Snow Fleet

By Jerry Peters

I remember riding a snow fleet late in 1969 or early 1970, with the Rotary 3 and the 1065 as the power supply, and as I remember it, we had two or three ALCO's as motive power. We were sent out to rescue the Seward-Portage Turn. The Turn was on its way back to Seward when it ran into a snow slide just south of Grandview. The lead 1800 had hit the slide, and the front truck was about ten feet above the rail, on the snow. It had run-up on the packed snow and was stuck really good. I do remember the engineer of the Turn was Eddie Engels. The cars, maybe ten of them, and trailing unit were put into the siding at Grandview by our locomotives, along with the rotary and the 1065. Then our loco's, along with the Snow Fleet caboose no. 1043 went back to the stuck 1800. Using a couple of flat cars as handles, we yanked the 1800 out of the slide. What I remember is being asleep on a bunk in the 1043 when they started jerking on the 1800 and it knocked me around a lot, I ended up in a ball at the end of the bunk, and was able to get off of the caboose between jerks. In the process, the rear coupler shank was broken on the 1800 because of the angle of the unit to the track, etc., and a cable was used to get the unit back on the track, along with re-railing frogs. It was also put into the siding at Grandview, and the Rotary went to work blowing out the slide. On the way back to Anchorage, the 1800 were cabled to the trailing flat car. We had a hard time pulling every thing up the hill and the 1800 with the bad coupler was used to help, by pushing on the last flat.

I went out with the Rotary one other time, later, this time using an 1800 as a power unit (I think). It was to a series of snow slides north of Portage, I don't remember any derailments on that trip, but I do remember that the traction motors driving the wheel got very hot and the motor room of the Rotary was so bad that I had to get out of it. Also, the wheel would get filled up with snow and ice, and had to be cleaned out so that it could cut again. The face of the cut we were working in would also get iced up and dynamite had to be used to break it up so the Rotary could get a new start. It was all very interesting, and I wish I could remember more.



© 2005 Jerry Peters