Hap's Snowplowing Page

A. M. "Hap" Ramnes, my grandfather, was a Maintenance of Way employee of the M & St L Railway and successor C & NW for 51 years. He worked in many locations in southwestern Minnesota, Iowa, and South Dakota, and became familiar with a great deal of the trackage the company operated in these areas. I have been told that the part of the job he enjoyed the most was going out on the snowplow gang. He left a collection of pictures from 5 different decades of snowplows, snowplow operations, and the men behind making them work.

I regret that I never took the time to ask detailed questions about these photos. I spent considerable time with him after he retired while I was growing up, we were usually fishing or drinking Pepsi (NOT Coke!) at the pool hall or Ye Ole Fox on Fox Lake. I also have many great memories of driving around Sherburn in his Studebaker Lark three speed, and playing cribbage.

Snowplowing was hard and dangerous work but it must have been very rewarding as well. The dependence on railroads in the first half of the 20th century is hard for us to imagine now but at the time they were the way that many people not only travelled but communities recieved merchandise, mail, and fuel. When the lines were plugged with snow these commodities were not available so they needed to be opened up as soon as possible. I have read accounts of towns having the school band greet the arriving snowplow train as they celebrated reopening communications with the outside world.

These photos also show the danger inherent in plowing snow on a prairie railroad. Men were injured and killed trying to open up and keep the tracks open and it must have taken some special courage to ram a locomotive and snowplow into a drift higher than a man's head at speed. There was also the challenge of shoveling out when the entire train became stuck.

I have divided the photos by decade. There are links below to each decade. You can also see the retirement letter my grandpa received from CNW president Ben Heineman, and the poem my dad, Dave, wrote to honor Hap's retirement. It tells the story of a snowplowing adventure south of Ormsby. If you have questions or comments about this page please direct them to me here. On with the show.

Creamery Cut, December 1927

Various locations and equipment, 1936. Includes wedge and rotary shots

MSTL 456 left the tracks plowing near Hanska, Feb. 16, 1948

Alco RS-1's working with a Russel Plow, Klossner, MN, and melting snow near New Ulm, 1951

MSTL GP-9's push a Russel through a cut, 1962

Other miscellaneous photos

Take me back to Hap's Snowplowing Page