SACRAMENTO, Calif. – For a limited time, visitors to the California State Railroad Museum have a special opportunity to see a 251,000-pound rotary snowplow from the Museum’s impressive collection along with a compelling new exhibit titled “White Out! A Collision Course with Nature.” The SP MW205 (formerly known as SP 715) snowplow on display 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 except for short-term displays at the Railroad Museum each winter.
As background, the rotary snowplow is the most powerful of all snow-fighting equipment. Railroads use them only when flangers, spreaders and other equipment cannot keep up with very heavy snow accumulation. The rotating blades throw the snow into cones, propelling it through an opening in the top of the hood. The snow’s depth and density determine the speed at which a rotary can run. In deep snow, the speed might only reach one mile-per-hour. The Union Pacific Railroad owns the largest remaining fleet of rotary snowplows in the country. However, even the massive and powerful rotary snowplow is no match for an avalanche or icy rails. Nature, it is safe to say, always has the final word, but human beings possess the hubris to keep trying to defeat it.
In addition to the eye-catching rotary snowplow currently on display, the exciting new “White Out!” exhibit also includes the following: descriptive interpretive panels, a backlit and visual panel array, compelling video with historic footage of a rotary snowplow in action, an exhibit case that features a visual representation of water content of “Sierra Cement,” a large sculpture (of foam cubes representing snow) that arcs from the snowplow to the third floor and showcases the amazing power of the snowplow, plus a fun and interactive element where visitors can get actively involved to move snow off tracks.
The historic snowplow and exhibit help give Museum visitors an understanding of snow removal methods used by the railroad to allow for year-round locomotive use. While Museum guests will learn how cumbersome, arduous and dangerous snow removal on the railroad can be and how the preferred methods have changed over time, they will also gain insight into the critical role they played in saving lives and clearing the path for freight and transportation. It is estimated that less than 200 rotary snowplows still exist throughout the world today.
Currently on display in the Museum’s Roundhouse, the rotary snowplow and companion “White Out!” exhibit will remain on public view through April 2020. Viewing the exhibit and locomotive are included in Museum admission: $12 for adults; $6 for youths ages 6-17; free for children ages 5 and under. For more information about the snow plow, exhibit or the California State Railroad Museum in general, please call 916-323-9280 or visit https://www.californiarailroad.museum/.
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About the California State Railroad Museum Foundation
The mission of the California State Railroad Museum Foundation (CSRMF) is to generate revenue and awareness on behalf of its destinations, while supporting the preservation, interpretation and promotion of our railroad heritage. The Foundation provides funding for ongoing support of numerous programs, both at the museum's Old Sacramento location and at the historic park in Jamestown, Calif. For more information, please visit www.californirailroad.museum.