Rotary snowplows are railroad behemoths rarely seen, but one can be viewed up close starting next week at the California State Railroad Museum.
A 251,000-pound rotary snowplow will be on display starting Monday and continuing at least through March in the museum roundhouse. It is included with regular museum admission, along with a snowplowing exhibit, “Clearing the Way.”
The snowplow being readied for view is model SP MW205, built in 1920 and converted to electric in 1958.
Retired by Union Pacific in 2004, it was donated to the museum in 2008. The snowplow has been in the downtown shops since and has a new coat of paint.
Rotary snowplows are only used during very heavy snow years. They are expensive to fueland take a long time to clear snow, chugging down the tracks at 5 to 10 mph.
Still, they are essential to keeping the tracks over the Sierra Nevada clear for Union Pacific during extremely heavy snowfall. The powerful engine of the rotary snowplow turns a fan that spins and slices the snow, sending the white stuff high into the air.
Museum admission is $12 for adults, $6 for ages 6 to 17 and free for children 5 and younger.