the Cooke Locomotive Works for the road in 1887. Used originally to clear deep drifts in the Cascades, it was sent eastward to less rigorous duties in Minnesota when larger, more powerful equipment took over in the mountains. It had its own engine inside to run the plow, but could not run on its own power. The plow was backed by three to four locomotives to get it through the drifts.
It worked like a giant snow blower, with a steam boiler inside turning the blade. Snow was sucked inside the blades and shot to the side of the track from a chute behind the headlight. The rotary plow often cleared snowdrifts up to 15 feet high, and could do in one hour what a wedge plow could do in an entire day. There is a flanger blade between the wheels of the plow, which is needed because the actual plow does not touch the rails. This keeps the blade from getting hung up on switches and places where tracks cross over. The flanger blade can be raised or lowered from inside and was used to scrape ice and snow from the tracks.
Purchased from the Steam Preservation Society of Cadillac, Michigan, it is the oldest plow of its type in existence. Restoration was performed by members of the Lake Superior Transportation Club. Read more about the Rotary #2 here... Photo above by Bruce Ojard
Steam Powered Wrecker No. 161
Originally built as a steam-powered wrecker by Bucyrus Erie in 1915, the No. 161 was modernized with a diesel engine in 1960. The Northern Pacific bought the wrecker secondhand from a shipyard in 1930 and numbered it 44. The wrecker was self-propelled when constructed, but at some point, part of this drive was removed. In its last years of use it was called the Staples Wrecker, since it was based out of Staples, MN. Its lifting capacity is 165 tons using the large hook. Burlington Northern donated No. 161 to the Museum in 1985. Photo by Hannah Booth
At Lake Superior and Mississippi Railroad in West Duluth
Duluth, Winnipeg and Pacific
Wrecker Boom Car No.
Wedge Snowplow No. 19
Constructed in 1907 by Russell Car Company, this plow saw service throughout the NP system until the 1960s. Because the snowplow could not power itself, it was pushed by two to three locomotives. This type of plow was designed to handle small to moderate drifts and could move along at whatever speed was appropriate in those conditions, pushing snow off to the side of the tracks. Trouble started when it had to fight deep snow. If the wedge was forced to clear heavy, deep snow the locomotives would have to back up, get a full head of steam, and ram the plow into the snow as fast and as hard as possible. If the plow did not break through on the first try, they would back up and try again, only gaining a couple of feet with each attempt. Sometimes the impact of hitting the snow at such high speeds (50-60mph) would derail the snowplow. A special crew rode inside and every time it derailed, they would get out and help put it on the tracks again. With special re-railing frogs under the wheels, the locomotive would try to drag the snowplow back onto the tracks. A rotary plow could go much faster in deep snow because it could move ahead steadily at two-three mph and was not as susceptible to derailments. There is a flanger blade between the wheels of the snowplow, necessary because the front blades don’t touch the rails. This kept the blade from getting hung up on switches and places where tracks cross over. The flanger blade can be raised or lowered from inside and scraped the remaining thin layer of ice and snow from the tracks. The wedge snowplow was donated to the museum by Hyman-Michaels Company, and restoration was completed by members of the Lake Superior Transportation Club. Photo by Bruce Ojard
Steam Powered Wrecker No. 38
THE STEAM CRANE is a 75 ton wrecker from the Northern Pacific Railroad. #38 was built in 1913 and was used on the railroad to clean up wrecks. In the earlier days of railroading wrecks were much more common and it was common for railroads to have wrecking crews and equipment stationed around their system for quick response to accidents. Today railroading is much safer, with fewer wrecks and most of this work is contracted out to specialty response companies like Hulcher and RJ Corman. It was constructed by Industrial Works at Bay City, Michigan. The red pipes bring steam from its vertical boiler to the cylinders, and the yellow pipes carry exhaust. One of the few steam-powered wrecking cranes still in existence, No. 38 is unique in that most wreckers of its vintage were either scrapped or converted to diesel power. A wrecker is rated according to the distance (radius) between the large hook and the center pin. As the boom is lowered and the hook moves away from the center pin, the rating drops. Photo by LCK