Trains and snow aren't as bad a mix as you might think. With even the shortest trains weighing around 4000 lbs and many weighing thousands of pounds more, the train's mass tends to keep them on the rails, eliminating most of the danger snow might pose.
But that's not to say that snows aren't a source of danger for trains. But the quantity of snow necessary to pose a risk are extremely substantial; think a number of feet, rather than mere inches.
But there are places, Montana included, where foot upon foot of snow can be expected in the deepest parts of winter. And it is for places like Montana that the snow removal train had to be invented.
If you're anything like us, trains can still summon some excitement not unlike our childhood yen for cowboys and Indians. We're devoted trainspotters - are you? The pensive whistle of a train in the night is second only to the cry of a wolf in its ability to evoke the romance of the West.
So maybe you'll be as excited as we are by the image of a snow-plowing train doing its thirsty work.
In the old days, the snow train would be fitted with a simple wooden wedge designed to force snow off to the sides of the track. The wedge would be painted over and then iced to give it a smooth surface. Later, the wedge would be replaced by a rotary blade system that was even more effective. Before starting, crews sometimes have to dig into the bank of snow ahead of the engine in order to give the blades purchase, and after that, it is smooth sailing. Or training.
See the video of hard-working snow removal trains below!