Double Rotary Plow C.M. S. & P., circa 1916 – 20″x15″



A group of men stand in front of a rotary plow attached to the front end of a Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific engine. The photo is captioned “Double Rotary Plow C.M.S. & P.,” inferring a second engine with a rotary plow was on the back end of the train. Rotary plows were expensive to operate and only used when a blade plow couldn’t keep up with a heavy snowfall. Rotating blades inside the rotary cut a path through the snow, which was then thrown through the chute on top of the plow and then up over the snowbank. The photo may picture a swath cleared by the plow to reach passenger trains stranded on the east/west rail lines over Snoqualmie Pass following the epic 1916 snowstorm. Roslyn had seven feet of snow on the level after the three-day storm and was snowbound for several days until rotary plows cleared the main lines and then began a slow progression up the spur line from Cle Elum to Roslyn and then Ronald (Roslyn Cascade Miner, 4 Feb. 1916). The Roslyn Cascade Coal Company, another half mile beyond Ronald, was forced to shut down their operations until the rotary plow cleared the track to their mine. “Gentlemen,” wrote the coal company’s sales agent to one of their clients, “the worst storm known for over 30 years is just over . . . and if weather remains favorable may get dug out in 3 or 4 days.” His predictions proved overly optimistic – it was six days before the rotary plow cleared the track to their mine (Roslyn Cascade Coal Company to United Coal Sales, Co., 3 Feb. 1916. Roslyn Museum Collection).