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by Charles R. Lowe

Rochester, Lockport & Buffalo RR 103                                          photo by George Slyford

During the heaviest winter storms, railroads call out their rotary snowplows to keep tracks clear. To use the power at hand, trolley railroads used electric drive rotary plows. Electric motors in the rotary plow’s trucks provided motive power, and auxiliary electric motors inside the car operated the fans located at the ends of the car. The lead fan broke up snow into small chunks and powder while secondary fans propelled the snow up and away from the tracks. Such cars usually were double-ended, but at least one rotary plow (N.Y.S. Rys., Rochester Lines 014) had a rotary plow at one end and a wedge plow at the other.

Nine rotary plows worked the electric lines in and around Rochester in the 1920’s. New York State Railways had four large double-truck rotary plows (014 – 017) assigned to its interurban lines. Three single-truck plows were also owned by N.Y.S. Rys.; two (018 and 019) were used in city service, and one (020) in interurban service. The Rochester & Syracuse Railroad had one rotary plow (1001) that appears to have been stationed at Lakeland Shops near Syracuse. The Rochester, Lockport & Buffalo Railroad also had a lone rotary plow which was numbered 103. This car was stationed at the line’s Lyell Avenue car house in Rochester. Built in 1909, RL&B 103 was a double-end, double-truck plow. Gordon maintains that this plow was built by Russell, and indeed it does have a few details that are different from the more well-known Peckham rotary plows built under the Ruggles patent.

Rotary plows and other snow fighting equipment, while absolutely essential for winter operations in New York State, sat idle most of the year. RL&B 103, as photographed here at the Lyell Avenue car house yard by Rochester railfan George Slyford on September 17, 1932, had been out of service for nearly a year and a half. RL&B service had ended on April 30, 1931, eliminating any need for plow 103. Within a few months, the last remaining equipment at the Lyell Avenue car house, including plow 103, would be scrapped or sold as car bodies.

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