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“Usul, we have wormsign the likes of which even God has never seen.”

I must take a brief break from grading to bring you some snowblower porn.

That strange moan you hear right now is the sound of a thousand Minnesotans moistening the crotches of their jeans. In a moment you’ll hear a faint sigh as they all go out to their garages to gaze disappointedly at the suddenly insignificant machinery stored there.

Well, except for the Minnesotans who are watching the whole ten minutes of this video a second time.

Comments

  1. says

    Yes, there are people who think a long video of nothing but a giant snowblower slowly working through an enormous dune of snow is fascinating.

  2. Sastra says

    Ok, just as well it’s only for railroads. It would probably clear my driveway quick enough, but I’d have to decide whether I wanted to take out my house — or my neighbor’s. Both have disadvantages.

  3. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Reminds me, time to change the oil on the snowthrower. Won’t gas up until needed.

  4. Rodney Nelson says

    The engineer has a real problem since xe can’t see anything but blowing snow. The blower operator not only has to run the blower but also tell the engineer what speed to make, if there’s any obstacles, if they’re coming up to a road crossing, and any other information necessary for the engineer to drive the locomotive. That snow blower was being pushed by two large locomotives but was making less than 5 mph.

  5. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Rodney, I also notice the lack of “throw it with the wind” on the part of the operator.

  6. Tethys says

    . In a moment you’ll hear a faint sigh as they all go out to their garages to gaze disappointedly at the suddenly insignificant machinery stored there

    My enormous Minnesotan snowblower* is very offended at being called insignificant.

    *Its a walk behind big enough to fit a person in the blade, and is twice my mass. I am a bit afraid of it.

  7. phoenicianromans says

    Snow? I don’t understand – that’s the stuff that lies around on top of mountains, isn’t it?

  8. Akira MacKenzie says

    If Arrakis was like Minnesota:

    “My brudder is comin’ wit many Fremen warriors, doncha know?”

  9. says

    I spend all winter pretending snow doesn’t exist and that it isn’t piled high outside my windows and it isn’t effing freezing out.

    I feel your pain, Caine. I had to put shoes on to fetch the mail this morning.

  10. FossilFishy (Νεοπτόλεμος's spellchecker) says

    I feel your pain, Caine. I had to put shoes on to fetch the mail this morning.

    You sir, have a very special brand of evil all your very own. Kudos.

  11. evilDoug says

    OK, I admit it. I watched part of it about 6 times – trying to figure out just what the equipment was. The plow and the two conventional locomotives are obvious, but does anyone know what the big box behind the plow is? Unfortunately, the camera pans past it rather rapidly. Just a big box of ballast? The generator for the plow? (I’m assuming the plow is electric.) Just a spacer car to keep the locomotives somewhat remote from the worst blowback?
    Jeez, back in the old days, they’d have just handed the head-end brakeman a shovel.

  12. chrisdevries says

    Despite the fact that I live in one of the coldest cities in the world that sees snow on the ground from early November to late March (into April occasionally) each year, I have never owned a snowblower. Oh, shoveling with actual manual labour is a pain in the ass, but it gives me some exercise in months when I tend to be more sedentary, and frankly, snowblowers seem to me to be just a tad too specialised, even for Winnipeg. We don’t get that much snow; a lot of the time, shoveling is just necessary to move what the wind’s drifted on the driveway, in the absence of any new snow – not much work. And it’s been a long time since we got any truly outrageous annual snowfall total; if I lived in New Brunswick, or like, the windward Rockies, there’d be a solid argument for a blower, but not here. I just cannot justify the expenditure.

    And yet somehow, that video still captivates me. Must be a cryosphere thing.

  13. Rob says

    Tethys -

    Its a walk behind big enough to fit a person in the blade, and is twice my mass. I am a bit afraid of it.

    Well at that size you sure as shit wouldn’t want to be walking in front of it!
    We get maybe 20cm of snow once or twice every 2-6 winters so life ceases completely at 15cm due to lack of preparedness.

  14. Dexeron says

    Aggh… I can’t hear (or read) Stilgar’s line there anymore without thinking of that horribl(ly awesome) “Dune Re-Edition” video where they redubbed Stilgar to be named “Larry” and Paul to have a terrible George W. Bush accent.

  15. Ogvorbis: Exhausted and broken says

    We actually have one of these where I work.

    Long Island Railroad, Rotary Snowplow #193.
    Rotary Snowplow, #193. Built at Cooke Locomotive and Machine Works, Paterson, November 1898 with builder’s number 55. Present tender is a Pennsylvania Railroad tender that replaced the original wood-frame tender after 1940.

    Does not actually run. Will never run. The boiler (provides the steam to turn the blades and plenum paddles) dates from the 1860s. We plan to (eventually) restore it for display.

  16. Rodney Nelson says

    evilDoug #16

    The plow and the two conventional locomotives are obvious, but does anyone know what the big box behind the plow is?

    It’s what’s called a snail, a cabless locomotive with a diesel-generator supplying power to the electric plow. A regular diesel-electric locomotive has a diesel driving a generator or alternator which supplies power to the electric motors on each axle. A snail has the diesel and the generator but no motors, instead the power is sent to the blower.

    Snails get their name because they’re the opposite of another rail unit called a slug. Snails have engines and generators but no motors while slugs have motors but draw their electrical power from a regular locomotive. Slugs are used in rail yards, where speed is not necessary but tractive power is.

    Jeez, back in the old days, they’d have just handed the head-end brakeman a shovel.

    The Southern Pacific first used rotary blowers at Donner Pass in California in the 1920s. There are some BIG snow drifts in the Rockies and Sierra Nevada.

  17. woodyemanuel says

    Seems the concepts of “upwind” and “downwind” haven’t penetrated those parts of the country yet. Or maybe there’s more to “snowblower porn” than I thought.

  18. jnorris says

    I remember seeing snow last January, I think. It’s very hard to tell it from rain in my part of North Carolina. I know they have it on some of the mountains, but it’s mostly manufactured.

  19. Lofty says

    Wow, A blow job to end all blow jobs.
    Once or twice over the last coupla decades I’ve seen a snowflake or two near our place. Couldn’t imagine living with the stuff lying around for months…

  20. sprocket says

    Yeah that’s giving this Canadian a winter hadron.

    We don’t see snow like that in the Toronto area anymore. Sucks to be a kid with a toboggan in winter these days but then I don’t miss those huge snow drifts as an adult.

    Still, train maintenance equipment is still pretty exciting to me. Um… now I have an urge to watch The Railrodder.

  21. evilDoug says

    Thanks, Rodney.
    I thought the most probable thing was a generator for the plow, but I just couldn’t see it well enough to get much of a clue from its appearance.
    I don’t think I’ve ever seen a slug or a snail. Perhaps they aren’t much used in my part of the frozen north. I’ve never heard my father use either term, and he was an engineer (started as a fireman on steam locomotives). I know he used to run wedge type plows fairly often, but I don’t know about rotary plows. A couple of years he worked for a short while in the winter in British Columbia on CN’s line somewhere between Prince Rupert and Prince George. He may have run rotary plows there. I remember him chuckling about a (telegraphed? – don’t remember) report about a crew that was clearing an avalanche from the tracks and how “some more snow came down and covered some people up”, or words to that effect – all very nonchalant (one person slightly injured when he got whacked in the head with a shovel when they were digging him out).
    I note you used “xe” for the engineer in your comment at 7. Women were just starting to work as engineers in the year or two before dad retired. My dear old non-sexist, treat-everyone-decently dad was quite OK with that.

  22. Furr-a-Bruin says

    Having grown up in Southwest Oregon and lived many years in Southern California – snow is something I go visit in the mountains when I’m in the mood to see it – and that works very well for me.

  23. McC2lhu doesn't want to know what you did there. says

    The Atreides snow blowers are all fun and games until the Bond villain from the Lazenby flick gets caught inside one. Red snow is icky.

  24. Crudely Wrott says

    Non railroad anecdote:

    I remember driving over Togwotee Pass between Fremont and Teton counties in Wyoming during, I think, the winter of ’83-’84 and the snow up on top was about 12-14 feet deep. A rotary plow had cleared the road leaving vertical walls of white on either side. It was like driving on the Death Star.

    I hit a nasty icy spot and started swapping ends at about 55 mph. The car bounced softly off on one wall then the other several times before I got gathered up and pointed in the right direction again. It actually was great fun. No damage and, lucky for me, no oncoming traffic.

    I sure do miss driving that highway in the spring and fall (not summer; too many mobile condominiums and tourons) for the drop dead scenery and the delightful driving challenge. It’s amazing how hard you can sling a 1974 Toyota pickup around a sharp, down hill curve with earth rising on the inside just an arms length away and falling off abruptly on the outside just past the token guardrail. And you’ll probably see a moose or twoose.

    If you ever get the chance to take that route, please do drive carefully and don’t slow down to gawk and hold up the locals. There are plenty of turnouts where you can get safely off the road and out of the way. Do take pictures. After you’ve stopped. Oh, mind your children. It’s grizzly country.

    Obligatory Wiki linky: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Togwotee_Pass

  25. davem says

    Wow, that’s an impressive use of lots of diesel to take some snow, blow it upwind, and back onto the tracks. You could vastly improve your cubic metres pints of snow per gallon by rotating the top of the blower to dump the snow in the proper place.

    Can we have one in the UK, please? I think it might have the power to remove the 1/2 inch of snow from the tracks that totally disable our rail system.

  26. truthspeaker says

    I also don’t own a snowblower, but not because I want the exercise. My house is on a hill, and there is a long flight of steps from there to the sidewalk that needs to be cleared. When we were shoveling on Sunday I suggested to my wife that we put in a wheelchair ramp just so we would be able to wheel a snowblower up and down. She thought the idea had merit.

  27. A. R says

    *There will be no snow this year, there will be no snow this year, there will be no snow this year* <– The preceding was the hopeless wish of a Michigan resident who hates snow.

  28. ChasCPeterson says

    How does the snow get removed in populated areas?

    front-end loaders, dumptrucks, and a handy river.

  29. says

    I’ve been told the current management of the UP refuses to use their rotary snow removers as ‘unnecessary’ if they keep enough trains running… Leading to a frustrating response when tons of snow really does get dumped in the Sierra Nevada.

  30. mildlymagnificent says

    That’s a pretty impressive throw to the side. Considering the not-quite headwind. Anyone know how far it would go if the wind were blowing the “right” way to push it straight – further and faster rather than sideways or back? Or in still conditions?

  31. Ogvorbis: Exhausted and broken says

    Nerd:

    Rodney, I also notice the lack of “throw it with the wind” on the part of the operator.

    By the sun angle and the direction of drift, they were throwing the snow to the south side of the tracks. During the winter, in the northern great plains, although wind can come from any direction, the strongest winds, the ones most likely to cause massive snow drifts, are more likely to come from the north. So throwing the snow on the south side, even though it was into the wind on this day, makes it less likely that they will need to move it off the tracks a second time.