Back by popular demand, visitors to the California State Railroad Museum now have the opportunity to see an impressive 251,000-pound rotary snowplow from the Museum’s collection along with a compelling and all-new exhibit titled “Snowbound in the Sierra.” With the historic snowplow as an eye-catching centerpiece, the exhibit highlights the dramatic story of 226 passengers and crew members who were rescued – with the help of crews working around the clock and seven rotary snowplows – after being trapped on a luxury streamliner locomotive during a massive snowstorm in the Sierra Nevada in 1952. The exhibit will include riveting narrative from passengers and crew, a special kiosk, exhibit case and video along with an interactive game.
The historic rotary snowplow on display in the Museum Roundhouse was built in 1920, converted to electric in 1958, retired by Union Pacific in 2004 and was donated to the Railroad Museum in 2008. Since then, the historic snowplow has been housed in the Shops in the Sacramento Railyards.
The historic rotary snowplow and exhibit will give Museum visitors an understanding of how early snow removal methods were cumbersome, arduous and often dangerous but will also highlight the critical role they played in saving lives and clearing the path for freight and transportation. Rotary snowplows were often used by the railroad as a very last resort – such as was the case for the City of San Francisco locomotive highlighted in the exhibit – due to the incredible expense involved. Rotary snowplows only moved five to ten miles per hour, had high fuel costs and required an elite crew. It is estimated that less than 200 rotary snowplows still exist throughout the world today.