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Paper $vesenled before the Institution in London on 22nd November

1965 and the United Kingdom Centres as under:-
Midlands Centre, Derby, 23rd November 1965 (pnge 459)
Manchesler Centre, Manchester, 24th November 1965 (page 471)
Scottish Centre, Glasgow, 1st December 1965 (page 474)
PAPER No. 674
Snow, frost and ice, individually and collectively, are apt to causc
chaos resulting in excessive costs to the railways, industry, and the
community as a whole. I n Britain, until recently, coniparatively little
has been done to deal with these problcms, mainly because n o part
of the country, with the possible exception of North East Scotland, can
cxpect a regular annual fall of snow. Conscquently it has not been
considered necessary to provide adequate equipment or to consider
efficient mcthods of dealing with snow when i t dcw fall. Rather it has
been thc practice to overcome thc difficulties as they arise and then to
forget the matter until next time. Most countries, but not all, who
expect severe winters, prepare for dealing with them with mechanical
equipment, and planning their snowfighting campaigns in advance.

Normally these factors prevent them from getting into serious trouble.
I t is a widely-held misconception that Britain does not have much
snow. As compared with some countries, this may be true, but it is
worth noting that, over the past 30 years, no fewer than 15 winters

Fig. 1 .--“Decidedly Snowy.” Barras Station, former L . N . E . Railway,

February 1947.

have been classed as “decidedly snowy” (Fig. l), ten have been
“normal”, and only five might be classed as “snowless.” These figures
exclude North East Scotland. Furthermore, recent reports have
suggested that winters during the next half century will be more
severe than over the last 50 years. I t may be surmised, therefore, that
sufficient snow is going to fall to warrant the provision of adequate
equipment to deal with it.

Some Properties of Snow

Before describing the effects of snow and frost, and the methods
for mitigating or preventing the problems that arise, it is worthwhile
mentioning the peculiar properties of snow which make it difficult to
deal with. For exaimple, its specific gravity can vary between 0.05
and 0.85. Normally the specific gravity lies between 0.1 and 0.6-
ratio of 1 to 6. In effect, a snow-clearing machine with a theoretical
output of one ton per minute must be able to move 13 cu. yds. of snow
with a specific gravity of 0.1 or !&& cu. yds. with a specific gravity of
0.5. When it first falls, its density is at a minimum, so snow
removal should be undertaken at the earliest moment before the
snow has had time to become compressed. One cubic foot of snow
can weigh between seven and 60 lb., and 1,OOO lb. can take up a
volume of 20 to 140 cubic feet. Such facts as these indicate the

difficulties of designing equipment suitable to deal with snow, but as

snow will melt, the application of heat in the right place at the right
time can prevent trouble.
Examples of Disruptions
Details of the serious disruptions due to snow and ice which have
occurred on the railways in Britain over the past twenty-five years
would fill a book. Consr-.quently all that can be mentioned here, is
the kind of events which have taken place. Main lines blocked for
days or even a week-marshalling yards closedrollieries cut off and
thousands of wagons, full and empty, immobilized-water troughs
pushed off their supports-expresses running twelve to fifteen hours
behind schedule-hundreds of telegraph poles brought down-electric
trains hours late d?ie to ice on the conductor rails-shortage of loco-
motive power due to freezing of fuel and parts of diesels-train heating
systems frozen solid-coal frozen solid in wagons. Finally, to bring
this up to date-1965-a blizzard on March 4th brought chaos to all
divisions on the Southern Region-drifting snow blocked carriage
depot exits and unheated points. Chaos was caused at the southern
end of the Western Lines of the London Midland Region largely
because the exit from Rugby depot was blocked by drifts and diesel
locomotives taking over from electric could not r e x h their trains-
some trains were as much as seven hours late arriving at Euston.
The foregoing shows the kind of happcnings which may be
expected at any time in Britain’s winters and it is therefore incumbent
on the railways to provide equipment and methods for dealing with
such conditions; they are described below.
Push Ploughs, etc.
Push ploughs, as the name suggests, are designed to push the
snow out of the way. The shapes and sizes are legion btcause most
railways make them to their own designs, and it is usual for each
railway to have several types. In size they range irom a pair of
shares placed just in front of the leading wheels of a locomotive or
railcar, through larger wedge-type shields placed in front of locomo-
tives or trucks, to very big wedge-shaped ploughs built on to their
own frames complete with wings, flangers, bodies and cabs, all move-
able parts being operated and controlled hydraulically and by air. Such
types may weigh 40 tons or more.
The types used by British Railways arc varied but, in the main,
they are “singlc-track” design : that is to say, the centre of the vertical
wedge is over the middle of the four-foot, so snow is pushed to each
side of the track in equal quantities. The London Midland Hegion,
however, have some double-track ploughs in which the vertical centre
of the wedge is set to within a foot of the right-hand rail (Fig. 2). This
is of great advantage when ploughing a double-track road because
most of the snow will be thrown to the left and very little into the
six-foot way. Usually there is a plough at exch end of the lmomotive-
one plough being fitted to the tender of the engine and the other on a
tender coupled at the front end. Until reccntly, the Scottish Region
have been using three types of plough which could be fitted on the
front of the locomotive but, owing to the introduction of diesel traction

Fig. 2.-Doztble-track snowplough waiting on Hadfield U p Loop,

Manchester-Shtfield Line.

in the place of steam, it has been impractical to continue the use of

these types of ploughs because they cannot be fitted to the front of
diesel locomotives. Consequently it was decided to build independent
snowploughs which could be propelled by diesel locomotives and the
thrust taken directly at the buffing gear (Fig. 3). During the severe
snow conditions experienced in 1962163, trials were carried out in the
Inverness area with a prototype independent plough propelled by two

Fig. .3.-New type Plough for British Railways, Scottish. Region.


Type “2” diesel-electric locomotives and snowdrifts 12 feet deep were

effectively cleared. As a result of these successful trials, Scottish
Region now has ten of these machines and others, of the same type,
are being used by other Regi0ns-e.g. the London Midland has eight
available and 12 on order. These ploughs are mounted on underframes
of obsolete 4,200 gallon tenders and the automatic vacuum and hand
brakes are retained. They have retractable side-flaps which are
normally locked in the closed position but, when ploughing, they can
be opened out, giving a full ten-foot clearance. The flaps are so
arranged that if the plough is brought to a stand inside a deep drift,
they can be raised to within the loading gauge, allowing the plough to
be withdrawn from the cut. Adjustable cast-iron skids are fitted in
front of the leading pair of wheels and carried at six inches above rail
level during normal running, and lowered to within 3 inch above rail
level when ploughing. There is an adjustable plate at the front of the
plough which is ncrmally carried at 44 inches above the rail. This can
be lowered if necessary to provide a clearance of 14 inches above rail
level to deal with subsequent falls of snow freezing on the already
ploughed surfaces. A living-quarter compartment at the rear of the
plough can accommodate six men and a large amount of equipment.
The overall weight of the plough is 314 tons.
In the snow-belt of North America where they can expect heavy
snowstorms every year, and where they have a larger loading gauge,
the ploughs are larger and more substantial. A typical heavy-duty
model which is used by several railways in the United States, is the

Fig. 4.-Russell plough, typical heavy-dwty fish plough used

in :lmerica.

Russell (Fig. 4). This is an all-steel single-track plough with wing

elevators. Mounted on two steel trucks, it is pushed by a locomotive
through a power bar. This bar, attached to the rear coupler, is of
heavy steel construction and runs through the centre of the plough. It
is pivoted at the front end and permits lateral movement on curves so

as to prevent derailments. The usual width is 98 feet without wings

and increases three feet on each side with the wings open. The plough
has a flanger which is air operated and cuts to a depth of 28 inches
below the top of the tail and 14 inches outside it. A lookout cab on
top of the plough houses the controls and two operators. Cammunica-
tions between the plough and the pushing locomotive is usually by
telephone. The plough is operated at speeds up to 50 m.p.h. The
front of the plough is so designed that the load of snow creates a
downward pressure and rninimises the side thrust, and it is claimed
that these features make the Russell plough quite safe to operate. An
additional safety feature is the ice cutters which clear the flangeways
of ice to prevent derailments.
A push plough is basically a simple instrument and works well
enough in normal circumstances, but when the conditions are severe, it
can cause trouble. Ploughing should start when the snow begins to
fall and be carried out continuously for the duration of the storm.
Unfortunately this is rarely practicable as there are never enough
ploughs. So the snow piles up and compacts, drifts form, and opera-
tions become more difficult. Such conditions can lead to derailments
of both plough and locomotive and to ploughs becoming stuck in drifts,
thus involving further delays and heavy expenditure on labour. I n
long deep drifts, and especially in cuttings, the brute force of the
plough packs the snow so tightly that further progress is impossible.
Then the pick and shovel brigade come into their own!

Fig. S.-Type of flanger in use all year round,.Southern Pacific


The flanger, which derives its name from the service it performs,
is used to scrape snow and, in some models, ice from between the rails
so that the flanges of the train wheels will not be obstructed. They are
used extensively in North America and in Europe. On the Southern
Pacific, each flanger consists of two flare-shaped metal mouldboards
fitted with cutting blades at the base (Fig. 5). Blades of flangers used
in yard service extend the full width of the track between rails, but in
main-line territory where automatic train control is used, the flanger

blades are installed in pairs, separated so a s to clear the track magnet

boxes located at intervals in the centre of the track. This arrangement
makes it unnecessary to raise the blades except when passing over
points, level-crossings, bridge rails, etc. Flanger blades are raised
and lowered by air from a control valve operated either by the driver
of the locomotive pulling thc flanger or by one of the crew on the
flanger itself. Each pair of blades is operated independently of the
other pair, thus permitting operation of one or both mouldboards to
throw the snow and ice to the side of the track. The flangers of the
Southern Pacific are hauled at a speed of 30 to 40 m.p.h. and they are

Fig. 6.-Jordan spreader in use thvozlghout the year. Canadkit

Pacific Railway.
operated continually during a storm until the snowbanks they have
built alongside the track are so high that the mouldboard flares will
no longer throw the material clear of the rails. At that point, the
rotary ploughs are brought into service.
In the last decade, the Swedish State Railways have acquired
spreader ploughs for levelling out filling and ballast when laying
double track. These spreaders have been used to good effect for clear-
ing snow and, as they have a spread of 6.3 metres, they will place
the snow well beyond the adjacent track. So far as the Author knows,
the spreader is not used by any other railway in Europe for clearing
snow, but in North America they are used extensively for this purpose
and most railways there use one type known as the Jordan.
The primary use of the Jordan spreader (Fig. 6) is for grading
and ditching, but in winter it is used to plough snow and flange the
track. I t is particularly valuable for clearing yard areas of snow as,

Fig;. 7.-The top photograph slaows a “cut-widener” with wings

e.utended. The bottom picture, snow left by a cut-w’dener being
removed by an electric rotury plough. Swedish State Railways.

with a wing spread up to 25 fect on either sidc, it will clear the adjacent
tracks. The clearing operations are accornplishcd in a way which
pushcs the snow into a high ridge covcring onc of the tracks and this
snow is then loaded out and disposed of later. Thr front of the
machinc is equippcd with a pushcr plough, and flanger blades and ice

cutters are disposed underneath. Blades and wings are operated by

air pressure obtained from the pushing locomotive. Occasionally these
machines are used on the open road for ploughing snow up to four
feet deep, but this is a hazardous operation with this type of machine
as the side thrust may turn over the rail; even so, the spreader is
useful for clearing passing tracks and wayside yards by pushing the
snow beyond the last track.
A machine known as a “cut-widener’’ (Fig. 7) is used in Sweden,
Switzerland, and by one or two railways in the United States. Norm-
ally, cut widening is done by push ploughs fitted with wings or by
wide-wing rotaries which gather the snow from the sides of the previous
cut into the rotating blades. Cut wideners are placed at the rear of a
locomotive or train and pull the snow from the sides of the cut into
the middle of the track. This snow is then picked up by a following
rotary, or on the return of the rotary which made the original cut, and
thrown clear of the cut altogether.

Fig. 8.-The most modern of the Leslie-type rotary ploughs. Great

Norlherlt Railway, United States of America.

Rotary Ploughs
The first successful rotary snow plough was designed by an
American called Leslie over 60 y e m ago. This type of plough is still
in operation in North America and Europe, though various modifica-
tions have been made from time to time to increase its efficiency.
Basically it is a large hooded wheel consisting of knives and scoops
which revolve at speed, cutting into the snow and forcing it back into
cones which direct the snow through an opening in the top of the
hood whence it is thrown away from the track. The machine is
pushed by a locomotive and the operator of the plough keeps in touch

with the locomotive driver by telephone, signal cord, or visual means.

The latest and largest of the Leslie type are now operating on the
Great Northern Railway in the United States (Fig. 8). There are four
of them. Two, Nos. X-1509 and X-1510,were converted from steam
in 1959 and 1960, and the other two, Nos. X-1508 and X-1507, in 1961
and 1663 respectively. All four have essentially the same electrical
and mechanical drive arrangements but Nos. x-1507 and X-1508 are
mounted on Commonwealth water bottom style tender frames with
six-wheel Timken roller bearing-equipped trucks instead of the original
steam rotary frame and four-wheel trucks as on the other two. The
11 ft. 6 in. rotor, fitted with 10 double-edged blades studded with ice
picks, is driven by four electric motors and stabilised by two buck-
boost exciters. Electrical power circuits and control equipment are
provided so that rotor motors can be operated on power from the
generator of a diesel-electric locomotive by means of cables connected
between the snowplough unit and the diesel unit, coupled directly
behind the plough unit. These two units are coupled to a diesel-electric
pusher locomotive and the complete ensemble is controlled from the
cab of the plough. The maximum speed of the rotor is 150 and
snow can be thrown a distance of over 2601 feet.
A European development of the Leslie type is the twin rotary
plough. Instead of m e large rotor, there arc two, smaller in diameter
and set side by side in the hood. Some of these ploughs have a built-in

Fig. 9.-The Beilhack modern t& rotary Plozcgh.

hydraulically-operated turntable which enables the whole machine to

be turned through 180'.
The rotary ploughs described above, sometimes knowr; as frontal
turbines, have certain disadvantcges. A considerable cutting resistance
has to be overcome due to the rigid corners of the rectangular casing
or hood; and the narrowing of the transverse section from the rectangu-

lar profile of the casing to the circular profile of the ejecting wheel or
wheels, tends to compress the snow and is apt to cause blockages. If
the snow is light and dry, the system works satisfactorily, but when
the snow is wet and heavy, difficulties arise.
A modem design of a twin frontal turbine which seems to have
overcome some of these disadvantages, is the Beilhack (Fig. 9) in
which the rotors are desigmd according to a favourable flow pattern
and operate on the hollow centrifuge priwiples where the major

Fig. 10.-1 he Bros Sno-Flyr in action.

characteristic is the loss-free acceleration oi the snow toward the
ejecting chutes, and the large absorption capacity. Alsc the points of
the rotors protrude from the rotor housing and thus act in the double
capacity as cutting and centrifuging elements. These features reduce
the way of travel of the snow inside the clearing mechanism to a
There are other makes of rotary ploughs which employ principles
somewhat different from those of the frontal turbines; such as the Bros
Sno-Flyr (American), the Sicard Blowcr (Canadian), the Iiolba Rotary
Plough (Swiss), the Schmidt-Wyhlen Plough (German) and the Kisha
Seizo Kaisha plough (Japanese).
The Uros Sno-Flyr (Fig. 10) is of similar design to their highway
rotary plough but of much heavier construction. In generd it consists
of a mouldboard or plough structure the centre “V” oi which fits
between the rail heads and removes snow and ice to an adjustable
maximum of three inches below the top of the rails. I t has two rotors
located one in each of the double “V” sections of the mouldboard to
gather and discharge the snow. The rotors revolve at right angles to
the track and are formed of scoops or paddles. Safety protection is
provided for each rotor wheel and drive mechanism by means of sheer-
bolts which are easily accessible for replacement. A heavy-duty feeder
rake, which covers the complete frontal area of thei plough, may be
raised and lowered hydraulically, by means of controls in the cab,

through an arc starting within three inches of the top of the raih to a
height of eight feet, and can be operated at any intermediate point
within that range. There are two revolving casting chutes which enable
the operator to throw the snow to one or both sides of the track.
Gathering wings are provided to allow a coverage of 14 feet when in
the extended position, to 11 feet when adjusted inwards. The rotors
and rake are driven by diesel engines the horsepower of which is
dependent on the size of the plough, and they run from 200 to

Fig. 11.-The Sicard Snow Blower as used by Qzcebec North Shove

6 Labrador Railroad.

1,500 h.p. It may be of interest to note that the Northern Pacific

Railway has operated one of these ploughs successfully in drifts up to
18 feet deep at speeds v q i n g from four to ten miles per hour, and
that the plough was pushed by a single-unit diesel-electric locomotive.
The first Sicard Blower for railway use was simply a conversion
from the standard road vehicle. Flanged wheels were added at the
front and rear to guide the truck on the track but the tires were left on
the other wheels so that, when the flanged wheels were raised
hydraulically, the blower could continue its way on the highway. This
was not satisfactory as there was insufficient traction available on the
rails when heavy snow was encountered. The Sicard railway blower
today (Fig. 11) is virtually their standard highwa plough mounted
on a flatcar, and this arrangement has proved hig ly satisfactory in
service. The plough, or blower, unit consists ot two horizontal augers,
one above the other, 20 inches in diameter and, behind them, a 42 inch
diameter impeller with six replaceable concave blades. The augers
and the impeller are driven by a single shaft from the power unit that
comes into a reduction gear and angle drive behind the blower front.
Two separate shafts operating at different speeds lead from the angle

drive, one to the chain sprockets for the augers and the other to the
impeller. A rake unit, powered from the sprocket of the upper auger,
can be attached to the front if unusually deep drifts are likely to be
encountered, and this will enable the blower to deal with snow up to
18 feet deep. The whole of the blower front, that is the frame for
carrying the augers and impeller, rides on flanged wheels and can be
raised hydraulically at any time. Provision is made to iock the blower

Fig. 12.-The Rolba S400/500heavy-dwty rotary plough.

front in the up position for travelling any great distance. The width
of the blower unit is 11 ft. 6 ins. Using a 350 h.p. diesel engine, this
blower will displace approximately 22 to 26 tons of snow per minute
and throw it up to 200 feet away. The efficiency of this machine is
due, first of all, to the augers which are capable of chewing up any
kind of snow and, secondly, to the impeller which. revolving at a
faster rate than the augers, gets the snow away without it being blocked
by becoming compressed.
Rolba rotary ploughs, or blowers, are used on the railways and
highways and, it might be said, byeways, in many countries. They
are characterised by horizontally arranged rotating cutting knives with
a separate ejecting turbine. Their latest model railway plough (Fig. 12j
consists of a self-propelled vehicle with rotatable superstructure which
includes the diesel engine, generator, reduction gears and drive shaft
to the plough unit, hydraulic equipment, driver’s cab with all controls,
and the plough unit itself. As the superstructure can be turned
hydraulically, through 180°, the plough can operate in either
direction. The 2-axle chassis is driven by a 75 kW d.c. motor, can
travel up to a speed of 38 m.p.h. and can plough at any s p e d between
f and 19 m.p.h. The 12-cylinder diesel engine of 370 h.p. (continuous
rating) is directly coupled to a 90 kW d.c. generator which provides
the power for traction. The diesel engine also provides the power,
transmitted through a clutch to a reduction gear and then by universal

Fig. 13.-The Rolba Snow-Boy, here being used t o load n wagon.

Swiss Federal Railways.

shaft, for the centrifugal ejector wheel and the rotary cutters.
The ploughing mechanism consists of a pair of rotary cutters
5 ft. 4 in. diameter with geared drive; the cutting frame with scraper
bar, skids and side cutters; the centrifuge housing with the ejector
wheel 6 ft. 7 in. diameter, hydraulic equipment for lilting and lower-
ing the plough and turning of the ejector nozzle, and hydraulically-
operated side wings for increasing the clearing width. All operations
are controlled from the driver’s seat. The cutting blades are protected
from damage by shearing bolts. Each cutting blade can be replaced
separately. Snow may be blown to either side of the track by adjusting
the angle of the ejector nozzle. The principle on which this machine
works has proved efficient in practice and it will clear all types of
snow whether hard or soft, heavy or light, dry or wet.
Another of Rolba’s latest products is a rotary plough for mountain
railways. With a width of two metres and powered by two Volkswagon

Fig. 14.-The Schmidt-Wyhlen rotary plough which can be used as a

shunting locomotive out of season.

industrial engines, it is designed to be pushed by a locomotive. A

one-metre version is also available and in this the plough itself can be
slid from one side of the track to the other as required.
The Schmidt-Wyhlen rotary plough (Fig. 14) is a self-propelled
dual-purpose machine-in winter it can be used as a plough and at
other seasons as a shunting locomotive. The body, with the plough
attached, can be turned on the chassis through 180", so ploughing may
be done in either direction. When used as a shunting engine, the
plough is removed and replaced with drawing and buffing gear. The
machine is driven by two air-cooled diesel engines of 250 h.p. each
coupled together, but either engine by itself is sufficient for shunting
or travelling so, should one of the engines fail, the machine can
proceed. When ploughing, the engines drive the plough mechanism
while the machine is moved by hydraulic gears coupled to the engines :
thus the speed is infinitely variable and can be adjusted to the
conditions. The speed for snow clearing is about 20 k.p.h. and for
free running about 50 k.p.h.
The snow clearing apparatus consists of twin Schmidt snow mills
of a type which has been used for many years on highway vehicles.
The mills are equipped with cutting knives and they can deal with any
kind of snow, even if it is hard-packed and iced. The snow is ejected
through two disposal pipes which can be adjusted independently of
each other to throw it in any direction.
The Japanese National Railways have put into service this year a
2,200 h.p. B-2-I3 diesel-hydraulic locomotive with a twin-axle bogie
plough unit coupled to the front of it. This has been designed and
built in the Osaka Works of Kisha Seizo Kaisha Limited and is
designated DD53. The plough unit is attached to the locomotive by

links and weights and the main traction forces are taken by the centre
coupler. Power for the drive and auxiliaries on the plough head is by
a shaft, the flange of which extends slightly forward of the locomotivl:
at one end. As the plough unit is semi-permanently coupled to the
locomotive, the plough can be removed thns enabling the locomotive
to be used for line service outside of the winter season. The plough
head incorporates a driver’s cab at the front which seats four persons
and has all the controls for operating the plough and traction power,
including multiple operation when a booster locomotive is provided.
A second control cabin is incorporated at the back of the main driving
cab in which the speed of the plough rotor is controlled by a second
operator. The driving shafts and hydraulic machinery for the plough
are located in this compartment.
The action of the plough itself is as follows. Snow, on entering
the throat of the plough, is gathered backwards and fed into the
longitudinal rotor by a 2.4 metre diameter bladed rotor. This rotates
about a lateral axis and is provided particularly to deal uith very wet
snow. Behind the gathering wheel is a longitudinal rotor which ejects
the snow through shutes on both sides of the plough. The rotor is
2 metres diameter and 1.7 metres long. The peripheral speed is
21 metres per second and the unit can move up to 10,000 tons of snow
per hour. Further details of this remarkable machine may be obtained
from the 18th June 1965 issue of The Railway Gazette.
Jet-Engined Blowers
The use of jet engines for snow blowers has been considered for
some time. I n 1947 the G.W.R. conducted a number of experiments

Fig. 15.-Ty@ of jet-engined snowblower fozlnd satisfactory by Rew

York Central and Quebec, North Shore and Labrador Railway

in conjunction with the National Gas Turbine Establishment of the

Ministry of Supply in which jet engines were mounted on wagons in
such a way that the jets were brought to play on the snow obstructing

track. The results were unsuccessful. On the L.N.E.K. results were

conclusive in showing that jet engines for this purpose were useless.
A film of the operations showed that the snow was blown about with
excessive violence, often in the wrong direction, and in some case5
the track was damaged. This was in accordance with the findings of
the G.W.K. Since then, the New York Central has found that if ;I
hrge jet engine is equipped with a supplementary nozzle to quadruple
the air mass flaw and lower temperature, excellent results can be
obtained in snow fighting activities (Fig. 15). By the use of augmenter
tubes they have been able to reach as high as one pound per square
inch on the roadway surface. This “bubble” permeates the snow and
causes “small explosions” in deep banks. As a result, the jet blast
can then move this material readily. They have had excellent results
on main-line drifts over 14 feet deep. In addition, the swivelling

Fig. 16.-A Barber-Greene Snow Meller used in terminal yards in

Montreal. Canadian Pacific Railway.

nozzles have been able to blow snow from under cars which have been
trapped in yards and sidings. The five units on the N.Y.C. have
become the standard pieces of heavy equipment for use in snowfighting.
Two further units have been built for the Quebec, North Shore and
Labrador Railway where the winter conditions are severe. The N.Y.C.
is now producing a unit which is self-contained, self-propelled and
operated by one man.
Snow Melters
These machines are limited in capacity but very useful around
yards and stations where space is restricted and snow must be hauled
away. One type, the Barber-Greenc (Fig. 16) is built on to two flat
cars coupled together. On the front car is the snow collecting gear
consisting of two transverse worms which lift the snow from the track

on to two conveyor belts, and these transport the snow to the melting
tank on the second car. The 16,000 gallon melting tank is fed with
live steam formerly from the pushing locoinotive but now from a
steam generator car inserted between the diesel locomotive and the
tank. The snow which can be melted at one collecting is equivalent
to the amount camcd on 32 fully-loaded flatcars When full, the tank
can be emptied in a few minutes into any suitable sewer or ditch by
means of two 14-inch valves.
Point Protection Devices
Point protection devices are designed to prevent points becoming
inoperative due to obstruction by snow or ice. Probably this typo oi
equipment is more valuable than any 3ther in fighting the hazards of
snuw and ice because the traffic is kept moving with the minimum
amount of labour and, when the equipment is entirely automatic in
operation, no extra labour is required. If points are not equipped
with protection devices, they are liable to freeze or become blocked
with s n o w - a n d it takes a great deal of time and labour to unblock
them to enable the traffic to move again.
Several devices are used, all except one depending on the
application of heat. The odd one employs compressed air for blowing
the snow away from between the point blade and stock rail.
The oldest t,ype of point heater, probably evolved about ninety
years ago in North America, and still used to some extent today, is the
pot type oil burner. This is a self-contained paraffin-burning unit
which is placed between the sleepers, under the rail. It is a steel box
about 7 in. high, 21 in. long and 7 in. wide, with a capacity of
approximately two gallons of fuel for 30 to SO hours of continuous
burning, permitting refilling during daylight hours. A large burner
stack around the wick and flame prevents flame blow-out and also
prevents the sleepers from burning. Holes a t the base supply air for
efficient combustion and also permit water drainage. The flame is
extinguished by putting the cover on the burner stack. The fili
opening is covered with a snug-fitting cap which cannot be accidentally
removed so that dirt and water is not al!owed to enter the fuel com-
partment. The heater can be refilled while it is burning. Both the
filler cap and stack cover are attached to the heater to prevent loss.
This type of heater is effective provided that there is not a high
wind to extinguish it or a heavv snowfall to cut off the supply of air.
Cost of labour for maintenance is fairly heavy due to cleaning, adjust-
ing and filling each individual heater. As they b u m with a yellow
flame one to four feet high, there is a possibility that they may
interfere with the sighting of ground signals at night.
In 1924, the White Manufacturing Company in the U.S.A. brought
out a pressunsed oil burning point heater and some are still in active
service. They are installed principally where there is a large storage
of diesel oil and where compressed air is available. They consist of
a central burner with heat distributors extending to each side and can
be supplied up to 30 feet long with one burner. They are arranged so
that heat is directed just under the head of the rail and downwards
over the web and flange. Rail attachment brackets hold them rigidly
in position. For places where rail brackets cannot be used, sleeper

attachment brackets are used instead. Oil and conipressed air are
piped to the burner from a central source, or from an oil storage tank
and air compressor beside the track. Today, gas heaters have largely
supplanted oil burners as they are simpler to install and operate
although, in many respects, they have the samc characteristics.
Gas heatcrs, like the oil burners, consist of a long heater element
or distributor attached to the outside of the stock rail for the full length
of the point blade. A single pipe connects to the fuel supply line,
except where double intake heaters are supplied for extra long points.
They will burn any kind of infl2mmable gas such as Coal, water or
natural: propane, butane or pintsch. With gas over 1,000 B.T.U. per
cubic foot, inspirators are furnished to induce about 80 per cent free
air. Gas with less than 500 B.T.U. content, such as prducer gas, is
unsatisfactoly because of its low heating value. It should be noted
however, that the Western Region of BritiLh Railways use town gas
with some success in certain locations, e.g. Paddington, Old Oak
Common and Slough. The inspirator is adjustable and provides a
proper mixture for a clean, economical blue flame. They can be lit by
placing a torch at any place along the heater and the entire heater
lights instantly, or electric igniters can be incorporated. An important
feature of the gas heater is that it can he controlled from a distant
point. By throwing a lever or pushing a button in 3 signal box, any
number of point heaters can be put into operation and at any distance
from the control point. The gas valve from the supply IS opened, the
heaters are lighted, ignition is cut off and an indicator lamp at the
control point is lighted to show that the heaters are burning. If
the heaters are momentarily extinguished, e.g. by a gust of wind or
the blast of air from a high-speed train, the heaters are automatically

Fig. 17.-A propane gas switch heater operated by remote-control.

Southern Pacific Railroad.

relighted without any action by the controller, and no men need

be called out.
The Northern Pacific Railway say that switch heaters of the gas-
fired type have proven quite successful where snowfall is in the order
of 12 to 16 inches. This type of heater is capable of applying a
relatively large amount of heat to the switch points. Their application
is limited to the extent that it is possible to maintain them in the
ignited condition. Kuling factors are the depth of snow and the
velocity of wind. As the depth of the snowfall increases it becomes
virtually impossible to maintain a sufficient supply of oxygen necessary
for the combustion of the gas. Also, as wind velocities increase, the
flame is more likely to be extinguished. Another factor adversely
affecting the operation of this type of heater is the temperature. As

Fig. 18.-One of the 339 Mills ARMA infra-red gas foint heaters
installed at Y o r k . British R a i l w y s .

the temperature falls, the gas pressure may be reduced resulting in ari
insufficient supply to the burner. This is particularly true of the
propane gas heaters supplied from local tanks at the switch. Where
commercial gas lines are conveniently locate6 to the right of way, this
problem is minimised.
In the Cascade mountains in southern Oregon, the Southern
Pacific has installations of propane gas burning heaters (Fig. 17) at
50 switches in Centralized Traffic Control territory. Remote-control
equipment is in the dispatcher’s office at Dunsmuir, California,
200 miles away. The dispatcher is kept advised of snow conditions at
the heater installations by train and wayside radio and by telephone.

A modern and most efficient design of heater is the Mills ARMA

Infra-Red Switch Heater which operates on propane gas (Fig. 18).
Heat is applied by radiation to each of the stock rails by a series of
infra-red burners mounted on a pair of burner pipes and, by induction,
is conveyed to the slide chairs. Ignition is simple, either by hand
torch or by remote control from the signal box, and effective heat is
attained in 10115 minutes. Since combustion takes place within the
ARMA patent ceramic block inside the burner housings, there is no
open flame, the burners cannot be blown out, and operation is reliable
and safe. No maintenance or adjustment is necessary to ensure con-
tinuous and correct operation, except to replace the gas bottles as they
become empty. Where sufficient number of heaters are installed. e.g.
at large stations or marshalling yards, a storage tank is used instead
of bottles for the propane gas. This not only saves labour in replacing
bottles, but reduces the cost of gas considerably. Gas consumption is
about 1 lb. per switch per hour. The whole equipment is light in
weight, each complete burner pipe with five bumerg weighing about
20 lb. It is very easily removed and replaced when maintenance work
is required on the track, and il! is common practice to remove these
pipes from the rail altogether during the sunmer months.
The ARMA patent burner consists of a heavily enamelled iron
casing containing a specially designed ceramic block protected by wire
gauze. For ignition purposes, five holes are provided underneath the
casing forward of the burner blocks. The frcnt of the burner housing
should be within 2 in. of the web of the rail, and some adjustment of
the screw connection may be required to compensate for curvature in
the rail. In service, the outside of the burner housing reaches a
temperature of about 400°C, the ceramic block inside it about 95O"C,
and the maximum temperature rise in the rail is about 45°C (81°F).
The ARMA switch heater has a rather interesting history. The

Fig. 19.-A tubular electric point heater.


idea of using infra-red propane gas heating occurred to a Dutch rail-

wayman during the war. About eight years ago, thc Netherland:;
Railways started to develop the idea in collaboration with the Dutch
firm of ARMA and, working with ancther Dutch firm, COMPKINO,
they dcveloped the special tank wagon for filling the skidtanks placed
in the vicinity of the switches. These tank wagons of which there are
three (two carrying 18 tons and one carrying 12 tons of propane), are
in effect mobile filling stations, probably unique in the railway world.
With a crew of three or four men, they go from yard to yard filling
the skidtanks which hold sufficient propane to heat the points for seven
full days. During a long winter, a different yard can be serviced

Fig, 20.-Photograph showing effectiveness of tubular point heaters

after J9-inch snowfall.

every day still leaving one or two days reserve for emergencies. The
Ketherlands Railways now have 4,500 installations of AKMA infra-rcd
propane gas heaters and of these 74 are ignited electrically by remote
Electrical point heaters, thnugh satisfactory in many ways, require
a considerable amount of power so they can be used only where there
is an ample supply of current. This means, in effect, that for points
remote from powcr lines, the cost of supplying power initially would be
too great for seasonable use of this type of heater. The main types arc
tubular, either straight or “hairpin”, plate or oil-circulation.
Tubular clectric point heaters (Fig. 19) may be installed on the
inside or outside of the stock rail and they usually run the full lcngth
of the point blade (Fig. 20). The “hairpin” loop type may be installed
directly on the point blades, or on the stock rail. Sometimcs they are
used in conjunction with tubular heaters, i.e. the “hairpin” type on

See Detail "A"



Detail "A" 3€ Ne. 10 1wlBlE

11/16" Iu 3/W' O.D.



The circuit as shown, is optional. The boetlsg can ba
placed at the tenter of the switch point to serve units
toward the switch point end toward the heel.

Fig. 21 . S c h e m a t i c and wiring details of installation of Elec-Time

filate heaters.
the blade and th'e tubular on the stock rail. The plate type heaters,
known as the Elec-Time switch heaters, made by the Rails Company,
are but -& in. thick and can generally be installed on the inside of the
stock rail (Fig. 21). Each plate is 15 in. long and 3 in. wide. The
current consumption varies from 500 watts to 125, watts and a fairly
usual arrangement for a point which uses 16 plate heaters is for six
of the plates at the toe end of the blade to use 500 watts and the others
125 watts-in other words, putting the maximum heat where it is
wanted most. There is also a ballast type heater which is used as a
supplementary heater where heavy snowfalls and extremely low tem-
peratures are normal conditions. The ballast heaters are placed
beneath the point rods to keep them free from snow and ice and they
appear to be the most economical means of obtaining such
supplementary heat.

The London Midland Region of British Railways have installed

electric point heaters of a new pattcrn in 101 scts of points betwecn
hlanchester and Crewe and bctween Weaver Junction and Nuneaton.
Basically these are tubular heaters but they are arranged in a way
which is different from other installations elsewhere. Each heater
consists of a 110-volt 150-watt heating element enclosed in a metallic
sheath which is fitted to each point slide chair. The heater element
encircles the slide chair and is retained in position by a rail clip which
grips the stock rail. The number sf heater units per set of p i n t s
vanes from 10 heatcrs for “B” switches to 34 heaters for “G” switchcs.
The heaters are switched on by the signalman who is provided with a
luminous indicator to show that the heaters are in operation. (Fig. 22)

Fig. 22.-One of the 101 electric point heaters being used by the
L.M. Region, British Railways.

The h’ew York Central now have in service a number of silicone

rubber encapsulated heaters. These heaters are bonded directly to the
web of the rail. By bonding the heater to the rail, they maximise the
thermal conductivity and can operate the heaters at a substantially
reduced current and still maintain a rail temperaturc high enough to
melt snow and ice.
Approximately 730 hot oil circulation heaters are used by London
Transport on the open sections of their lines. They consider that this
system is less liable to breakdown and more economical to operate and
maintain than other systems and, at the Same time. it enables heat to
be distributed evenly over the entire p i n t layout, including its electro-
pneumatic or other form of operating mechanism, and to maintain
every part of it free from frozen deposits (Fig. 23).
A reservoir of transformer oil is provided close to the line and
connected to pipes forming a closed circulating system passing through

Fig. 23.-Hot-oil circulation point heaters. London Transport Board.

longitudinal holes in the bases of the slide chairs and connected by

welding to the foundation plate of the point operating mechanism. In
the reservoir is an electric immersion heater controlled by two thermo-
stats, one of which is acted on by the temperature of the surrounding
air. When this falls to 35°F the heater becomes connected to the
traction current supply and a pump sets the oil in circulation, so that
sufficient heat becomes communicated to the chairs. etc., and frozen
material cannot form thereon. (The wattage of the heater element is
6,000 but it is under-run at about 4,000). To economise power the
second thermostat disconnects the element when the oil reaches a
temperature of 180°F and brings it into operation again when it drops
to 160°F. In this way power is used for only about half the time the
apparatus is required to function. Hose connections are used between
the chairs, to afford some degree of flexibility there, and also where
necessary to avoid short circuiting of the track circuit. Originally
there was no piping in the chair bases but the latter were found at times
to be porous and therefore not oil proof; it was therefore decided to
put steel piping through the chairs, the hoses joining the nipples
thereon. The oil is circulated by a pump.
As the powei required for the heating is derived from the traction
supply, it is on occasion necessary to leave the conductor rails on
certain lines alive after traffic working hours, when weather conditions
necessitate, but at some locations it is possible to take power from siding
rails that are normally continuously alive. Power for the pump motor
and the contactor is taken from the a.c. signalling supply.

Fig. ,?4.--"Sentinel" hfra-red heatev operating at the top of a pass

hetween Colorado and N e w !Mexico. Atcheson, Topeka and Santa Fe

I t may be worth noting that although London Transport have

found this type of heater highly satisfactory, the North Eastern Region
of British Railways, who have six sets at York, have found them to be
unduly expensive and unsatisfactory in main line operatjon. Low
reliability of under 50 per cent as compared with the Mills ARMA gas
heaters and the cost of installation proving about ten times higher.
A new system for heating points which may have a worthwhile
future, especially in locations where conditions are severe, is the over-
head infra-red heater (Fig. 24). Such a system has been in experi-
mental use on the Atcheson Topeka and Santa Fe Railway in Arizone
for some four years. Supplied by the Blanco Manufacturing Company
and using Perfection-Schwank burners, the units, known as The
Sentinel, consist of either six or eight burners in a group set at a height
of 23 feet above the track, and warm the whole of the point area.
There is no interference with the track and damage to equipment from
train vibration is eliminated. The heaters, using propane gas from a

1,000 gallon tank, consume 3.3 and 4 . 4 gallons per hour giving
300,0/400,000B.T.U. at a cost of forty cents per h o x of the
Sentinel 6 and fifty-three cents for the Sentinel 8. The heaters are
controlled by a completely automatic system which is electronic. I t
has a moisture temperature sensing circuit, the elements of which are
located alongside the point area, at ground level near the outer
perimeter. One flake of snow or a drop of rain striking either of the
moisture sensing units will fire the infra-red heaters prooided that the
temperature is 38°F or lower. Incorporated is an extended time relay
which allows the burners to operate for a selected time after the
moisture sensitizing units have dried out, thus getting rid of any
remaining moisture after the storm. Fifteen of these Sentinel-8 units
have given very good performance for the past three winters in areas
where temperatures of 30 to 40 degrees below zero and heavy snowfalls
are quite common.
Some railways, especially in America, still use steam coils beneath
the points to keep them free of snow and ice but only at places where
steam is readily available such as at large stations and locomotive
sheds. I t is likely, however, that the use of steam for this purpose
will not be used much longer at locomotive depots due to dieselization.
At some large stations, the installations may have a longer life because
steam has still to be available for warming passenger stock up to the
time that the train engine or steam generating car is attached.
A comparatively recent development is the use of compressed air
to blow the snow from between the point blades and the stock rail.
The compressor and control instruments are housed in a shed at the
track near the points. The advantage of this system arises from the
fact that no wafer is produced which can later freeze in the vicinity
of the point blades so that they become obstructed. The blower con-
sists of an air pipe fastened to the rails through which a jet of air is
blown at regular intervals. This system will operate satisfactorily for
snow removal in extreme cold climates where light, dry snows prevail;
but the blowers are not effective where heavy wet snow accumulates
I n such circumstance the blowers tend to open a small channel along
the base of the rail but fail to remove the snow above that point.
Therefore, when the points are operated, the remaining water laden
snow is compressed between the stock rail and point blades which
prevents the points from closing properly.
Miscellaneous Equipment
Snow Fences and Snow Sheds.-Wind-blown snow is deposited
because some configuration of the ground causes an abrupt change in
the velocity of the wind. Such an obstruction as a railway cutting or
a tree may cause immense drifts of snow. Sometimes these obstruc-
tions may be removed, or cuttings may be widened to provide
sufficient room for the deposited snow. Where the cause cannot be
removed, snow fences may be erected to control the snow deposit and
they should be placed not less than 60 feet from the track on the
windward side. In very exposed locations. as many as three lines of
fences may be required to hold the snow. The Canadian Pacific Rail-
way construct their permanent fences of one inch unedged lumber or
slabs eight feet long. The palings are erected vertically with two inch

spaces between. In Britain, a type which has shown good results is

four foot six inches high, made of light chestnut staves. The exact
positioning of a snow fence to be effective requires considerable experi-
ment and calculation and several seasons may go by before the ideal
position is discovered.
I n mountainous terrain, snow slides are likely to occur frequently
in the same place. When the topography permits, permanent snow
sheds are erected to carry the slides over the track. These tunnel-like
structures are built of timber or reinforced concrete, and may be
several hundred feet long. They are expensive to build and maintain.
At one time the Southern Pacific had nearly forty miles of them
covering their tracks, but only a few remain. On the other hand, the
Swiss continue to build them. Three modern ones were built with
reinforced concrete roofs and outside pillars, and stone for the back
walls, near Grum on the Rhatischen Bahn where the line rises in a
reverse spiral. The two lower galleries, 346.5 and 148.5 metres long
were built in 1949 and the top gallery, 264.0 metres long, in 1952.
Bulldozers.-An important piece of snow fighting equipment
today. It can be used effectively in clearing very deep snow slides,
either by itself or in conjunction with a rotary plough. Where the
depth of the slide is greater than the height ofl the rotary’s hood, a
bulldozer can be employed to push snow off the top of the slide into
the rotary’s wheel. The bulldozer can also be used to widen cuts
through drifts and slides to provide room for push ploughs to work
subsequent snow falls effectively. Wherever excessive rubble has been
embedded in a snow slide, bulldozers prove to be the most efficient
means of clearing it. This machine works rather slowly in long cuts
since it must travel long distances to dispose of each bladeful of snow.
But it is undoubtedly a very versatile piece of equipment as it can go
almost anywhere.
Ftame Guns.-These develop a high grade of heat and are used
in Germany and the U.S.A. and occasionally in B.ritain for clearing
accumulations of snow around switch blades. They are rather slow in
operation and expensive in labour. Also, under certain circumstances,
ice can form when the flame thrower has gone elsewhere.
Steam Lances.-Used for clearing point blades and crossings,
steam is supplied through hoses from a locomotive. They are useful in
locations where ground signalling apparatus is absent as the latter may
become damaged by steam and hot water and by subsequent freezing.
Their use requires possession of the track and they are expensive in
labour and time.
Air Lances.-In a number of places, e.g. Britain, Sweden and
Germany, compressed air fed through a manually-operated tube of
special design is employed. The end of the tube is pointed so that it
can be used as a pick. The compressed air is supplied from stationary
road compressors, track-born compressors and from the air supply
which operates the electro-pneumatic points. Again, this type of
equipment is rather expensive in time and labour, but it is more
effective than using brooms.
General.-Many types of motonsed and mechanised equipment
have cut down manpower needs in winter. Most of them have been
acquired for purposes other than that of snow clearing but they have

been found so useful for this purpose that the equipment is in use
the year round. For cleaning snow from driveways and platforms
practically every conunonly used type of crawler and wheel-mounted
grading or material handling equipment comes into use. including
bulldozers, front-end loaders, motor graders, scrapers, dump trucks
and even power shovels and cranes equipped with snow buckets.
Wheel-type tractors fitted with rotary brooms are used for cleaning
platforms and pavements, as are two-wheeled rubber-tyred units with
blades or rotary brushes. By using a tractor-mounted rotary brooni
with wire bristles for scraping ice and hard-packed snow from wind-
swept platforms, one railway in the States “saves a small fortune”
according to its division engineer. Pedestrian-operated “blowers”
such as the Rolba “Snow Boy” (Fig. 13) and the Beilhack “Snow
Dwarf” are proving their worth every winter season.
Other Problems and their Solutions
Ice on Conductor Rails.-London Transport have several methods
of keeping the conductor rails ice-free. They employ sleet locomotives
with additional bogies carrying ice-cutters, wire brushes and anti-freeze
sprays. Also they have de-icing baths built into the conductor rails
(Fig. 25) whereby anti-freeze fluid is automatically spread along the
conductor rails by the collector shws of passing trains. They did
introduce sleet tenders in 1957 to be attached to the front of the train.
The advantages over the sleet locomotives were lower initial and
maintenznce costs and no special crew being required. However, these
tenders interfered with the track circuits so they were discontinued. All

Fig. 25.--Conductor rail de-icing baths. London Transport.


sleet !ocomotives and some rolling stock now have air-blast jets to
blow snow off the current rails. The Southern Region prevent serious
ice formation on the conductor rzils by maintaining train service:;
throughout the 24 hours and by regular application of de-icing fluid.
London Transport has conducted siicccssful experiments of heating
the current rails by shortcircuiting the current during the periods when
trains are not running and they have added further additional sections
of track for this method totalling over 17 miles. The Swedish Railways
have used this method for a considerable time.
It may be of interest to note, in passing, that overhead conductors
are comparatively immune from the icing troubles experienced by lices
with conductor rails. There was some trouble from ice and snow
build-up on the more exposed sections of the line between Liverpool
Street and Chelmsford in 1963, but the line between Manchester,
Sheffield and Wath had no trouble from this came.
Snow Pewetrating Electric Motors.-In the Eastern Region on the
Liverpool Street-Shenfield services in 1968, powdered snow was drawn
into the rectifiers, the compartments fillcd with water, and the stocK
had to be withdrawn due to the danger of fire. Eventually metal-type
oil-wetted grills were used and this cured the trouble. On thc
Pennsylvania, in blizzards in February 1958, with fine powdered snow
and very low temperatures, the fine snow crystals pcnctrated the air
intake screens of electric locomotives, melted and shorted them. On
the third day, 134 out of 139 GG-1 type were wholly or partially
disabled and diesel-electric locomotives had to be borrowed from the
Company’s western lines and from other railways. Since then a
significant reduction in motor problcms resulting from snow has
resulted from the widespread introduction of inertial types of air-
cleaning equipment (introduced by General Electric Company in 1961
in its U25B) which separates most of the snow and dirt from the
ventilating air supply to the motors.
Diesel Engine Failures.-Considerable trouble was caused in the
winter of 1962/63 by the freezing of fuel oil and filters and the failure
of train heating boilers. To avoid these troubles there will have to be
some sort of routine similar to that used by American and Canadian
railways, such a s : blocking up some of the air-filtering openings to
reduce the flow of cold air to the engine. Installation of fuel-oil
heaters and the protection of steam generator water pipes by wrapping
steam pipes around them. Special winter lubricants instead of the
summer oils. “Watchmen” heaters for diese! units which remain in
the open all night-such hezters give a warning in the running shed
or dormitory in the event of failure which enables crews to start the
engines to keep them warm.
Carriage Heating Failures.-This is a compIaint which is prevalent
in almost any winter in Britain (Fig. %). The answer is to design
proper steam heating systems or to heat carriages electrically. This is
another case where a great deal can be learnt from the practices on the
Continent or North America where the failure of a heating system in
subzero weather would be disastrous.
Frost H e m e on Track.-This can be cured by a sound foundation
and proper drainage to the track.

Fig. 26.-Icicks on coach standing in King’s Cross Station, London,

January 1962.

Telephone Wires and Poles.-Heavy snow and high winds can

break wires and blow poles over the track completely disrupting
service. One answer to this is to lay the wires underground and
eliminate poles. Another answer is the use of a micro-wave telephone
system as used by the N.E. Region of British Railways and by the
Canadian Railways.
Signalling.-Wires running over small pulleys can be jammed by
snow and ice and the signalling becomes unworkable. Coloured light
signals do not suffer from these disadvantages. In the case of electro-
pneumatic signalling systems it has been found beneficial to add anti-
freeze solutions to prevent freezing of the condensate in the pneumatic
tubes. London Transport have compressors which deliver air at
125 p.s.i. which, after cooling, is expanded down to 65 to 70 p.s.i. to
ensure moisture-free air in the signal mains.
Frozen Coal.-This can be a serious problem in a severe winter
because the wagons can b e neither emptied nor returned to the colliery.
For example, at one period in the winter of 196’2/63 there were over
100 wagons loaded with coal at Agecroft Pcwer Station which had to
be set aside to wait for the thaw. At Lots Road and Neasden Power
Stations of London Transport the daily intake was reduced to 20 per
cent of the normal day’s supply because the coal was frozen solid in
the wagons. In the U.S.A. and Canada, this kind of trouble occurs
every year and steps have been taken to overcome it. The most
satisfactory method evolved so far is a car-thawing shed (Fig. n)
immediately ahead of the car dumping house holding maybe two to
five cars at a time. Heating elements using oil, gas or electricity are

Fig. 27.-Car-thawing shed equipped m'th gas-heaters. Western

Maryland Railway.

arranged to hcat the sides and bottoms of the cars. According to one
report, the most satisfactory and economical system used electric infra-
red heating and the cost, including current. fixed charges and main-
tenance, of putting through 2,278 cars worked out at six cents per ton
of coal. One of the latest installations is at Port Covington, Maryland,
where 15 to 20 loaded cars can be thawed in an hour. Propane gas
provides the heat through under-car convection heaters betwecn the
rails below track level and infra-red radiation type side heaters in each
wall of the shed. Electrical energy could not 'be justified economically,
mainly for two reasons: the initial cost of providing a supply line for
twice the power formerly used, and the demand charges for the electric
power would be excessive for the short thawing scason. However,
experiments are now being conducted on an entirely different method
which may prevent the coal or ore freezing while in transit to the
consumer. Cars are being sprayed with polyurcthane foam which has
twice the insulating properties of fibreglass and which has self-adhesive
qualities. In a recent test, two 90-ton hopper cars, one insulated and
the other not, were loaded with steam coal and exposed to a tempera.
ture of zero Fahrenheit for 100 hours. At the end of this period, the
two cars were moved quickly to the steam plant. The uniiisulated car
was frozen and resisted all efforts to empty it. The insulated car
discharged all the coal with the aid of a car shaker.

Present Position and Future Outlook

Until recently, British Kailways have not treated snow and frost
with the respect they deserve. The general picture in any severe
winter has been of lines blocked by snow and frozen points, armies of
men with picks, shovels, brooms and buckets of salt trying to keep
the traffic moving. Ploughs getting stuck and having to be dug out,
cuttings dug out by hand to enable the ploughs to get to work. Frozen
and blocked points cleaned by hand and having to be re-done nlinost
immediately. Meantime passenger, freight and mineral trains are
held up and the wheels of Commerce and Industry may come to a stop
through lack of fuel and materials. The cost to the railways and the
country can be enormous. In fact, the attitude has been to deal with
conditions as they arise without having any plan or suitable equipment
to deal with them. This attitude is changing at last and the powers-
that-be have awakened to the fact that they must keep the railways
operating, though they still have strong reservations about how much
money should be spent on equipment.
Actually the prime cost is comparatively unimportant-money
must be spent to reduce cost. This is s h o w up very well by figures
supplied by the North Eastern Region for the winter of 1962/63. The
point heaters (Fig. 28) installed (339) at York alone in that period
burned for 1,325 hours which represented a cost of approximately
.E14,OO, inchding charges, as against an estimated traditional expendi-
ture of $280,000. A very handsome saving over one winter. The
Southern Region quote a saving in labour per pair of points at
$1 17s. 6d. per 24 hours of continuous snow conditions which repre-
sents a 37 per cent return on capital outlay. Even so, these figures

Fig. 28.-Effect of Mills A R M A infrared gas point heaters at Ywk,

British Railways, January 1963.

represent direct costs only and do not show the very considerable
reductions in the intangible costs of keeping the traffic on the move
which enables passengers to arrive at their destinations, and goods to
be delivered to the industries, on schedule. The Southern Region have
943 pairs of point heaters installed with an additional 68 on order-a
total of 1,011. The North Eastern Region have 1.557 plus over 200 on
order. The largest Region, the London Midland, has had the fewest
heaters, comparatively, but they now have 232 gas heaters at Crewe
North and South Junctions and 101 electric point heaters between
Manchester and Crewe and between Weaver Junction and Nuneaton.
By the end of 1965 there will be well over 5,000 point heaters installed
on British Railways. This is only a start of course-but a s this equip-
ment has proved its worth, considerable extensions may be looked for
in the future. This is a big change in outlook from 1959 when therc
were only four sets of point heaters on the whole of British Railways.
The next equipment which should be obtained by British Railways
is rotary ploughs or snow blowers. In the British Railways Board
News Release dated 2 October 1963, there occurred these words, “It is
frequently suggested that British Railways should have rotary ploughs
and blowers ot the kind used in Canada and Scandinavia. It is not gen-
erally appreciated that these ploughs are effective only in clearing
fine powdered snow which rarely falls in Britain. The Board’s experts
say that they would have been of little use last winter.” This statement
is unfortunate a s it is inaccurate. The modern design of rotary plough
can deal with any type of snow, as has been shown in this Paper. ?he
savings in labour and cost are enormous by the use of such machines.
A good example can be taken on the Manchester-Sheffield line via
Penistone, particularly between Hadfield and Woodhead. The traffic
on this line is over 100 trains a day in each direction. Between
Hadfield and Woodhead there are Up and Down loops, not continuous,
on which freight trains can be stabled (permissive block) to enable the
fasts, passenger or freight, to go through. In 1962/63 winter some of
these loops were blocked by snow which prevented their use for
freights with consequent delays on the main lines. To clear the loops,
trains of empty wagons with several brake vans of labourers were
sent up. This occurred on several days. The cost and waste of
labour were excessive yet the job could have been done easily with a
snow blower and a small staff in a fraction of the time. A blower
throws the snow away from the tracks, and that is the end of it. Of
course, that cannot be done in a built-up area in Britain any more than
it can in North America or Europe-but the blower can be used to
load wagons with snow in such conditions at a rate of about three
minutes per wagon. And that canxiot be done with hand labour
equipped with shovels. Apart from these considerations there is the
fact that rotary ploughs can clear the tracks when it is a physical
impossibility for push ploughs to do so.
Labour is scarce and expensive-and slow. There has always
been a tendency in Britain to use labour instead of mechanical power,
but this cannot be afforded today. It must be appreciated that it is
cheaper to possess proper equipment and not to use it often, than to
need it in a hurry and not to have it I

Mr. T. Matthewson-Dick (Vice-President) agreed with much of
the criticism the Author had levelled at British Kailwaymen for not
making a more convincing start to provide more snowfighting equip-
ment, but the Author had also provided many of the reasons.
The first thing, therefore, was to congratulate him in producing
one of those useful papers for which the Institution was famous and
which provided a library of information upon which all railwaymen
could call. He also congratulated him on his personal public relations
for having arranged the Paper to be read on this particular date; there
had already been a snowstorm or two and during the previous week
the electricity and gas supply industries were called to account in the
Press for their inefficiency. It was to be kept in mind that most of
the ground equipment suggested by the Author worked either by gas
or electricity! The British Railways had just recently gone into the
public Press to reassure the public how well they had provided for
this winter; a significant sentence read: “The approaching winter will
find British Railways better equipped than ever to deal with the bad
weather” and the text went on to describe what had been done in the
way of point heaters and so on. It was a touching faith in the British
Railways engineers, and he prayed that this faith would be justified.
Mr. Matthewson-Dick said that the Author had set out most of
the alternatives that were available now-his own remarks were based
on railway snowfighting experience over 30 years, mostly in the north-
east of England and the south of Scotland.
The constant repetition of comment on the 1962-63 winter in the
Paper showed the author might have had difficulty in finding many
similar examples over the last 30 years-he suggested he could count
on the thumbs of “four hands” the winters which had really caused
much trouble.
Hitherto, “manual” snowfighting in this country had been simple
to arrange; the men whose work stopped because of the snow were
available to do the work. But circumstances were changing; the main
feature which led to the change of thinking was the enormous reduction
in the civil engineering staff, the backbone of the snowfighting
regiments. They were mechanising their own work so rapidly and
were reducing their staff so much that in the Region with which he
was concerned, the civil engineering staff had gone down by over
50 per cent in seven years.
Men were also ceasing to be available for the other trouble in
winter, i.e. fog. The man to stand at the foot of the semaphore signal
was now disappearing-it was necessary his disappearance should go
in hand with the introduction of multi-aspect signalling. It was sound
economics to take the pick and shovel men out of track maintenance
on British Railways as fast as possible.
The re-shaping of the railways was making a contribution to
snowfighting problems, the branch lines were disappearing, and many
of the branch lines caused the maximum amount of trouble in this
The Author had provided some interesting figures in regard to the
density of snow, which gave point to the fact that snowfighting must
begin at the very beginning of the fall and it must begin with the

patrolling of the line. This required a very limited amount of mech-

anical equipment . In the north of England and south Scotland this
operation of “patrolling the line” was highly developed. The plough-
fitted locomotives were soon brought into action by the station masters
themselves in the problem areas; and it was not often a well-patrolled
line caused a lot of further trouble.
British Railways had developed a close relationship with the
Meteorological Office and were now getting a useful amount of advance
information, there was no excuse for getting the snow ploughs into
action late.
The Scottish Region plough had been mentioned-it was
relatively new, and British Railways would probably take time to
make up their mind about it before deciding how much more
mechanical equipment they wanted.
Particularly interesting was the reference to the “flanger”-in
snowfighting and snow ploughing, what caused the greatest problem
was the derailment of the plough or the pusher locomotive itself. The
problem of keeping the wheels on the rails was most important, and
probably one of the things not done very well. The Author might give
more information of this machine. In his experience Mr. Matthewson-
Dick said he had always avoided using bogic-fitted locomotives as
pushers because of the greater tendency to derail. Now diesel traction
was used, he was interested to learn what happened as diesel locomo-
tives were usually mountcd on bogies.
With regard to some of the other devices mentioned in the Paper,
the Author probably knew, although he did not mention it, that a lot
of useful work was going on to prevent the more serious effects of low
temperature and snow. Wherever there was a piece of track mech-
anism to be moved in the open the ‘sliding’ parts were protected by
low temperature grease.
One of the troubles was due to condensation in the point motors.
He believed that, to be entirely satisfactory, some sort of internal
heater was needed in the point motor casing.
Mention was also made in the Paper of the rapid increase in the
number of point heaters; British Railways Engineers already knew a
great deal about these fittings-almost every known variety was fitted
somewhere on the line. No doubt in time a standard pattern would be
evolved. The gas-heated ones did not always stay lit, and it was no
use having them to avoid the use of men with shovels if men had to be
sent around to light them. There must be some sort of reliable
remote ignition system. He would like to know more of the Author’s
experience, because in this country he believed the pre-ignition system
was a weak link in the equipment. Mention was made of electric
point heaters, this implied the availability of an electrical supply,
which was not always easy although it was rapidly becoming easier as
multi-aspect signalling developed. The gas heater was probably the
type which showed the signs of most success, if the pre-ignition could
be got right.
The Author had mentioned the need of throwing the snow some-
where-there were many more built-up areas in this country than in
North America which made disposal a problem as the rotary plough
went forward.

Mr. Matthewson-Dick said he was particularly interested in the

development of jets, because he had been in both the Regions
mentioned and therefore knew something of the early experiments. In
the North-East the early jets not only blew the snow away they blew
the ballast away as well. The slowing down of the blast effect
mentioned was interesting and more detail would be of interest. The
device could perhaps be used effectively for clearing snow from the
undersides of wagons in marshalling yards. He wondered whether
the Author was making the point that there was the germ of an idea
here for melting coal frozen in wagons.
The Author had dealt very cavalierly with the other troubles of
winter, i.e. heating rolling stock, the waxing of fuel oil filters, the
disruption of telephone lines and so on, each of which was perhaps
worth a paper in itself. With regard to any kind of cold weather
protection on British Railways, he felt a start must be made with the
features that caused the maximum amount of trouble. He was bound
to say, therefore, while thanking Mr. Parkes for the Paper, that snow-
fighting with the type of plant described in the Paper, was probably
the least of the British Railways cold weather troubles.
Mr. A. J. Barter (A.M.) referred to two points raised in the
Paper: the effect of snow entering traction motors and of snow and ice
on conductor rails.
He had experienced motor failures in 1963 due to moisture
penetrating under the commutator, but they proved to be entirely
from a particular batch of motors, and an unsuspected weakness was
found in a recently introduced alteration to the seal. The manufac-
turers developed and introduced an improved seal almost before the
snow had cleared. I t was interesting to note the different effects of
this defect on electric multiple-units and diesel electrics using an
indentical motor. On electric stock the Vce ring punctured and thr
defect was immediately cleared with little consequent damage, but on
diesels, earthed through a relay, damage developed until there was
sufficient leakage current to trip the relay, and some commutators
were burnt almost half way round. There were other armature failures,
of course, but many of these were dried out on site and in the ultimate
the rewind rate for 1963, after deducting the commutator defects, was
little different from that for the following year.
There were field coil failures, too, of which about half were dried
out or had other minor repairs, and the bulk of the rest were bottom
field coils. The bonded coil, which was then being introduced, proved
highly successful.
As over 3,000 of these self-ventilated motors continued to work
throughout the trouble period, he was unable to recommend a penny-
worth of expenditure solely as an insurance against snow damage.
One useful technique where the range of temperatures was greater
and more reliable than in this country was to raise the working
temperature of the motor in winter by restricting the air outlets. He
doubted if one could afford to raise it by more than 10" or 15" C
without risking greater trouble due to overheating than they were
seeking to avoid.
Snow on conductor rails was not their real problem. The radial

shoe was very effective in sweeping it aside, in contrast to the older

boat-shaped shoe, which used to ride over the snow and pack it into a
sheet of ice, leaving trouble for the following train. The major
difficulty left was freezing rain, or snow or sleet which melted and
re-froze on to the conductor rail; the heavier the traffic, the less the
problem. An interruption of traffic due, say, to blocked points, could
allow the situation to develop; similarly, early morning trains were
more susceptible. The de-icing fluid used was not a freezing point
depressant, its object was to prevent ice bonding to the top of the rail,
and therefore could not easily cope with freezing rain bonding a film
of ice right round the head of the rail. The fluid must be put there
first. I t was too late once ice had started to form. A melting agent
had been used experimentally but was highly conductive, presenting a
real danger as the equipment in the de-icing cars was raised to line
How successful was this equipment on a system with 2,287 miles
of conductor rail (926 route miles), and 26 miles of overhead wire? He
showed a map indicating the location of incidents on a Sunday in
January 1964, a month in which they ran 900,000 electric train miles
per week, which can be summarised as follows:-
Treated Area Untreated Area
Train equipment damaged 3 1
Assisted by diesel locomotive,
etc. 6 4
Assisted by electric train
Lost time
9 -

One of those assisted by a diesel locomotive was a two-car de-icing

unit, clearing a stretch of line that had not been used all day. There
was one report of a train stalling due to wheel slip and ice on the
conductor rail late the previous night, and early the next morning a
locomotive was unable to collect current from the overhead line owing
to ice on the pantograph. This was a fantastic proportion, whether
based on mileage, or on a number of pantographs versus number of
shoes. Otherwise he had only twelve other reports for the whole of
1964. The map showed a tendency for incidents to be localised, but
unfortunately they were localised in different places each time.
He himself happened to see one of the incidents while walking
down the road alongside the line, and he saw two units coupled and
move away without trouble. The next train also came to a stand,
lower down the hill, and a unit was brought to assist it, whereupon it
moved away solo, and with hardly a spark.
He would appreciate further information from the Author about
de-icing baths in conductor rails, particularly the maximum speed to
which they could be worked successfully, and if it was necessary to
ensure that current is not broken by the shoe entering the bath.
Mr. A. W. Manser (The President) said he had already spoken to
the Author about de-icing baths. They did not provide the ideal
standard of distribution of de-icing fluid-too little fluid was spread
on the rail and too much splashed on the underside of the rolling
stock-especially at points where the baths were traversed at high

Mr. A. W.Waterman (A.M.) said that in railway snowfighting

the old adage “Prevention is better than cure” was very true, and
while there must be expenditure on equipment and an organisation to
bring it into use, the effectiveness of whatever was available, whether
in material or human form, was dependent on accurate forecasting of
bad weather. How many times had there been, in this country, men
and machinery standing by for snow that was forecast but did not
arrive, only to be caught napping every so often by the sudden onset
of snow and icy conditions which arrived without warning
It was after one such occasion at the end of 1961 that he was
privileged to be a member of an interdepartmental. party which
London Transport sent to Stockholm and Hamburg early in 1962 to
study the snow and ice precautions adopted on the urban railway
systems in those cities. Some of the precautions had already been
mentioned in the Paper, but there were others which were worthy of
mention. Although winter weather conditions in Stockholm were
generally considerably more severe than those experienced in London,
the city being under snow usually between December and March
during which time an average of 3 ft. 6 in. fell, the type of snow
varied during that time from the dry, powdery variety to the slushy
condition so often met in London, which could so quickly turn to ice.
During the visit they experienced both types of weather, and the
precautions taken to combat them, especial1 on the Stockholm
Underground, seemed most effective. The &ockhoIm authorities
emphasised the need for reliable weather forecasting so that preventive
measures could be taken before or during snow and ice formation
rather than corrective action afterwards, and in this respect seemed
better supplied with accurate forecasts, presumably because of the
greater predictability of the weather on the Swedish Baltic coast rather
than because of higher skill in forecasting.
Snowfighting inevitably required the deployment of labour, and
in view of the high cost of this it was essential that men were called in
time for preventive action to be taken when it was necessary but not,
as so often happened in this country, to spend a day waiting for snow
which never came. In order to assist in this, the Stockholm authori-
ties had an arrangement with the Swedish radio and television service
for the broadcasting of a call for labour, and it might well be an
advantage if such a facility was available in this country. The city
authorities also made use of civil engineering equipment and labour
which was unable to perform its normal function during periods of bad
weather and was therefore readily available for such work as clearing
streets and pavements of snow. This source of labour and equipment
also existed in this country and could well be used for the clearance of
platforms and station approaches, thus releasing railway labour and
materials for work more suited to their special skills. I n connection
with this a special type of scoop was used, of cheap construction, con-
sisting of a large piece of plywood with a metal edge on a long handle
which allowed a much larger quantity of snow to be moved in a single
movement without stooping, than was possible with the normal steel
The usuaI snow fence provided at exposed locations on the
Stockholm Underground was of the horizontal open board type, the

boards being held on to the supports by clamps; a team of six men

could erect 200 to 300 yards of such fencing in two hours. At a few
exposed places where there was insufficient room to erect the open
board type of fencing well clear of the tracks, certain protection was
achieved by the use of a continuous jute webbing strip just over four
feet wide attached to the ordinary line-side wire mesh fencing by
The Stockholm Underground current supply was by third rail at
650 volts d.c. with top contact, and a protection board above the rail
was provided throughout the system for staff safety reasons, but this
had proved invaluable in keeping snow, sleet and rain off the current
rail. It did not, however, prevent drifting snow building up under
and alongside the current rail until it covered the top. The dreaded
cycle of events then took place: the train shoes rode up on the snow
and caused arcing, melting the snow, the water thus formed
immediately turning to ice.
To circumvent this, Stockholm Underground had two snow-
blower cars which contained centrifugal compressors and blew air out
horizontally below the current rail to prevent build up. I t was also
the practice on the Underground to put the current rail on the outer
or high side of curves to avoid, as long as possible, its becoming sub-
merged under the snow; and where severe gradients occurred a current
rail was placed on both sides of the running rails to give more and
better current collection. I t was interesting to note that the railway
had originally been equipped with de-icing baths, but with the de-
velopment of other methods of de-icing these had been removed after
definite evidence had been obtained that the snow tended to stick to
the layer of de-icing fluid on the rail.
I n Hamburg the reliability of weather forecasting appeared to be
no better than in London, but as the current rails were mounted
relatively high and were of the bottom contact type, little current
collection trouble was experienced. The main problem was one of
keeping points clear of snow and ice, and methods described in the
Paper were used for doing this. Traction motors were provided with
a small drain hole in the bottom of the casing and snow removed from
inside by regular application.. of compressed air.
With regard to the prevention of frozen equipment on rolling
stock, two examples from London Transport’s experience might be of
interest. The first long period of severe weather to which the 1959
Tube stock was subjected found them prone to ice formation in the
electro-pneumatic brake valves and the air feed pipe to the compressor
governors. The E.P. brake valves which were mounted in a case
under the car suffered because apparently water vapour present in the
air supply condensed on the valves as it passed through and froze, thus
preventing operation of the valves. I t was noticed that these thawed
out from snow after the train entered the tunnel section, and it was
evident that a small amount of heat would overcome the problem. A
125-volt, 60-watt lamp was therefore provided inside the case connec-
ted across the car heater under the seat immediately above, and it had
been found in practice that this provided all the heat necessary to
keep the valves free. The air feed pipe to the compressor governors
was a dead-end pipe, and at the time was one of the lowest parts of

the air system; water tended to collect in this pipe, where it froze,
causing mal-operation of the governors. The re-routing of the pipe
was a long-term matter, and in order to overcome the immediate
problem the pipe was disconnected and a teaspoonful of ethylene
glycol inserted. This again was sufficient to ensure the correct opera-
tion of the equipment.
Whilst the overall cost of snowfighting must be high, these two
examples did show that some measure of success in the battle could be
achieved easily and cheaply.

Mr. C. M. S.Maguire (A.M.) said the Author had commented on

the comparative immunity from icing troubles of overhead line electric
traction equipment, and this was broadly true. In his own experience,
the greatest icing hazard for overhead lines was freezing fog, when
there was an incredibly rapid build-up of moisture on the high voltage
insulators; it was so quick that it was almost visible. This could give
rise to Severe flash-over problems, but fortunately it was extremely
rare. I n his experience he had only known it to happen twice. Once
was in Glasgow in the early weeks of December 1960 when it occurred
one afternoon. Secondly, the Eastern Region had a certain amount of
trouble in the winter of 1962-3. At the same time the C.E.G.B. had a
great deal of difficulty on outdoor high-voltage transformer bushings
and also on the transmission line insulators. As a result the grid was
seriously affected on the cast coast. The cause was a combination of
very high air humidity and freezing temperatures.
The Same conditions could cause trouble on the foot insulators of
pantographs of electric trains. The Eastern Region had attempted to
combat this by fitting fibreglass shields over the foot insulators. Since
they had been fitted, there had not been the same freezing fog, so they
did not know if they were effective. There was an incidental benefit
that they had made the insulators a great deal easier to clean, and they
were probably worthwhile for this reason alone.
The only other important difficulty with high-voltage overhead
line equipment was the formation of icicles under bridges where
moisture dripped down and froze thus giving a stalactite effect, until
they touched the overhead line equipment. The method usually taken
to combat this problem was for patrols to go and deal with the vulner-
able points which were learnt by experience.
The Author commented on rectifier troubles on the Eastern
Kegion electric a.c. stock due to snow penetration. and eventually
metal-type oil wetted grills were used. As a result of these failures a
large number of units were out of service for varying lengths of time.
He would emphasise that there was no question of serviceable units
being withdrawn because of fire risk, which was the implication the
Author gave in his Paper. This was entirely a question of the equip-
ment becoming defective due to flash-overs of the rectifiers. As a result
of the modifications that took place, the following winter showed better
results, although climatic conditions are always difficult to compare.
There were four failures in the whole winter the following year, one on
an unmodified unit, and three on units fitted with new ducts but with-
out louvres. All units were also modified to produce more gradual

potential gradients to avoid large voltage differences between adjacent

live paths, and it was hoped that the trouble was substantially cured.
Mr. G. H. Hafter (A.M.) asked what was done on the North
American railways, where the icing was very severe, to keep ordinary
pneumatic equipment going. Mr. Waterman had spoken about keep-
ing electro-pneumatic valves from freezing, but there were other parts
of the pneumatic equipment where electric heating was not available.
For example, there were unprotected triple valves, and they could
freeze in bad conditions.
I n a written communication, Mr. Hafter added that he would also
like to know whether alcohol anti-freezers were still in general use in
pneumatic equipment in North America. He often felt that they caused
more trouble than they cured by depositing gum on the valves.
Mr. M. F. He$&-Phillipson (A.M.) pointed out that the question
of pneumatic equipment freezing in bad weather had been raised, but
mainly from the point of view of what could be done after the difficulty
had arisen. He would be far more interested to know the items used
by other railways than in Britain to prevent the trouble occurring in
the first place, such as ensuring that the water, if it could get down
the train, could not freeze, and secondly preventing the water from
getting any further than the main reservoirs.
Mr. K. Cantlie (M.) spoke about the Chinese Railways. In
Manchuria it could be extremely cold with temperatures down to 30°F
below zero, and even in Peking winter temperatures could be lower
than 10” below zero. In North China, however, winter weather was
always dry, and dry snow could be handled by rotary ploughs with
ease. It was where the snow was wetter further south that rotaries
did not work so well.
For points and signals they smeared all moving parts with thick
coats of grease to keep the frost out and in busy yards point heaters
were used. These, in the past at least, had been quite cheap ones of
iron or brass which gave remarkably little trouble.
I n regard to air-brakes, they had to be careful to see that air
pumped along the train should be dry in order that as little moisture
as possible reached the triple-valves. With proper moisture traps this
was not very difficult. Wagons picked up from sidings, however,
often had moisture in their pipes, but good traps and drain valves
usually prevented trouble.
Concerning steam heating, some care was necessary in cold
weather. Trains and spare stock were kept either in heated carriage
sheds or in sidings piped for steam heat from stationary boilers. Heat-
ing vans were used when found necessary. Sleeping cars and carriages
for special duties had their own built-in heating boilers. The type of
steam-heat connection usual in Britain had been superseded because
the hinged catches often broke when being hammered to free them.
Instead they used what was known as the ‘flop’ coupler, because thc
two connectors flopped into contact and were rugged enough to with-
stand rough handling. The ‘Gold’ and ‘Vapor’ systems of steam
heat had given good service. The external thermostats had the

advantage that they increased the internal temperature in inverse pro-

portion to the cold outside. Large diameter train pipes gave ample
heat to the rear of trains. He remembered being in the last coach of
a 12-car train in Manchuria in mid-winter and noting that the car was
perfectly warm.
In Siberia, where it was really cold, often 40°F below zero special
precautions were necessary because frost got into metal and made it
brittle. It was perhaps for that reason that axles and drawgear were
often abnormally large.
To sum up; in countries where winter conditions were always
severe, the railways made adequate preparations in advance, and all
went well.
Mr. R. 1. D. Arthurton (M.) was curious about the business of a
snow blower filling wagons at the rate of three minutes a wagon. How
were the wagons arranged? Were they in a train of wagons on an
adjacent track which had already been cleared of snow? If so, how
was it arranged that the capacity of the wagons exactly suited the
amount of snow put into them?

Mr. F. C . Matthews (A.M.) wrote that we are told that all London
Transport sleet locomotives and some rolling stock now have air blast
jets to blow snow off the conductor rails. Surely this is robbing thc
main reservoirs of air at the very time that the compressors may be
reduced in capacity by indifferent current supply; further, the reduc-
tion in temperature due to the expansion of escaping air is most

MY. T. Matthewson-Dick had said that most of the ground equip-
ment suggested by the Author was operated by gas or electricity and
therefore subject to interruption. This may be true for electricity,
but most of the gas point heaters operate on propane gas from
independent sources, i.e. bottles or tanks.
Mr. Matthewson-Dick had also suggested that the number of hold-
ups due to winter conditions over the past 30 years was small. The
Author quoted examples of 1962-63 because the events were recent
and therefore still in mind-and space was limited. Events early in
1965 are mentioned in the Paper and at the end of November, when
the Author was in Britain, a passenger train was snowed up near
Penrith and the line between Settle and Carlisle was blocked for two
days by 12 ft. drifts in several places-men equipped with shovels
could not clear the line; but a snow blower could have kept the line
open. The number of blockages which have occurred over the past
25 years are difficult to ascertain in detail as records are not
With regard to the forecasting of weather, Mr. Matthewson-Dick
had pointed out that useful information was being obtained from the
Meteorological Oflice, but .MY. Waterman had shown up the com-

plete unreliability of this Department. The truth of the matter is

that the climate in Britain is so variable that it is often impossible to
obtain accurate forecasts for a small area even a few hours in
advance. A slight change of temperature, a small shift of the wind,
and the whole picture was changed. Professor Gordon Manley would
confirm this.
With regard to the ignition of gas point heaters MY.Matthewson-
Dick had pointed out that it was no use having point heaters to avoid
the use of men with shovels if men had to be sent around to light
them. This is not true because, to give one example, only 12 men
per shift were required at York (339 heaters) to light the heaters
against a normal use of 120 men per shift when there were no heaters.
The Author agrees that much will have to be done for lighting the
heaters by remote control and, probably, this applies more to heaters
in remote locations than in big centres. The Dutch ignite at least 75
of their ARMA heaters by remote control and the Americans know a
great deal about this. Arrangements can be made to ignite a single
heater or a group by pressing a button in the signal box and the
signalman has an illuminated indication that the heaters are in
operation. He can have an indication also that the heaters are not
functioning or have been extinguished. And there can be arrange-
ments for automatically relighting the heaters in the event of failure.
Some types of gas point heaters can blow out, but the Mills AKMA
heaters are immune from this defect. Even so it is as well to see
that the gas bottles are kept filled-this is not difficult as there are
always four bottles with the Mills ARMA heaters, so that two may
be replaced when empty, without extinguishing the heaters. There is
a further and most important point to be borne in mind-it is that the
men who are going to ignite and maintain point heaters should have
complete knowledge of their operation and no one else should be
allowed to interfere-and that the installation and maintenance of
point heaters should be the sole prerogative of the signal engineers and
On the subject of Flangers, the only equivalent in Britain is the
plough brake used for ballast but these are not equipped with ice
cutters. These are much smaller than the American models but
possibly could be adapted for use with snow. But there is a difficulty
as snow fighting is not planned in Britain, there are no trackside indi-
cations to tell when the plough shares should be lifted, e.g. for check
rails, level crossings, turnouts, etc., so it is likely that there would be
damage to track and plough shares.
With regard to jet blowers, Mr. Matthewson-Dick had wondered
if the Author was making the point that there might be an idea here
for thawing frozen coal in wagons. Definitely not. A jet would be
useless for this purpose. The answer to this problem is infrd-red heat
which penetrates the frozen mass.
MY. Barter’s question on de-icing baths was answered in part by
the Chairman. The shoe does not enter the bath which is somewhat
similar to a cricket pitch marker-that is to say that the shoe passes
over a wheel, immersed in the bath, from which it picks up liquid to
spread on the conductor rails.

M r . Waterman had said that the Swedes borrowed city labour and
equipment for clearing snow from platforms, approaches and yards.
This is almost a universal arrangement in North America-not only for
city equipment but for that of private contractors as well. I t is part
of the planned snow-fighting arrangements which is so foreign to
References to frozen equipment on rolling stock were made by
Messrs. Waterman, Hnfter, HessL-Phillapson and Cantlie. The refer-
ences in particular were to E.P. brake valves and triple valves. Mr.
Waterman showed that a small amount of heat applied to the E.P.
brake valve cured this trouble. 41r. Cantlie pointed out that proper
moisture traps prevented trouble at the triple valves. The Author
would like to stress here that the frequent failure of train heating
systems (even before the advent of diesels with boiler troubles) every
winter in Britain was due to faulty plumbing in the coaching stock. AS
M Y . Cantlie remarked, “In countries where winter conditions were
always severe, the railways made adequate preparation in advance,
and all went well.”

In reply to Messrs. Matthewvm-Dick and Arthurton regarding

snow disposal, even though Britain is comparatively small, there are
hundreds of miles of line on which a snow-blower could throw snow
away from the track without causing inconvenience to anyone. Snow
thrown from a blower does not create banks, but spreads. I n built-up
areas, in sorting yards, and in the vicinity of stations, where snow can-
not be blown away but must be removed, a blower with a turned-over
hood can clear one track by depositing the snow on the other-then a
train of wagons can be brought along the cleared track and the blower
proceed along the parallel track, loading the wagons as it goes. The
wagon train is kept moving to keep in step with the blower so that,
when a wagon is full, an empty one may be pushed alongside the
blower. Another machine which will do the same work without having
a train of wagons, is the Snow Melter. This machine is described and
illustrated in the Paper.
Mr. Matthews asked whether the air-jet blasts from locomotives
and rolling stock were not going to rob the main reservoirs of air at a
time when the compressors might lack current. He suggested also that
the expansion of the escaping air would reduce the temperature at the
rail. The Author feels that the air capacity will be ample for the
purpose and that the reduction of temperature will make little differ-
ence provided it is snow, and not ice, that the air is clearing. He
suggests that the London Transport Board would be reassured on these


An Ordinary General Meeting of the Midlands Centre was held at
the Midland Hotel, Derby on 23rd November 1965 at 6.0 p.m., the
Chair being taken by hfr. A. H. Emerson (Vice-president).
The Minutes of the Meeting held on 9th November 1965 having

been agreed and signed as correct, the Chairman introduced Mr. G .

Richard Parkes who presented his Paper entitled “Railway Snow-
This was followed by a discussion.

Mr. F. G. Clements (A.M.) congratulated the Author on an
excellent and very timely Paper which had so comprehensively covered
this very difficult subject. He thought it appeared more difficult in
this country because they were not called upon to meet the situation
frequently enough and that may be largely responsible for their
apparently lagging behind what was being done elsewhere.
He commented on what had been done about the problem of snow
fighting in this country and said that if one reflected on the time when
all locomotives were steam, one remembered the valiant efforts of steam
locomotives and ploughs mounted thereon in combating snow, and the
inducements to staff to go out on such expeditions; they got extra
money and generally a “good time was had by all,” until they got
into red difficulties which they did very frequently and then it was a
tremendous job to get out of them.
As the Author indicated, there were a number of independent snow
ploughs already in service and some in course of delivery and it looked
as if they would be fairly effective. At the end of his Paper, the
Author led them to the consideration of choosing either the rotary
plough or the snow blower. Which should it be, and how should they
be designed and built? They were expensive pieces of equipment to lie
in a depot for long periods without being used. He thought some
insurance was necessary in this respect and probably they should have
a plough of this kind mounted on its own frame but propelled by the
conventional locomotive and supplied with power by the locomotive.
He said that there are already some diesel electric locomotives in
service which had three-part generators, one part being used for
traction, one part for auxiliaries and the third part for heating. He
was sure that this heating element which on some locomotives was
about 250 h.p., could well be used to operate a rotary plough or snow
blower. Bearing in mind there were many places in this country where
a rotary plough could not be used because of the structures close to the
track, he thought that perhaps a snow blower would be the kind of
thine; to go for which could load its own collection into vehicles which
might be available, and could be used as a pusher in other less favour-
able places.
The Author said that ploughing should be commenced as soon as
the snow started: whilst it was accepted that this policy could well be
adopted in Canada and America where the traffic density was not very
great, in this country one had to weigh conditions much more care-
fully when deciding at what stage to bring out the snow plough,
because the moment that happened, traffic was interrupted and that
could have very serious effects, particularly on the lines of high traffic
density. One was governed by meteorological forecasts which came to
their Control and the Controller found that he himself was the one
who made the decision. How did the Author think that decision

should be made; who should be responsible for making it and at what

Mr. K. Taylor (M.) said that the rotary plough would enable the
lighter type of locomotive such as the electric locomotive to do snow
ploughing duty in the deepest snow. In the past, deep drifts had
generally been cleared by using the heavier types of wedge plough
propelled by a steam locomotive which charged into the drifts. If an
electric or diesel locomotive were to be used in this way the locomotive
was likely to be damaged.
He referred to the point raised by the Author in clearing loop
lines on the M.S.W. Line. The problem there was that very often the
lines got blocked because the operators put a goods train into the loop
when snow drifts were being created and the train itself would help to
form a drift and so block the line. Experience on that line had shown
that if they had kept through running to the main line only when
drifting was likely they would not have been in difficulties so often.
The difficulty was more often than not caused by operating the points
and then, because of drifting snow, not being able to get them back
again to their original position. This created sufficient time lag
between trains to enable deep drifting to take place. He thought the
Author’s opinion about point heaters was correct and that to keep
points free would go a long way to overcoming many of the troubles
experienced in this country, where generally the depths of snowfalls
were not such as to cause immediate trouble and keeping the trains
running tended to keep the track clear.
He said he had seen on the Pennines a fall of only three inches of
snow create havoc on that particular section of the line because the
wind cleared the snow from the fields and dropped it on the railway
tracks. The use of snow barriers certainly deserved the fullest
With regard to the precautions taken to keep conductor rails free
from ice, these are expensive and have not always proved to be wholly
satisfactory. It was a pity that greater use had not been made of the
side contact conductor rail system as was used on the Manchester-Bury
Line, where no special precautions are taken when frost is expected,
and to his knowledge of the line the service had never failed to run
because of ice on the conductor rail.
With regard to overhead line equipment which was not very prone
to icing trouble, trouble was experienced at bridges or in tunnels where
stalactites of ice from the underside of the bridge or the tunnel roof
sometimes touched the overhead wires drawing an arc which could
result in the conductor being severed due to the high resistance of the
fault. Also, where water dropped on to the conductors, it would some-
times freeze and the ice would build up until bad collection resulted.
This ice could also present an obstacle to the passage of the pan which
could lead to it being damaged. The Civil Engineer should therefore
keep the tunnels and bridges dry or divert the water so that if it froze
it could not cause such hazards.
Mt. A. H.Emerson (Vice-president) referred to his visit to Russia
and said that they cleared points there by compressed air-one of the

most expensive fuels to use, and at a marshalling yard in Leningrad

they had a compressor house merely to provide compressed air to blow
the snow away. To give an indication of its size, it was larger than
the power house in Derby.
Mr. B. G . .Sephton (A.M.) said one of British Railways most
serious problems was train heating and this affected them whether snow
fell or not, and the Author had made a brief reference to it. Could the
Author, as a result of his experience and considerable research in this
matter, suggest how British Railways might tackle this very serious
problem? Surely all these problems have been overcome by other
railways; did they have a reserve heating of some kind?
Mr. F. G . Cl.arke (M.) asked regarding Fig. 2 of the Paper, if
there was any significance in the fact that the double-track plough was
being propelled by a steam locomotive on an electrified section. I n
other words, by putting the centre line of the plough off centre, was a
different type of unit required to push it, or would a high power I weight
ratio electric locomotive be suitable?
In his reply stating that any type of propulsion was suitable, the
Author observed that he was surprised more use was not made of this
type of plough in this country, as it was in regular use in parts of
Iiorth America where the vertical centre of the wedge is set in line with
the off-side running rail.
Mr. Clarke then asked the following supplementary question-
As this type of plough must produce excessive side thrust and risk
of derailment across the adjoining track, what counterbalance is
required on the near side of it? Was there any special profiling of the
wheel treads and flanges to accommodate the side thrust to avoid risk
of derailment?
Mr. J. C. Loa& (M.) said in connection with camage warming
on British Railways in extremely bad weather, he thought that, in
addition to what the Author had said about design, there was also
something in the matter of organisation. The mileage run by coaches
in express trains waq relatively small compared with Continental trains,
and then carriages were put away in cold carriage sidings where, if
they had not frozen up on the journey, they froze up before their next
iourney. On some of the Continental trains where coaches were doing
i,ooo miles or more on a journey, camage warming was going on all
the time and there were greater precautions taken at the terminals to
ensure that heat wa; still supplied to the carriages.
Mr. A. H. Emerson (Vice-president) said on the electrified lines
of the western lines t3f the L.M. Region there was electric heating now
and there would be more supplies taken from overhead line equipment
to give preheating of all trains and, failing that, a locomotive could be
used to do it. He thought the secret of success was that heating must
be kept on all the time, especially steam heating.
Mr. A. H. Edleston (A.M.) said the Author had stated in his
Paper that British Railways could learn much from the practices on

the Continent and North America in so far as train heating was con-
cerned. Mr. Edleston did not accept this as far as North America was
concerned, because British Railways operated a large number of train
heating boilers which were originally of American design, but now
built in this country under licence, and to make these steam generators
reasonably reliable it had been found necessary to undertake a very
expensive modification programme and British Railways were still far
from satisfied and further modifications would no doubt still have to
be undertaken before these steam generators would be completely
reliable. Would the Author give his opinion as to what else should
now be done to achieve full reliability?
Mr. F. H. G. Wakefield (A.M.) said there was a massive pro-
gramme in hand for modifying the present steam heating arrangements,
and perhaps some measure of the success of these modifications was
indicated by the fact that some two years ago British Railways sent a
sleeping car which had been so modified to the testing station in
Vienna. During the test the steam heating was turned off and then the
car was subjected to 20" of frost; everything was frozen up. Steam
was turned on again and within 20 minutes every steam heater was
operating; all steam traps were unfrozen; everything was functioning
properly. A very large percentage of rolling stock had now been so
modified. Therefore, the Author's recent experience may have been
due to "boilers", i.e. a failed steam generating boiler on the
Mr. A. H. Emerson (Vice-President) asked if the Author knew
any other railways using electric heating for their trains.
Mr. G. C. Jackson (M.) said that one of the difficulties with diesel
and electric locomotives was to prevent fine powdered snow being
drawn through the air intakes and thence into the machinery. Whilst
the filters would obviously stop most of the snow there were some
occasions where the air from the machinery did not require to be
filtered and in these circumstances it would appear that special pre-
cautions would have to be taken to prevent the snow being drawn in.
Could the Author say what precautions would be taken on the North
American Railways to overcome this problem? Had they found that
any particular design of louvre was effective? He understood that in
certain Northern European territories the practice had been to fit a
piece of ordinary coarse sacking behind the intake louvres, and
although this appeared a very crude method it was apparently effec-
tive; however, it hardly seemed the correct scientific approach.
Mr. F. G. Clements (A.M.) asked if the infra red heaters used by
the Atcheson, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad produced any side effect-
beneficial or otherwise-on a train which came to rest beneath them.
If so, was anything done to ensure that this did not occur?
Mr. A . H. Emerson (Vice-President) said that the Author had
implied that not enough was done in this country about snowfighting
to keep a line open, or about being prepared. The economics of this

were something he had often wondered about. Was it really worth-

while trying to keep a piece of railway open in the Highlands or across
the Pennines when the worst effect of many snowstorms in this country
was all over in two or three days? Did it cost more money than it was
worth? Had anybody ever measured this cost? Last night, for
example, he believed the M 1 motor road was closed on the north-
bound lane for many hours, due partly to pile-ups. Nobody was pre-
pared there, apart from a little snow pushing, to deal with it. On only
two occasions in his railway life, the speaker said, had a snow blockage
been really serious and lasted several weeks and been extremely
inconvenient; on most occasions it had all been over in a few days. He
suggested that a plan of campaign should be developed and priorities
fixed for various lines which could be put into operation if a big snow-
storm caused wholesale blockage. Fixed diversions could be laid down
and those lines cleared; the other lines could remain closed until the
snow melted naturally, e.g. there are five separate lines over the
Pennines at present; it is uneconomic to keep them all open
Mr. Emerson said that to make a snowplough self-propelling
would mean that traction equipment would be provided which certainly
in this country would be used probably at the most for one week in a
year. The rest of the year that traction equipment would earn no
revenue; it would lie idle and still need maintenance. The answer in
this country, whether a rotary plough or a pusher, is to push it by a
standard locomotive, and if necessary have in that snow plough only
the power equipment necessary to drive the rotary equipment or pro-
vide compressed air, and the rest of the year the locomotive could be
revenue earning.
Mr. A. B. Boath (M.) said he considered the Author had quite
rightly emphasised the importance of point heaters as this development
was proving a valuable contribution to keeping the lines open during
snow or low temperature conditions.
As an extension to Mr. Clements’s question on infra-red heaters, it
would appear that damage to vehicles could be sustained if stopped
immediately below the ‘Sentinel’ type heater. It would be interesting
also to know where the moisture sensing units are located on this
Whilst there appeared to be a wide range of snow-fighting equip-
ment available in various parts of the world, it is obvious that the
frequency at which this equipment would be required would govern
the type of unit purchased. Could the Author indicate the approxi-
mate cost of a rotary plough which could be used economically in
The type of twin rotary plough indicated in Fig. 9 would appear
to be a useful unit, particularly for clearing open stretches of yard
sidings. Could the Author say whether the rotary units are readily
detachable and, with a view to use as a light yard shunter, could he
give details of the engine rating of the locomotive?
Where the topography permits, permanent snow sheds are
frequently used. The Author has emphasised that these are expensive
to build and maintain. Has consideration been given to utilising the

wide field of glass reinforced plastic units?

The Author has referred to experiments being conducted to
prevent coal or ore freezing whilst in transit to the consumer and that
cars are being sprayed with polyurethane foam which has, to quote
the Author--“twice the insulating properties of glass fibre and which
has self-adhesive qualities.” It would be interesting to learn whether
the polyurethane foam is applied to the outer or inner surfaces of the
cars and whether any further protective lining is applied. Reference
to the self-adhesive qualities is fully justified as any such insulating
media must invariably provide considerably better insulating proper-
ties than could be achieved by any type of pre-formed materials.
Mi. B. E. Cook (G.) said that with the end of steam locomotion
in this country more and more diesel-electric locomotives were being
used with push snowploughs. He wondered what damage these loco-
motives would sustain when working at full load down to standstill
conditions, as may well occur when charging snowdrifts at speed. The
previous worst weather in this respect had been the winter of 196213
and since then many steam locomotives had been withdrawn. On the
Highland lines of the Scottish Region, in particular, the sole responsi-
bility for snow clearance was charged to Type ‘2’ diesel-electric
Mr. G. E. Winfield (A.M.) said he believed that trouble was
experienced with the B.R. Type “2” diesel electric locomotives in
Scotland during the winter of 1962/63 and the frames of these locomo-
tives were bent. A number of locomotives to be used on snowplough-
ing were reinforced as a design modification.
The Author did not say much about the use of the miniature
3-part snow plough, but during the winter of 1962163 in Scotland this
type of plough was quite effective in dealing with soft snow up to three
feet deep. Since such ploughing would be quite effective for much of
the work in the British Isles, economies could probably be made by the
more extensive use of the 3-part plough.
Referring to the blower type of snow plough, were there limiting
wind conditions when such a plough would be ineffective, bearing in
mind that once the snow was lifted off the ground it could be blown
back onto the track nearby?
Mr. E. H.Osborne (A.M.) said that if, as some may suggest, it
was not economic to fight the snow, there may be no point in B.R.
attempting to do so. On the other hand, if B.R. were going to fight
snow, then the economics must be borne in mind. He suggested there
were two avenues of economics here. First, how much was it costing
B.R. to fight the snow? Secondly, the economics, so far as the country
as a whole are concerned. They were told practically every week that
a relatively short strike, in a car firm for example, cost about $1 m.
It probably cost the country a fair amount too in lost exports. Was
that perhaps the line they really ought to take? How much was it
costing B.R. to fight the snow and how much was it saving the
country? If the difference, as he suspected, was going to be ve
indeed, then perhaps this matter ought to be considered rom ;Y great

National point of view. Should not the country do something to enable

B.R. to fight the snow?

Mr. R. G. Jarvis (M.),in proposing the vote of thanks, compli-

mented the Author on an excellent Paper by an acknowledged
authority on a most interesting subject which had produced a very
lively discussion. The subject was one in which Mr. Jarvis had him-
self taken a keen interest and he first of all drew attention to two
points--one a minor correction to the Paper, the other an omission.
Reference was made to the L.M. Region employing double-line
type pusher ploughs and he thought that these would be ploughs of
L.N.E.R. origin used on the Manchester/Sheffield/Wath section, as all
the L.M.S. standard ploughs were of the single-line type. The
objection to the use of double-line ploughs was the tendency to apply a
lateral load which would increase the chances of derailment, but
double-line ploughs had also beein included in the standard types of the
Great Western and Southern Railways.
The omission concerned the very extensive tests carried out by
the L.M.S. Railway, in conjunction with Messrs. Rolls-Royce and the
Gas Turbine Establishment, between 1st March and 17th March 1947.
In these, two Denvent 1 jet engines were mounted on a container flat
from which the headstock had been removed, and during the extremely
severe period referred to, snow clearance was effectively camed out on
a number of lines in the Midlands, including the Castle Donington
Loop, part of the Cromford and High Peak, Bromford Bridge to Lich-
field Road Junction (near Walsall) and Saxby, towards Bourne as far
as Little Bytham. In all these tests the snow was fairly newly fallen
up to six feet in depth, and the jets cleared the track very effectively.
Reference was made in the Paper to the disturbance of the ballast,
the L.M.S. experience showed that this could be avoided by throttling
down the moment that the black ballast could be seen through the
white of the snow.
During the later part of the period, the jet snow plough was trans-
ferred to the Settle / Carlisle line which had been completely blocked
for the main part of the period of nearly six weeks. An attempt was
made to clear deep snow in a cutting close to Ribblehead Station. This
snow had been compacted by alternate thawing and freezing and the
jets were able to make little impression upon it. The only way in which
progress could be made by by breaking down the snow with shovels
and then blowing it away with the jets, otherwise the jets merely
produced a curved channel through the snow which deflected the
energy uselessly into the air. Following a morning’s blowing at
Ribblehead, which had largely emptied a 3,000-gallon rail tanker of
kerosene, someone looked up at the massive slope of Whernside and
exclaimed ‘I- !!, that mountain was white when we started”-sure
enough by this time it was grey.
The final test was made on the Glasgow and South Western Line,
north of Dumfries, at Auldgirth, as a demonstration for the experts of
the Northern Division, including the Chief Officer for Scotland. Much
the same experience was obtained and it was estimated that 13 tons
of snow were moved in eighteen minutes. The party then travelled
north to Camonbridge and watched from a bridge on the station a

Caledonian 0-6-0, fitted with an L.M.S. No. 2 snowplough assisted in

the rear by a 2-6-0 “Land Crab,” charge a drift at about 50 m.p.h.
emerging at the other end at about 15 m.p.h. and throwing an estima-
ted 110 tons of snow well clear of the track bed in about fifteen
The L.M.S. Railway had long realised the need for rotary snow-
ploughs to deal slowly and surely with drifts which were beyond the
capacity of pusher ploughs, particularly where trains were snowed in
and charging of the blocks would have been dangerous; high speed is
an essential prerequisite of effective snow clearance with pusher
One investigation was made in 1940 which became an engineering
recommendation but was not proceeded with on account of expense.
In 1947 two rotary ploughs were actually authorised but these were
not built owing to financial stringency at that time. Instead a large
number of locomotives were fitted with small nose ploughs, these were
to be used in the danger areas for patrolling and also at the head of
trains to prevent the build-up of snow between the wheels of the
following vehicles, uhich is the usual cause of trains becoming snow-
bound. Through the years these nose ploughs have been very effective,
in conjunction with the larger type ploughs for patrolling in those
areas where deep drifts might occur. The rotary plough must be
regarded as a last resort and it is very doubtful, if they had been built
in 1947, whether they would have, in fact, done any significant work
since then.
In recent years Kent has been the scene of some of the worst dis-
location due to winter conditions and yet the large standard steel
ploughs provided on the Southern Region, XIr. Jarvis believed, had
practically never experienced snow sufficiently deep for the plough to
be able to reach down to it.
The Paper had been a most interesting one and he had great
pleasure in proposing a vote of thanks to the Author.

Mr. Clements wondered who should make the decision to start
ploughing. I n the opinion of the Author, it should be the Controller as
he should have frequent reports of conditions in all areas through
signalmen and train crews. I n Britain, local conditions can change
fast and it is useless to rely on meteorological reports. To give an
example: on the Manchester-Sheffield-Wath Line in 1958, three trains
from Manchester were stuck between Valehouse and Woodhead (drifts
up to 18 ft. deep) late at night and there was no through traffic on that
line until 3.00 p.m. the next day. Had the Controller been advised of
the conditions building up, he could have ordered the operating
departments to get the ploughs moving and could have held back the
trains until it was certain that they could get through to their destina-
tions. I n other words, the Controller should have been advised of the
conditions by the men who were on the spot, particularly by the
signalmen at Torside, Crowden, Woodhead and Dunford Bridge, and
then acted accordingly.

Rotary Ploughs (Blowers) were discussed by Messrs. Boath,

Clements, Taylor, Emerson and Jarvis. I n hard-packed snow, in
cuttings and where there are long deep drifts, the rotary plough of
modem design is far superior to a nose plough because brute force is
useless and the snow is blown away from the track. Self-contained,
self-propelled rotaries are expensive in capital cost and, therefore,
possibly could not be justified in Britain at the present time. There
are, however, ploughs which were originally designed for use on the
highways which have been adapted for railway use-a good example
is the Sicard Snow Blower (Fig. 11). Today, there is available a
British-made rotary snow plough which is self-contained and designed
for fitting on to the front of trucks, tractors, bucket loaders, etc., which
could be adapted for fitting on to a railway flat car. Known as the
SNO-BLO and manufactured by Croker Engineering (Cheltenham)
Limited, these machines (there are several models) are extremely
robust and might be the answer to the needs of British Railways. The
cost would be comparatively small and would warrant numbers of them
being placed at locations where snow blocks are known to occur. These
ploughs could be pushed by any type of locomotive, though there
would have to be telephonic communication between the operator of
the plough and the driver of the locomotive in order to maintain
effective speed.
In general, Mr. Taylor’s opinions coincide with those of the
Author, particularly with regard to point heaters, snow fences, side
conductor rails, and the responsibility of the Civil Engineer in keeping
bridge and tunnels free of ice deposits.
MY. Emerson had stated that the Russians used compressed air for
blowing away snow from points. I t is also used to some extent in
North America. The air jet, blowing at regular intervals clears the
snow between the point blade and the stock rail. But this system will
not work in wet snow as the jet opens a small channel at the base of
the rail, leaving the snow above to block the switch movement.
Redving to Messrs. Sephton, Loach. Emerson, Edleston and
Wakefield, camage warming on the railwavs of Britain has been
unreliable from time immemorial. I n the main, boiler trouble has not
been the cause and the Author’s recent exwrience (November) when
there was no heat in the front portion of the train but plenty in the
rear (Manchester Central-St. Pancras) strengthens his point. The
unreliability of steam heating has been caused by faulty design,
individuallv or in combination, of couplings, valves, traps and general
layout of the systems. I n addition is the fact that provision for keep-
ing the stock warm between runs is rarely made. I n former days,
steam locomotives were used occasionally for heating carriage stock
while waiting, sometimes for hours, in a terminal. But more often
stock was brought into the station cold in the hope that it would have
warmed up by the time the train was ready to depart. In North
America, all camage sidings, and tracks in passenger terminals, are
equipped with steam pipes at the end of the track. Waiting stock is
connected to the steam supply, so remains warm always. The Author

is glad to note that a new steam-producing plant has been completed

at Swansea High Street (W.R.) for the purpose of heating waiting
passenger stock.
The Author has been given to understand that the ultimate aim in
Britain is to heat all coaching stock by electricity. This should be
simpler and less liable to trouble than steam, but two important points
must be understood and provided for at the outset. First, that diesel-
electric locomotives equipped with generating capacity for carriage
heating must be employed to take over trains starting their journeys
on electrified lines (e.g. on the Euston-Glasgow run where the change-
over takes place at Crewe) and, secondly, that provision must be made
to keep coaching stock warm between runs-whether in stations or in
the open on sidings. While there are a few diesel-electric locomotives
in North America fitted with steam boilers (which may cause some
trouble as in Britain), the normal method is to use steam generating
cars which are placed at the head end behind the locomotives. As the
steaming units have ample capacity, there is rarely any heating trouble
- e v e n on trains 20 cars long.
Messrs. Clarke and Tarvis asked a b u t double-track push ploughs.
The propelling unit required for a double-track is the same as for a
single-track plough. Excessive side thrust can be discounted on a D / T
plough when it is appreciated that a S/T plough frequently encounters
drifts which are much higher on one side, thus causing a heavy side
thrust. I n other words, side thrust is a hazard with either type. There
is no special profiling of wheel treads and flanges.
Replying to MY. Jackson, fine powdered snow in air intakes is a
vexatious problem because in a storm of fine powdered snow the inside
of an engine compartment can be comparable with a raging blizzard.
Oil-wetted grills on all air intakes might be a solution but, in the
Author’s opinion, too expensive and complicated. Coarse sacking
behind the louvres mav not be scientific but, if it is effective, why not
use it-especially in Britain wherc fine powdered snow occurs less
frequently than in other places?
Messrs. Boath and Clements asked about trains standing under
overhead infra-red heaters. In the locations where these heaters are
presently installed, it is unlikely that a train would come to a stand.
However, it is the Author’s opinion that, should this type of heater
come into universal use, some precautions would have to be taken-
particularly because of the risk of a tank car of liquid gas or petrol, or
of a refrigerator car, coming to a dead stand underneath the heater.
The danger could be eliminated by a short track circuit coupled with
a time relay which would extinguish the heater in the event of a train
being brought to a stand for longer than a safe period, say, five
The economics of snowfighting was raised by Messrs. Emerson and
Osborne. In the Author’s opinion, it was worth while keeping open
routes in the Highlands, in Yorkshire and in Wales, since in severe
storms the railways would be the only possible means of transport. Of

the five lines across the Pennines, adequate snowfighting equipment

should be provided on three-Manchester-Leeds via Huddersfield,
Manchester-Sheffield via Woodhead, and Manchester-Derby via Peak
Forest-these lines could accommodate the traffic from the other two
routes. The economics of railway snowfighting are not easy to assess.
The Paper has shown the kind of savings which can be effected by the
use of point heaters, but it is difficult to arrive at the total savings of
keeping the traffic on the move. Mr. Osborm’s reference to the cost of
strikes in the car industry was very much to the point. If main rail-
ways are blocked, many industries and businesses may suffer
considerable losses and the cost to the country as a whole could be
very high. The cost of planning with the use of adequate equipment
is comparatively insignificant.
In reply to Messrs. Cook and Winfield, it is a moot point whether
diesel locomotives will stand hard knocks in push ploughing. If used
intelligently, there should be no trouble, but if they are used to try to
shift blocks which even a steam locomotive could not move, there will
be trouble. Behind a rotary plough, diesels would be remarkably
effective because of their fine degree of speed control-this would apply
equally to electric locomotives.
Mr. Winfield asked about the wind effect on blowers. I n a high
wind, the chutes of the blower should be turned to follow the direction
of the wind. Some of the snow will be deposited on the adjoining track
but it is more likely to be blown well away from the line.
Mr. Jarvis mentioned the usc of jet-engined blowers on the L.M.S.
Railway in 1947 and although they were effective on some lines, they
were hopeless on others. This was in accordance with the findings of
the L.N.E.R. and the G.W.R. The reference to throttling down to
avoid disturbance of the ballast was interesting in that the blowers on
the New York Central make use of this very important feature of
reducing the pressure on the road surface.
Mr. Roath asked about moisture sensing units for ‘Sentinel’
heaters. These are located on a post about 4 ft. high close to the
switch area but out of range of the overhead heater.
On the subject of foam-coated coal and ore wagons, raised b y
Mr. Roath, extensive experiments are being carried out by the Penn-
sylvania and the Bessemer & Lake Erie Railroads, with some evidence
of success. Satisfactory application of the polyurethane foam requires
that the metal surfaces be above 65°F and, apart from cleanliness, no
special preparation is required. The foam is applied to the exterior of
the wagons to a thickness of two inches bv means of a mixing unit and
spray gun; and considerable operator skill is required in the applica-
tion. The theory behind the insulation is to retain the inherent heat of
the raw material. I n the States, the cost is said to be low. However,
the Author is of the opinion that, for British conditions, car thawing
sheds using infra-red heat, 1oca;t;d at the consumers’ plants remote
from the coal fields, i.e. where merry-go-round” trains do not run,
would be more satisfactory and economical.


An Ordinary General Meeting of the Manchester Centre was held
at the Renold Building, Manchester College of Science and Technology
on 24th November 1965 at 6.30 p.m., the Chair being taken by
Mr. D. Patrick (Member).
The Minutes of the Meeting held on 13th October 1965 having
been agreed and signed as correct, the Chairman introduced Mr. G.
Richard Parkes who presented his Paper entitled “Railway

This was followed by a discussion.

Mr. C. L. Kelly (A.M.) said he thought it would be remiss to
let the Author’s remarks pass regarding the unpreparedness or the
“couldn’t care less” attitude of the railways on the question of snow
clearing. He agreed with the need for some improved equipment and
point heating installations, also there might be something in what the
Author said in regard to rotary ploughs. Mr. Kelly said that the
emphasis must always be on prevention rather than cure, i.e. to
prevent snow blocking the railway in the first place, and it might be
of interest to know that on the North Western line of the London Mid-
land Region, there were some 30/40 steam locomotives which were
fitted with small ploughs (small nose ploughs), and also a number
adapted for fitting with a larger type of plough. I n addition a number
of diesel locomotives were equipped with the nose plough and there
were the new independent ploughs mentioned by the Author. I t was
his contention that the small ploughs should do the job in the first
instance; they should keep the route clear and it was the deployment
of these that he thought was the problem. From his own experience,
there had been a good deal of planning put into the question of clear-
ing snow when snow was imminent. Ploughs were fitted and trains
were reduced in size, banking locomotives were made available, and
furthermore, patrol locomotives were used to keep running over the
track-this was the crux of the matter. As a matter of interest, his
own experience on the North American Continent was some 20 y e a s
ago, and when travelling from Halifax to Montreal in blizzard condi-
tions the train was 18 hours late, which speaks for itself-the
difficulties are the same.
Mr. J. Trainer (M.) supported Mr. Kelly. The statement that we
had no plans was just not true, the fact was that those plans were not
good enough as no-one seemed to be able to foresee the peculiar diffi-
culties that arise. There seemed one fact missing in the Paper-there
was no mention of the human element. I n 1947, he was Shedmaster
at Hellifield and at one time had 27 snow ploughs working from the
Depot. The plans appeared to be good-two snowploughs tender to
tender, with a converted brake van in between to carry permanent way
staff, whose job it was to dig the snowploughs out if they were stuck,
but when the men were told that they should ride in this brake van,
they were not keen to do SO because of the risk of injury when the

plough hit a sizeable snow drift. He stated that in many cases, it was
the small things that caused serious trouble, and cited sleeper crossings
between platforms at small wayside stations which became raised
above rail level because of frost, and eventually were torn up and
lodged in the motion of the snowplough locomotive. He thought we
were a bit more advanced than the Author gave the L.M.S. Railway
credit for, and recalled that in 1947 one frozen snow drift between
Dent Head and Dent was cleared by using two mechanical nawies
loading the snow into Engineers' low-sided wagons which were later
taken away and emptied over a viaduct. He questioned the statement
made by the Author that the jet snow ploughs were a success on the
London Midland Region; in his experience on the Settle-Carlisle line,
this was not correct.
Mr. K. R. Brown (M.) said the Author appeared to report
favourably on propane gas heaters. Experience at Crewe Station area
had been far from satisfactory, constant re-lighting having had to
take place. He would like to know from the Author's experience
whether, irrespective of cost, for reliability maintenance and general
performance, electric heaters were in fact the best solution.
He had had a great deal of experience on the ManChester1
SheffieldIWath electrified lines, including keeping the line open during
winter snow storms. As the line was predominantly freight the policy
had been to keep the fast lines open by regular running of trains or
light engines, allowing the accumulation of snow to pile up on the
slow lines. There was one aspect which had not been mentioned and
that was that as Engineers concerned with keeping the lines open
during snow storms, they relied on their operating friends and quite
often by the time notification had been received or the call put out and
put into operation, the position had become serious. He hoped this
would now improve under the Divisional organisation.
Mr. R. S. Faragher (V.) said it was true that the installation of
Mills Arma heaters at Crewe had not functioned to the normal
standard, and a thorough investigation had been made in close co-
operation with the local Divisional Engineer and Research Department
of British Railways. During the normal summer maintenance a careful
examination of each heater had been made, and since their reinstalla-
tion satisfactory reports of performance during the recent severe
weather conditions have been received. A very recent development
was a system of remote control for the ignition of the switch heaters,
and this overcame one of the big problems of sending men out to light
the heaters, as reports from the previous winter had shown that the
heaters had not always been used to the best advantage because men
were just not available to light them.

MY. Kelly had said that prevrntion was better than cure and had
suggested that locomotives equipped with small nose ploughs should be
run at frequent intervals to keep the line open. I n this he is perfectly
correct but, unfortunately, there are times when storms blow up so
suddenly that such methods will not keep the line open-drifts form
and the line is blocked. He quoted a journey from Halifax to Montreal
in blizzard conditions, when his train was 18 hours behind schedule, to
indicate that the difficulties in Canada were the same. The problems
are not quite the same, however, as the distance from Halifax to
Montreal by the Canadian National Railways is 840 miles and for most
of that distance is a single track road and the traffic is infrequent. I n
addition, trains may have to wait at Truro, N.S. for connections from
Sydney, N.S. and at Moncton, N.B. for connections from St. John
N.B.-if those trains have been held up the service is delayed. On
top of this is the fact that the track is limited for speed and crossings
have to be arranged with trains from the opposite direction-so time
lost at any point cannot be regained and may be cumulative. At
holiday times the position is aggravated by the running of duplicate
M Y . Trainer had said that it was difficult to persuade men to travel
in a brake between two locomotive snowploughs. The Author himself
would refuse to travel under such conditions because of the risk of the
brake being crushed between two heavy locomotives in the event of a
sudden block. Many serious accidents, with loss of life, have occurred
in the States through locomotives “jack-knifing.’’ Push ploughing at
speed is a hazardous operation-with rotary ploughs the hazards
disappear because they do their work with finesse instead of brute
Mr. Trainer mentioned that sleeper crossings raised by frost
caused considerable trouble when ploughing. In the United States and
Canada they have “Snow Plow Markers” which indicate when the
ploughs and flangers have to be raised. That is part of planning for
snow fighting.
Mr. lrainer is to be congratulated on the use of Mechanical
Nawies between Dent Head and Dent in 1947. Today the work could
be done more easily by front-end loaders. As Mr. Trainer probably
realises, arrangements must be made with local contractors to borrow
their equipment in the event of a heavy snow storm. This is quite
usual in Canada and the States.
Mr. Trainer had questioned the Author’s statement that jet snow
ploughs were a success in the London Midland Region. In fact, the
Author made no such statement as, until the Meeting in Derby on the
previous evening, he was unaware that the L.M. Region ever used jet
engines for this purpose. He was aware that they had been tried on
the L.N.E.R. and G.W.R. and that the results were highly unsatis-
M r . Brozem had said that the experience of propane gas point
heaters at Crewe had been far from satisfactory.
M Y . Faragher had agreed that the heaters had not functioned to
the normal standard but he mentioned that, after a thorough investiga-
tion, the heaters were working normally this season. As hundreds of
this type of heater (Mills ARMA infra-red) had been installed on
British Railways, the Netherlands Railways, and elsewhere, with

highly successful results, it would seem that the mal-functioning at

Crewe was caused by something not inherent in the heaters. The
investigation should eventually disclose the cause.
Mr. Brown had wondered whether electric heaters were better for
reliability, maintenance and general performance, irrespective of cost.
The Author is inclined to think that gas heaters have the edge on
electric heaters because the installation and running costs are far less,
more heat is provided where it is needed, the gas supply is independent
of national concerns (except for the few installations which use town
gas) and are therefore not subject to interruption, and methods are
available for the remote control of gas heaters, even in outlying areas
where electricity in quantity is not available, for igniting and main-
taining them in operational condition. In addition, track maintenance
is simplified as the gas heaters may be removed out of season.


An Ordinary General Meeting of the Scottish Centre was held at
St. Enoch Hotel, Glasgow on 1st December 1965 at 6.0 p.m., the Chair
being taken by Mr. P. G. Lamont (Member).
The Minutes of the Meeting held on 6th October 1965 having
been agreed and signed as correct, the Chairman introduced Mr. G .
Richard Parkes who presented his Paper entitled “Railway
This was followed by a discussion.
Mr. A. J. Powell (A.M.) thought it was true to say that when
someone raised the question of providing snow fighting equipment in
this country, and possibly gave an example of what was done some-
where else, the immediate reaction was that the snow in this country
is different from that which is experienced abroad. Is there any truth
in this?
Mr. I. M. Campbell (V.) said that he had been interested in the
Author’s Paper from the Civil Engineer’s point of view as this occupied
a large part of the Paper.
The Author had been severely critical about British Railways
Engineers’ knowledge of the value of labour and the potential savings
to be made from the use of machinery. I t could only be presumed that
the Author had been away from this country for a considerable time
because our knowledge and progress in the use of mechanical aids was
very much up-to-date. We are in this country well aware of the cost
of labour and on the Civil Engineering side in Scotland alone by the
effective use of method study and mechanisation the labour force
engaged on track maintenance had been reduced from 6,000 to 3,000.
The Scottish Region has several hundred point heaters in opera-
tion already. Their operation is excellent although there are a number
of minor drawbacks. The figures quoted by the Author for savings on
the North Eastern Region could not be accepted without some quali-
fication as to their interpretation.

Mr. Campbell doubted whether in fact there were any savings in

most installations particularly where mechanical control of signals and
points was still in operation. He was of the opinion that the point
heaters must be installed but the justification should be entirely on
the grounds of traffic amenity.
Mr. Campbell referred to the question of snow fences and the
snow shed on the West Highland Line indicating that he had inspected
the much more extensive snow shed provision in the Cascade Moun-
tains region of the Southern Pacific Railroad but that expenditure on
this scale could scarcely be justified in this country.
There is also some doubt as to the justification for provision and
maintenance of snow fences provided that ploughing arrangements
are adequate.
The desirable distance from the railway to the snow fences had
been determined by extensive research related to both roads and rail-
ways on the PerthIAviemore line and the recommendation is that the
fence should be at a distance from the railway equal to 15 times its
Finally, Mr. Campbell asked a question related to the control of
gas switch heaters: the Author had stated that these were controlled
automatically over a distance of some 200 miles. Would he elaborate
on the type of installation and indicate how this worked?
Mr. Low (V.) asked if it was possible to give an estimate of the
actual snow fall required to justify the provision of a large amount of
capital on snow ploughs.
Mr. D. Binnie (V.) looked forward to the day when the Glasgow-
Carlisle main line is electrified (overhead line) and asked the Author
to comment on the most suitable plough for this main line.
Mr. Sharp (V.) asked if the Author had any experience of fine
powdered snow getting inside electric locomotives. Mr. Sharp had spent
some time on the ManchesterlSheffield line and one winter the traffic
was stopped, not because of snow drifts but because very fine pow-
dered snow got inside the locomotives and short circuited every circuit.
Long hours were spent to find out which parts could be cut out and
what temporary connections could be made to get the locomotives
going. Various modifications were carried out afterwards, but still this
particular condition exists on the ManchesterISheffield line about every
seventh year, and the point was that when the modifications were done
there was a seven-years wait to see if they were successful.
Mr. C. J. Lamb (M.), asked the cost of some of the equipment,
such as rotary ploughs, for snow clearance.
Mr. D. S. Currie (Assoc.) said he was interested in the Author's
remarks about the flangers used in America. He asked if this covered
the possibility of clearing snow and ice from continuous check rails.
For example, on the West Highland Line difficulty was experienced
two years ago where snow and ice packed between the check rail and
the running rail and also in the four-foot space. This caused the trains
to ride over this hard packed ice and to become derailed.

Had the Author any solution for this problem?

Commenting on the use of ballast ploughs for snow clearance,
Mr. Cume said he would not like to attempt this during a snow storm,
particularly in view of the fact that the plough would be below rail
level in the centre of the four foot and would be foul of the A.W.S.
equipment which would be buried, and also would come in contact
with diverging junction work crossing the centre of the four foot.
Mr. Boyes (V.)thought that trouble with conductor rail icing in
the Southern Region probably interrupted more traffic than snow or
ice in any other part of the country. He was rather surprised that the
Southern Region had not done the same as the Euston/Watford line,
i.e. put de-icing equipment in the normal trains. They had it in about
10 per cent of the normal trains and the units were so diagrammed
that one of these ran over the line every half-hour.
Mr. A. J. Powell (A.M.) said that the freezing of coal in wagons
was a very serious problem and in cases where very large intakes were
involved, such as at power stations, it could be disastrous. No doubt
the Author will have heard talk about the “Merry-go-round” trains for
supplies to power stations and, certainly in cases in Scotland where this
will be applied, the coal will not be more than two hours in the wagon
before it is discharged. In those conditions and having regard to the
ambient temperatures in Scotland, did he think that such wagon loads
of coal would become frozen?
Mr. D. Rose (A.M.) said that last year they experienced trouble
in Scotland with snow between the rails. This had become packed and
the traction motors started to skid over the top of this leading to derail-
ment. Is similar difficulty experienced on the continent or in the United
States and how is it overcome?
Mr. I. H. Wylie (A.M.) asked how the snow passed through the
filters on the side of the diesel locomotives. The filters are oil treated
but still the snow comes through and gets into the generator and causes
Mr. Sharp (V.),in considering the length of trains that one hears
of being handled in Canada and America, asked if there was any
difficulty with the weight of snow camed on the train itself, because
there must be a considerable quantity.
Mr. E. Catchpool (A.M.), on the question of rotary ploughs,
asked what is the procedure in the States. Do they first of all use a
rotary plough followed by another plough to shift the remainder of
the snow from the top of the rails, because the centre of the plough
shares seemed to be about 18 inches above rail level? What happened
to that snow?
Replying to MY.Campbell, the Author is fully aware of the con-
siderable progress made in the use of mechanisation for permanent way

renewal and maintenance, but he contends that such mechanisation

has not been applied to snowfighting. Point heaters are comparatively
new on British Railways and they are doing an excellent job, but
rotary ploughs are non-existent and the use of bulldozers, front-end
bucket loaders, rotary brushes, etc. are practically unknown for this
The Author agrees with Mr. Campbell that snow sheds are an
expensive luxury and that their maintenance is costly. But snow
fences are a necessity. They are comparatively inexpensive to install
and maintain and they can save considerable cost in snowploughing
With regard to the remote control of point heaters, not only point
heaters, but the points themselves may be remotely controlled over
any distance. Power for heaters and points is obtained locally, but
the ordinary telegraph line can convey the control signals. This is a
perfectly normal arrangement in Centralised Traffic Control territory
where signals and points may be as far away as 200 miles from the
M r . Powell asked if snow in Britain is different from Abroad. The
answer is no! But snow in Britain and Tapan, both islands, will tend
to be wetter on average than, say, in Russia or the central parts of
North America. The coastal areas, up to a considerable distance inland,
in North America and Western Europe have wet snow, and such is not
unknown in Montreal and Quebec. Britain can have fine powdered
snow of which maybe the classic example occurred in 1942 when many
o f the points between Rirmingham and Glasgow were badly affected
from this cause-some of them were hard to find as they were buried
under three feet of this fine powdered snow. The Author congratulates
Mr. Powell for bringing up this important point which is often used
as an excuse for doing nothing.
To M Y . Low, it is now possible to estimate the snowfall necessary
to justify the cost of expensive equipment. A three-inch fall on the
Manchester-Penistone line can cause complete disruption by snow
drifting, but in other areas a ten-inch fall might cause little or no
In reply to Mr. Binnie’s point regarding overhead electrification,
the Swiss, the Swedes, the French and the Americans use rotary
blowers under such conditions without ill effect on the overhead lines.
In reply to Messrs. Shurp and Wylae, fine powdered snow pene-
trating locomotives is a problem which has cropped up frequently
but a universal satisfactory solution has not been achieved. Success in
individual cases has involved oil-wetted screens, coarse sack cloth
and inertial typcs of air-cleaning equipment.
To MY.Lamh, the cost of a rotary plough or blower on its own
self-propelled chassis will be 230,000 and up. On the other hand, a
self-contained machine which can be fitted on to a flat car (e.g. the
SNO-RLO made by Croker Engineering of Cheltenham) to be pro-
pelled by a locomotive may cost less than 22,500.

Messrs. Cuwie and Rose raised two points-the build-up of hard-

packed snow in the four-foot which derailed locomotives because the
motors slid on the snow, and the build-up of ice between the check
rail and the running rail, with similar consequences. The Author has
never seen a check rail in North America and he questions the necessity
of having them on main lines-surely they are of no practical use today
unless, maybe, for keeping four-wheel wagons on the road? The
removal of check rails would solve the ice problem. In other countries,
the build-up of snow in the four-foot is prevented by the use of flangers
which remove snow and ice below rail-top level. It is -possible that
the plough brakes used for levelling ballast could be used for this
purpose but they would have to be provided with means of raising
the plough shares when approaching turnouts, level crossings, bridge
rails and other obstructions in the track. Unfortunately snowfighting
is not planned in Britain, so there are no trackside signs to indicate
when the plough should be lifted. In North America there are boards
about two feet long with white dots, fixed on posts some twelve feet
above the track which indicate that there are obstructions ahead thus
enabling the operator to raise the plough in time to avoid damage.
MY, Powell asked about the freezing of coal in wagons. This should
be no problem with “merry-go-round” trains as the coal is in the
wagons for a comparatively short time and therefore unlikely to
freeze. On runs where coal is liable to remain in the wagons for two
days or more, the answer is a car thawing shed at destination and,
as has been shown in the Paper, the cost per ton of coal is very small.
Replying to MY. Boyes, all lines with top contact conductor rails
are plagued with the icing problem. The Author has given details in
the Paper and in answers at other Centres.
To M r . Sharp, the weight of snow which might accumulate on a
train of cars is negligible.
To Mr. Catchpool, rotaries open a cut and can return with the
side wings open to increase the width of the cut. Or they can be fol-
lowed by a cut-widener which opens the cut and deposits the snow
in the middle of the track to be picked up by the returning, or a
following, rotary. This provides more room for subsequent falls of