One of the heaviest winter's recorded was that of 1898-1899. The piles were massive, trains and supplies were stopped, and many of the mountain's small communities were cut off for weeks at a time. From the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance's website:
A record snowfall hits Breckenridge and residents are forced to dig snow tunnels to get around town. Rail service resumes on April 24th, after a 78 day blockade.
|Miner's cabin in snow. Colorado, taken between 1882-1900.|
Photographer: W.H. Jackson
Source: Denver Public Library Digital Collections
There were some folks who were determined to do something about the labor intensive task of keeping town streets clean of snow. If you look at any of the photos from that era of our high country communities, you will see snow piles lining the streets, at times as high as two story buildings! That is a lot of shoveling. Not only where the streets and residential areas a concern, but the railroad tracks became extremely important in this matter. If the train could not get through the snow, and avalanches over tracks and trains were common occurrences burying both, then supplies, mail, passengers and other necessities were unavailable.
I recently came across a patent record issued in 1884 by a resident of Red Cliff, Colorado. One Mr. John Q. Day issued Patent No. 299750 for a "Snow-Plow". His design requires the machine to move along the tracks, and;
"...The snow is gathered on the curved mold-board n ... and is shoveled or scraped therefrom into the wheel groves by the shovels..."
|Partial Image from Patent No. 299750|
United States Patent Office
Even if you don't find one submitted by an actual family member, you can certainly find other ideas from their neighbors, giving you a great look at the problems they experienced in every day life, and the solutions they were trying to come up with.
I do not know if this snow-plow was ever used by any railroad companies, but I do not think it would be difficult to find out. It does, however, make for a very interesting topic around the dinner table!
Have you had any success searching patents? Do you have any interesting stories? I would love to hear them.