Building on Snow Removal Innovation

The Evolution of Snow Removal

Snow removal is an essential service for both homes and businesses during harsh winter months. While modern snow plows are a common sight on roads today, the history of these vital machines dates back centuries. In this post we will discuss the origins and evolution of snow removal, focusing specifically on the first snow plows. From their humble beginnings to the advanced technology used today, understanding the development of snow plows sheds light on the significance of efficient snow removal. Join us as we embark on a fascinating journey through time, uncovering the pioneers behind these early snow-clearing devices.

Early Innovations in Snow Removal

Humans have been devising methods to clear pathways in regions prone to heavy snowfall for centuries.  For the most part, people focused on providing easier methods for vehicles to be drawn in the snow.  Innovations  for many centuries came in the form of allowing people to walk or travel more quickly, such as improvements of snowshoes or the introduction of snow skis.  The problem of moving wagons or carriages was primarily one of easing the burden on the horses or other beasts of burden.  There was little that could be done to make it easier for the beasts to traverse the snow themselves.

snow removal

Initially, the thought was to crush the snow rather than remove it.  Snow rollers were utilized rather than plows.  This method made the snow easier to traverse but created other hazards, such as ice.  Those who had wagons and carriages actually preferred this method as it gave them a smoother traveling experience.

The earliest snow removal techniques involved manual labor, using shovels, brooms, and horse-drawn sleighs. However, as communities grew and winter maintenance demands increased more efficient solutions were sought. The first recorded instance of a dedicated snow plow dates back to ancient China, around the 2nd century BC.  These wooden plows were dragged by laborers and were primarily used to clear paths for royal processions.

Pioneers in Meeting the Need

The concept of mechanized snow plows began to emerge during the 18th century. Innovators in this field in the 1800s developed a horse-drawn snow plow in the 1840s that featured adjustable wheel systems.  These innovations enabled more efficient snow removal and were the foundation for subsequent snow plows.  But the most significant innovation began not with clearing snow on the highways and byways, but on the railways.

A prominent figure in the evolution of snow plows was J.W. Elliot from Canada. In 1862, Elliot introduced the first snow plow specifically designed for railroad tracks. This invention revolutionized the transportation industry by allowing trains to operate during severe snowstorms.  Trains had been outfitted with wedge plows for years before, but these were only effective during light snows and snow showers.  Heavier snow, blizzards, and avalanches posed a real threat to railway travel.  Elliot’s invention provided the first real answer to clearing those significant snow events.

Elliot never made a working prototype of his design, however, due to a lack of investors.  Fourteen years later another Canadian, Orange Jull, improved on Elliot’s original design and partnered with the Leslie Brothers to construct a prototype.  This railroad plow proved to be very successful.  Jull eventually sold his design rights to his partners.  The Leslie brothers founded the Rotary Steam Shovel Manufacturing Company in New Jersey to build this new innovation.

Steam Power and the Rise of Motorized Snow Plows

The introduction of steam power in the late 19th century opened new possibilities for snow removal. Steam-powered snow plows, such as the Elliot/Jull and the subsequent Leslie Brothers’ design in the 1880s, became increasingly prevalent. These plows featured rotating blades and were mounted on locomotives, making clearing snow from railway tracks more efficient than ever before.  This inspired innovators to look for ways this could be brought to the streets of the rapidly growing cities of North America. 

The advent of the automobile in the early 20th century brought about a paradigm shift in snow plow technology. In 1913, New Hampshire native Carl Frink developed the first motorized snow plow in Upper New York State.  Frink had moved from New Hampshire and owned a tire shop in Clayton, NY.  His friend, Fred Daily, the owner of a bus line that ran to Watertown, dared him to make his idea of a working motorized snow plow a reality.  Frink constructed his snow plow and began plowing the bus route between the two cities by 1920. 

Frink’s invention, which amounted to attaching a large wedge plow to the undercarriage of his Duplex truck, quickly gained popularity due to its ability to clear snow from roads swiftly.  It had issues from the beginning, but it was a major effect on the snow removal industry.

Brancato is Thankful to Snow Removal Pioneers

Since 1990 we have been serving commercial customers with unsurpassed excellence in snow removal.  We are building on the many innovators in our industry have done.  Our industry serves people in the face of some of the harshest conditions in the cities and towns of the world.  When others are headed inside, our experienced and reliable staff are headed out.  We meet those conditions head-on with the determination to make traveling safer and easier.

Brancato is proud to provide those services in Chicago, New York City, northern New Jersey, and Buffalo, NY.  We will serve you with staff that have decades of experience and the best equipment available.  We meet all challenges, from small grocery markets to airport tarmacs.  Whatever you need cleared, we are your best choice to get it done.

Contact us today!

Now is the time to get your quote for the best snow removal service in the area.  Contact us today to get your free, no-obligation quote or just get more information about our company.  We know that you will not be disappointed!