The most widely accepted commercial tool for snow removal is the snow plow. This is especially useful in large capacities. In modern times, a snow plow consists of a large pick-up truck with a large plow that is permanently attached. Some plows will an electric and/or hydraulics used to raise and lower them. Even bigger plows may be affixed to a very large tractor, backhoe or loader. Some of which may contain more then one large plow and even distribute salt as they plow. Aside from pickup trucks, snow plows can also be found on other types of vehicles such as a personal SUV or even a small riding mower that is traditionally used to cut grass in the summer. Snow plows are also used to mount on rail cars to remove snow from train tracks.
Where snow blowers work by use of an impeller to draw snow into the chute a snow plow works different and uses a much simpler concept. Using the force of the vehicle the snow plow is pushed either forward or on an angle. The blade of the snow plow captures the snow and forces it towards the direction of the vehicle clearing the surface previously covered.
The earliest versions of a snow plow were powered by horses. The wedge-type blades were made of wood. Since the invention of the automobile the snow plow was logically adopted and converted for use with vehicles. Patents for snow plows were issued as far back as the early 1920’s. The first infamous plow for vehicles was created by two brothers named Hans and Even Overaasen from Norway. They constructed a plow for use on vehicles which was soon paved the way for traditional equipment used today to clear roads, railways and airports. Soon after the Overaasen Snow Removal Systems came into being. Another milestone inventor by the name of Carl Frink was also considered an early manufacturer car-mounted snow plows. His company, Frink Snowplows, which was based out of Clayton, New York, was created in 1920 and still runs today under the name Frink-America.
Trains and snow plowing go back as far as the mid-1800’s. An interesting invention known as the rotary snow plow was created by a Canadian dentist named J.W. Elliot. A rotary snow plow contains a set of blades positioned in a circle. It works by rotating the blades and cutting through the snow as the train moves forward. The rotary snow plow was conceived after ongoing problems with the traditional wedge plow. The wedge snow plow, which works like many plows today, simply could not move the snow aside quick enough for trains. The rotary snow plow requires the power of an engine to rotate the blades. Usually, a second engine is used to assist in moving the train while the first one in front is responsible for removing the snow. As the blades turn the snow is lifted through a channel and forced to the top out the chute. The operator sits up top in a cab behind the chute he or she has the ability to control the direction of the chute and rate of speed of the blades. These controls eventually led back to the ‘pushing’ engine so that the operator of a pushing locomotive could have control. In areas where severe snow fall is called for the use of ‘double’ or ‘duel’ rotary engines were put into use. The engines would contain rotary plows on both ends. They were often effective in clearing snow from rail stations and in situations where the snow continued to accumulate after going in one direction.
The earliest rotary blades were power by stem engines while newer ones are powered by gas or electricity. Due to the advancement of newer technologies rotary blades are seldom used anymore. They are also very expensive to maintain an only used as a last resort by many railway companies.
Plows were a godsend to citizens in the late 1800’s. It helped ease the stresses of transportation. While horse-drawn plow was uncommon in most cities in North America in the 1860’s – it soon became widespread with popularity. However with the clearing of roadways came a new problem that we still see today. While plowing effectively cleared roadways it blocked the sidewalks and side roads that pedestrians used to travel on. Piles of snow lined the sides of streets. Citizens complained and even brought about lawsuits targeting plowing companies. Store owners complained that their store fronts were inaccessible to customers because of the mounds of snow left behind as a result of plowing. Pedestrians had to overcome the snow while walking down sidewalks. Sleigh riders also became annoyed as the resulting plowed surface created ruts and uneven surfaces.
The citizens of major cities across North America responded in several ways. They hired people to shovel the walkways and horse-drawn carts to remove the snow. Often, they worked in conjunction with the plow companies to haul the snow away into nearby rivers. This not only resolved the issues for pedestrians and store owners but also created a small surplus of jobs for the winter season. This can still be seen today.