A Remembering the Rutland Capsule History

(courtesy of Rutland Car Shops)

The Rutland Railroad's line from Ogdensburg, NY to Chatham, NY and Bellows Falls, VT ran through the hills and valleys of Vermont and northern New York where the winters are often long and harsh.  Due to the proximity to large bodies of water, heavy lake-effect snowfalls often inundated portions of the railroad.  These and other portions of the line were also susceptible to blowing and drifting snow.   In its struggle to keep the railroad open during winter weather the Rutland relied heavily on the experience and dedication of its employees (who were sometimes augmented by a small army of recruits armed with hand shovels) and its small fleet of antiquated, but well-rnaintained snowplows, spreaders, and flangers.

While the snowplow is commonly thought of as the primary tool in a railroad's snow fighting arsenal, the flanger was actually utilized more often than the snowplow in keeping the railways free of ice and snow.  Snowplow trains were typically a non-revenue operation called as an extra movement with dedicated engines and a full 5-man crew.  On the other hand flangers could be tucked in behind the road engines of a local or way freight.  This meant that the railroad could keep freight traffic moving without entailing the expense of an extra crew or tying up much-needed power.   Running the flangers on a daily basis enabled the railroad to keep the line clear of all but the heaviest drifts and snowfalls.

The Rutland's flangers were unique in design and among the best operating flangers in the north country.  The men on the Rutland used to say that the flangers rode like baby carriages but did such a good job because of their weight and moveable wings.   Flanger X111 weighed 34-1/2 tons and thus was very effective when ice formed on the top of the snow.  With its wings, a unique design of the Rutland, it could plow light snow back like a plow thereby avoiding the need to run a plow extra.  During the winter the flangers were used almost everyday on the way freight between Alburgh and Malone, and Malone and Ogdensburg.  While not utilized as frequently as they were across northern New York, flangers were employed throughout the rest of the Rutland system.  According to maintenance-of-way equipment assignments for 1957 compiled by Steve Mumley, the Rutland had flangers stationed in Ogdensburg and Malone, NY and in Rutland, VT.

Despite the arrival of new steel snow fighting equipment during the modernization of the railroad in the mid 1950's, the majority of the Rutland's old, wooden snow fighting equipment remained on the roster, much of it outliving the Rutland itself.  Among the longest-lived of the Rutland's snow fighting fleet were snowplow X101, which was sold to Steamtown in the 1970's, and flanger X111, which was acquired by the Vermont Railway in December, 1963.

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