Weather-related Snippets

Items added: September 15, 2002

SPARKS (Topeka Chapter R&LHS) June 1953 Vol. #5:

Following are the Santa Fe locomotives on the flood-washed-out (Kaw River) bridge: #1035 w/tender 1055; #3167 w/tender 4083; locomotive and tender #4076. Same issue, separate item: Santa Fe officials ordered the Atchison District bridge over the Kaw at Topeka anchored with "held-for-disposition" steam engines parked in the shop yard. Accordingly, 2-8-2 # 3195 with tender #4085 went to the north end of the bridge, followed, successively by #4039 w/tender #4084; engine and tender; #4071; engine and tender #3270; engine #1035 w/tender 1055; #3167 w/tender 3280. Engine #'s 1035 and 1083 were 2-6-2 Prairie types, the rest were 2-8-2's. Not all engines on the bridge had their original tenders which belonged to them, due to changes made in engine-tender relationships shortly before the flood. 2-6-2 #1083's rear tender truck fell into the water leaving that part of the tank hanging off the broken end of the bridge.


Experience of an engineer with a snowplow.

Snowplow #562 left with engine #57, made the trip from Topeka to Atchison and return in eight hours Wednesday. So much time being made necessary by the unusually high drifts. When asked how he liked to fight snow, the engineer replied: "It is a little like the worst I were experienced before. Why, at Rock Creek, the drifts were so high that in plowing through them, the flying snow was so thick that I could not see the fireman on the other side of the cab." The train consisted of a snowplow, engine and way car, and left Topeka at 6 o'clock, A.M., and returned to the roundhouse at 2:10 P.M.


The Santa Fe paid $35,000 to feed passengers that were snowbound west of Hutchinson, Kansas in the past few snowstorms. Estimate at least 50,000 meals were served free to passengers . Laws of Kansas do not require railroad companies to feed passengers who are delayed as a result of actions of the elements; however, Mr. Ripley, Santa Fe's President, believed that courtesy was due the passengers.

A.T.& S.F. Auditor's Report 1/21/1887:

Three snow flangers #'s 1 released for service 12/23/86; #'s 2-3 released 12/31/86. Estimated cost $500.00 each. "The car on which the snow flanger is to be placed will be somewhat similar to one of our flat cars, but will only be 4' 8 1/2" wide and 21' 1" long. Will have two pairs of freight trucks and be equipped with hand brake. Under the frame of the car and between the two pairs of brakes (trucks? Ellington note) will be what is called the 'FLANGER', which is to be used in clearing the snow which becomes packed between the two rails of the track. On the top and in the center of the car will be some machinery, the principle of which is an air cylinder which raises and lowers the flanger, and which will be operated by the engineer of the locomotive hauling or pushing the flanger."



On July 17 at Coleman, Tx., a cloudburst washed out a bridge, a mile of track, and the roundhouse. Fifteen people were drowned, and many are still missing. Many dwellings and farms were washed away.


Another batch of snowplows of the butterfly type are being placed on the big 'battleship' engines preparatory to rough weather. A report from west of here tells of unusual experience in which one of them figured the other day. When one of the engines passed by a little station, a big pile of snow was heaved over through the glass windows of the building and nearly smothered the operator.


"Handcar Beats a Cyclone"
"A Santa Fe Handcar With Henry Meyer Aboard Beats Cyclone"

Claim Agent Henry Meyer has some sore muscles as a result of an experience with a tornado at Nettleton Monday night. He had work a few miles east of Rozel, and a gang of dagos were working near him. He saw the storm approaching and it was the typical tornado formation. With the help of five of the dagos, he worked the handcar toward Rozel and the four miles were covered in 'California Flyer' time. They missed the tornado, and arrived in Rozel just in time to catch the Jetmore 'Plug'. This is the second time Mr. Meyer has had the pleasant experience of dodging a tornado. He was on #405 last spring when it ran away from the big winds at Valley Center.

RAILROAD GAZETTE 12/25/1891 p. 919:

Santa Fe was completely blocked by snow between Las Vegas and Raton tunnel for four days starting on Dec. 13. The snow storm was widespread.

RAILWAY REVIEW 2/11/1918, p. 77

"Railroading in a Blizzard"

I talked with an engineer as I came down, says the correspondent of a St. Louis newspaper, and he told me that the storm in the Dakotas was the fiercest ever known. He had seen several of the train hands as they came into St. Paul, and they gave a terrible account of the state of affairs. All freight trains had to be abandoned as it was utterly impossible to find men to man them. It is hard to see how anyone could stand the exposure to which the brakemen are now subjected. The brakes must be put on constantly, which involves crawling along the narrow roof walkway coated with ice and snow. It is impossible for the brakemen to maintain an erect position, and they are obliged to crawl on their hands and knees, handle the cold iron with the thermometer 40 degrees below zero, and remain exposed to the storm for hours, as they never have time to go to the caboose. They have no shelter beyond that which they can find by clinging to the ladders between the cars, and they suffer fearfully. The engineer told me that dozens of men have frozen their hands and feet, and finally crews have refused to work longer, and taken the shelter in the caboose. Brakemen seldom work more than one year in the northwest.

RAILROAD GAZETTE 1/26/1883 p. 58

(Atlantic & Pacific) "A Snow Wreck in Arizona"

A dispatch from Albuquerque, N.M. January 21, says on Thursday evening, an engine on the A.& P. RR. was trying to force the blockade of snow between Coolidge and Ft. Wingate, jumped the track. A second engine came to the rescue, but, not being able to render the needed assistance, two more engines were telegraphed for from Cooledge. These started for the scene of the accident at full speed, and in the blinding storm nothing was seen in the way, when suddenly a tremendous crash occurred and fragments of the four 60-ton engines were piled up on the roadbed. Charles Lakin, an engineer, and his fireman were seriously bruised and several others slightly injured. Friday afternoon, the men working on the wreck, being exhausted from fatigue and cold, Coolidge was again asked for assistance and two more engines with a way car loaded with workmen started for the scene of the accident. The snow was blinding and the wind blew so terrifically that no object could be seen ahead, and the rescue train, sweeping along the track went crashing into the other four engines, adding ten-fold to the confusion already existing. Both the engines and way car were completely wrecked, but strangely, no one was seriously hurt. The storm was the worst for years. The danger lights were completely covered up, and the intense cold made it impossible for the signal men to be out.


"Santa Fe's Snow Cutter"

A wonderful machine kept housed in the Nickerson (Ks.) roundhouse. Standing in one of the stalls is a ponderous mechanical apparatus designed by the ingenuity of man for the purpose of aiding railroad service in the overcoming nature in one of her wildest forms. This is the Jull Excavator, the only one of that make in the West, and considered a triumph of the mechanical art. It has been proven that the ordinary snowplows are worthless when encountering a snowbank in the mountainous regions, or in cutting through the drifts piled high in the plains of western Kansas by frolicsome Kansas blizzards. The Santa Fe company, several years ago purchased the Jull Excavator and sent it west for service on the lines of Colorado and Kansas. Since that time it has seen much use, the last the winter of 1893-4. The storms of last winter were not of such severity as to make its use necessary. In form the excavator resembles a long, low built box car, open at one end. In the front end is situated the monster screw-like shovel. In the roof, directly above the shovel, is a trap door, through which the snow is thrown as the screw revolves. Extending back of the screw are two 17-inch Belpare boilers which furnish the steam so as to rotate the big screw. When in service a locomotive tender is attached at the rear to carry the fuel and water. The machine weighs 145,000 lbs, or 72 1/2 tons. Two large locomotives are always used in propelling the excavator.

TOPEKA STATE JOURNAL 2/02/1900 (Dateline Denver same date)

"Trouble of a Plow"
"Railway Stations Delay Progress of a Mammouth Machine"

The Colorado Midland Railroad has a snowplow on the way to Colorado Springs from the East. The plow was shipped from the manufactory at Patterson, N.J. last Monday. It is not very far on its way for the reason that it struck an obstacle in he way of a railroad station which it could not get by. The plow is a good sized one, one of the largest in the country, particularly as to breadth. It weighs 144,500 pounds, and cuts a swath 14 feet wide. It was only a little way station on the Erie railroad that the plow encountered, but the situation proved a puzzler to the special messenger that was accompanying the plow. The station was built too close to the track for the monster machine to get by. A track had to be built around the station. The question now is, how many more side tracks will have to be built to accommodate the giant before it is safely landed in Colorado Springs?

TOPEKA DAILY JOURNAL 9/22/1900, Article dealing with hurricane at Galveston, TX:

"When we reached Port Bolivar we could not get anywhere near the wharf to take us across the bay, and the track having washed out behind us, we could not return. The waters rose rapidly and we had to get the ladies out of the car to the light house. I had to swim to the lighthouse. There were 104 of us in all, wet, thirsty and hungry, and we were huddled together on the spiral stairs from 5:30 p.m. Saturday till 5:00 a.m. Sunday. The sea came to the top of the lighthouse door and shut off all ventilation, and being in the dark with a lot of women and children we passed a terrible night. On Sunday we found the whole terminal, pier, shops, buildings and track all gone.We lived on Sunday on stuff washed up from Galveston, and a can of milk we found in the overturned baggage car. Monday noon a tug got over from Galveston and rescued us. We had to wade a quarter of a mile into the sea, breast deep to get into the little boat of the tug. I got out of Galveston on Tuesday. Three of us secured a little sailing boat to take us to Texas City, and from there we walked 5 miles inland and were picked up by the G.H.& T. train for Houston."

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