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Rotary Run 2019

Friday, March 22nd, 2019


Western Pacific Railroad Museum
March 22, 2019 – Friday

On Friday, March 22, 2019, the Western Pacific Railroad Museum will be operating historic Southern Pacific Rotary Snowplow MW208. The FIRST RUN of the day will be a live snowplowing run. This is a rare opportunity to see an operating rotary snowplow up close and experience it plowing snow. This snowplow operates very infrequently, so grab your chance to see it!

See our historic Southern Pacific Rotary Snowplow MW208 IN OPERATION.

  • 4 seats inside the cab of Southern Pacific GP9 2873 which will power the rotary run - $150
  • 4 seats in the cupola of Denver and Rio Grande Western caboose which will be the caboose for the rotary run - $120
  • 10 spots to set up along the balloon track to photograph and film SP MW208 on its first plow run of the day - $50

Advanced ticket sales are now closed. Remaining tickets for the locomotive, caboose, photo line and general admission will be sold at the door on a first-come/first-served basis on Friday.
FIRST RUN ticket holders get to tour the rotary.

FIRST RUN departs at 11 AM. Gates open at 10 AM.

Following the first run, several more runs will be made with the rotary set. 50 tickets will be available to ride and experience these runs starting at 12 noon. Tickets are $50 per person.
After the first run, all ticket holders will get the chance to ride the caboose and locomotive cab on a first come, first served basis (locomotive cab limit 4 persons per run). Rotary cab rides after the first run will be available for $20 (limit 6 persons per run).
Between runs, visitors will get the chance to tour rotary MW208 with our docents and learn about its history and operation.

FRRS Life and Sustaining Members receive a 15% discount on EventBright tickets. Enter promo code FRRS2019SL to receive your discount. NOTE: This ONLY applies to eligible Life, Family Life and Sustaining members of the FRRS. If you are NOT one of these members and use the code, your ticket will be rejected.

FIRST RUN – gates open 10 AM, first run at 11 AM.
General Admission opening – 12 noon - Price reduced to $30
Museum closes – 4 PM

We expect about 2-3 feet of snow on the south side of our balloon track, enough to put on quite a show. The rest of the track currently has about 1 ft of snow on it, but some will likely melt off.
Museum store will be open. All proceeds benefit the Western Pacific Railroad Museum and our preservation programs.

Notes and Conditions:

  • As weather is unpredictable, we cannot guarantee snow levels. However, if weather does not cooperate and this event is cancelled before the day of the Rotary Run, all monies will be refunded.
  • The rotary does not have cab heaters. DRESS WARMLY.
  • The caboose and locomotive do have heaters. The caboose has a coal stove.
  • Parking area will be plowed, but it is a dirt / gravel lot. Expect mud.
  • If you are photographing / filming the runs, be prepared to hike out into snow.
  • Due to the nature of historic equipment, the WPRM will not responsible for mechanical failures or delays on the day of the event.
  • Member discounts limited to Sustaining and Life Members only



History of Southern Pacific Rotary Snowplow MW208

SPMW 208 at WPRM 9/16/2017
- Greg Elems
Rotary coming past Milward Switch 9/16/2017
- Greg Elems

Builder: American Locomotive Co. - Brooks Works
Built: September, 1927
Serial number: 67429
Original cost: $16,641.00 (approximately $235,000 in 2017 dollars)
Operating weight: 263,800 lbs

SP MW208, built as a steam powered plow in 1927, is a design based on the most common and successful style of rotary plow, the so-called Leslie Patent plows, developed by Canadian Orange Jull in 1883. First manufactured by the Leslie Brothers Machine Company, just after the turn of the century the rights for their design were sold to the American Locomotive Company. While other designs were also built, those created by Leslie and ALCo were by far the most numerous and successful. They were even copied by other companies and continue in use today. In a Leslie style plow, the large cutting disk at the front of the unit is rapidly spun by a large motor in the carbody. It “chews” its way into the snow and ice, braking it up and blowing it out the chutes at the top of the rotary opening, ejecting it far from the tracks. Many plows feature extendable wings that funnel more snow into the mouth and clear a wider path. SP MW208 lacks these extended wings and was keep as a straight wing plow for tight clearances.

Beginning in the late 1950s, the Southern Pacific began converting its steam powered rotaries into electrically powered units, installing large electric motors in the carbody and providing power using an old streamlined style freight locomotive that was permanently assigned to each plow. In this new service, these old locomotives became known as “Snails”. Unable to move itself, each plow/snail combination would be pushed by several locomotives. SP MW208 was the last of the company’s rotaries to be converted to diesel, losing its boilers in 1970.

SP MW208 (then numbered 7208) was one of the rotary snowplows involved in the rescue of the trapped City of San Francisco passenger train in January, 1952. Part of a two plow set that worked down Donner Pass from the SP terminal at Norden, California, the 7208 was caught in a snowslide along with the second plow and the steam locomotive pushing them toward the train. Later, a second, larger avalanche hit and this huge machine and its tender turned over, killing engineer Rolland “Rolly” Raymond who was outside near the tender. Another SP worker, Jay Gold, died of a heart attack due to the stress of his efforts, but they were the only casualties of the incident which had over 200 people trapped on the train for three days and hundreds more working in the blizzard to free them.

For a variety of reasons, MW208 was loaned to other railroads in the late 1960s and early 70s, including 10 days in northern Arizona on the Santa Fe Railway in December 1967 and some use on the McCloud River Railway. After it was rebuilt to diesel power, the 208 was the last rotary to work on the Western Pacific Railroad, having been leased from the SP in 1974.

The MW208 was donated to the FRRS by the Union Pacific Railroad.

Footage of SP MW208 on ABC10 television: HERE!