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snow-clearing

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Introduction:

Snow Clearing, Yesterday and Today



The first settlers in Canada soon realized that the Canadian winter had nothing in common with winters in Europe. The winters here were very long and cold, and brought more snow than people knew what to do with. The settlers in both Montreal and Quebec City had to devise various techniques to conquer such harsh winters. Clearing the roads of snow was a major problem at the time. They were covered over completely and the only available means of ensuring that people could use the current modes of urban transportation was the shovel. In this feature article, we will show you the methods and inventions that contributed to the development of road snow clearing from 1880 to the present day. 

But just how did snow clearing techniques develop up to now? Throughout this feature we will be using a set of images to help answer this question. For the moment, we believe that snow clearing techniques have developed in accordance with changing living conditions such as population growth and the development of the Montreal economy. This feature was put together by Daniel Beauchemin, Benoît Gagnon, Maxime Faucher and François-Vincent Talbot.





000000000000085
Photographie
corvée-déneigement
William Notman
1887
000000000000085

Commentaires:

This photograph shows a Montreal street (rue Notre-Dame) in winter. The street is full of snow and a crowd of people is busy clearing it. We can see that some people are using shovels and even pickaxes to transfer the snow into sorts of sleds pulled by horses. We can also see that Notre-Dame was also a very busy street since quite a few people are walking along it. The snow is trampled and dirty and piled up to the right.

The snow clearing methods used by Canadians in 1887 were very crude. The inhabitants formed work details and everybody pitched in to clear the streets using picks and shovels. The trampled snow tells us that it took a long time for snow to be moved down the line and that this method was not very effective. The snow was hauled away in sled-like contraptions pulled by horses, who took it to specially designated areas. These poor snow clearing methods had a number of consequences for the population. The city's inhabitants could not go about their business because they had to help out on the snow clearing details and could not get around adequately.


000000000000090
Photographie
chasse-neige à traction animale
http://www.ville.montreal.qc.ca/ archives/seriez/pages/z103-2.htm
193-
000000000000090

Commentaires:

The picture above shows a horse-drawn plough. The utility poles and houses in the background suggest that the photograph was taken in an urban setting. Note also that the plough is probably being used to clear a skating rink.

This method of snow clearing was used for many years. Indeed this tool was made in the 19th century, long before the arrival of the snowblower. According to Serge Gagnon, who was born in 1921, this type of plough was still being used in the 1930s. Indeed the inhabitants of Québec used it to clear city sidewalks because snowblowers and snowploughs could not ride up on sidewalks.


000000000000092
Photographie
automobile-gratte
http://www.jura.equipement.gouv.fr/ securite/contim21.htm
1932
000000000000092

Commentaires:

This picture shows a car typical of the period, with the one exception that it has a plough blade attached to the front chassis. You can see that the automobile is in an urban setting.

This type of automobile was used in Montreal shortly after the car made its first appearance in the city, sometime around 1904. With the increased population and greater demands for snow clearing, people hit upon this solution to snow clearing. It was considered revolutionary at the time, since it made it possible to clear public streets without too much effort and with increased efficiency.


000000000000094
Photographie
Gratte
http://www.ville.montreal.qc.ca/ archives/seriez/pages/z1890-8.htm
193-
000000000000094

Commentaires:

This picture depicts a motorized vehicle with a front-mounted plough blade designed to push snow toward the right side of the street. A key feature was the use of tracks that provided the vehicle with better traction and prevented it from getting stuck in the show. This type of vehicle made its first appearance in Montreal in the 1920s. The Montreal department of highways used it up until 1935.


000000000000095
Photographie
première souffleuse
http://www.ville.montreal.qc.ca/ archives/seriez/pages/z1890-5.htm
1935
000000000000095

Commentaires:

This picture shows a somewhat old snowblower. The machine does not appear to be very effective, since the area designed to pick up the snow is not very large. Nor are the tires identical, which leads us to believe that the vehicle was not mass-produced on an assembly line.

From 1880 to 1927, the population of Montreal more than tripled, leading to a corresponding increase in demands for snow clearing. Population growth also led to the building of more roads and highways, with the result that the total surface area which the highways department had to keep clear of snow also increased. In addition to the expansion of the road system, the appearance of automobiles in Montreal from 1904 on also fed the demand for better snow clearing services. This in turn led Arthur Sicard to invent the first snowblower in 1925. The City of Montreal purchased two of these new machines for the sum of $13 000 each. Although this first snowblower is not comparable to those of today, it greatly contributed to snow clearing operations in Montreal's streets.


000000000000096
Photographie
nouvelle souffleuse
http://www.jura.equipement.gouv.fr/ securite/contim12.htm
1949
000000000000096

Commentaires:

This photograph shows a snowblower that was used from the 1940s to the 1960s. A plough blade mounted on the front of the vehicle pushed the snow off to the side. At the rear, a large wheel equipped with mechanical blades also threw snow off to the side. Obviously, the truck had to back up in order to make use of the rear wheel.

While this model of snowblower seems very advanced, it was much more common in France than in Québec. It was not very useful in urban areas since, instead of picking up snow, it simply threw it off to the side. It was merely a new find that did not necessarily meet the needs of urban society. The next picture also shows a new invention that also helped in snow clearing without, however, being a significant innovation.


000000000000097
Photographie
protection-roue
http://www.jura.equipement.gouv.fr/ securite/contim8.htm
-----
000000000000097

Commentaires:

Note that the truck in this picture was modified to assist snow clearers. Chains have been attached to the wheels to produce better traction on snowy or icy surfaces. Also, a metal skirt has been installed around the wheels, to prevent the snow pushed aside by the plough blade mounted on the front from falling back under the wheels and causing the vehicle to get stuck.





000000000000099
Photographie
souffleuse aujourd'hui
http://www.ville.montreal.qc.ca/tp / photos/deneig/de001_3.jpg
2000
000000000000099

Commentaires:

This picture shows us a street being cleared of snow by several vehicles designed for this task. First of all, a snowplough piles the snow up near the curb so that motorists can use the street. Then a snowblower picks up the snow and sprays it into a dump truck that drives along beside it. The man in the left of the picture is in charge of safety, since accidents can happen very quickly. This method provides for rapid, effective snow clearing. The picture clearly shows the current system of snow clearing is highly organized and safe for the population.


000000000000100
Photographie
gratte aujourd'hui
http://www.mto.gov.on.ca/french/ safety/icecontrol/wmaintaf.htm#Providing
2001
000000000000100

Commentaires:

As we can see from this picture, city streets are not the only areas slated for intensive snow clearing operations. There are also our many highways. This picture shows two snowploughs quickly clearing a Québec highway. It is essential that these public routes be kept free of snow since a snow-covered highway can cause accidents that can have very serious consequences.


000000000000101
Photographie
Déneigement à Montréal
Andrzej Maciejewski
2000
000000000000101

Commentaires:

As we can see from this last picture, taken in the year 2000, today's streets are kept very clear of snow. Note the great difference between the picture from 1887 and this one. We can see that the cars have no problems getting around, and that pedestrians can move with ease on the sidewalks. City dwellers no longer have to form lines to shovel snow and can go about their daily business.


Conclusion:

Over the course of this feature, you will have noted that snow clearing methods have evolved considerably. Now that the city of Montreal depends heavily on commerce, its inhabitants can no longer miss a day of work due to a snowstorm; two or three successive days without work can have a major impact on the region's economy. This is why we are now equipped with vehicles that can quickly and effectively clear snow from our entire roads system and thereby enable citizens to enjoy full workweeks and carry out their activities. But will this process of evolution continue into the future, given that the planet is continually heating up and that snowfalls are diminishing from year to year?


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