The oldest railroad snow plow in the U.S. earns landmark status

Innovative 128-year-old snow plow opened West in 1887

The oldest rotary snow plow, the Northern Pacific Rotary Snowplow No. 2 built in 1887, was declared a mechanical engineering landmark by ASME at a ceremony held April 16, 2015, in Duluth, Minn.   ASME recognized the snow plow’s contribution to history and the American railroad.

“No. 2” is a massive rotary blade that removed snow from the rails in Minnesota to keep freight and passenger rail systems moving even in the harshest of winters.


The currently retired plow, which removed snow in the same fashion as the typical home snow blower, is on permanent display at the Lake Superior Railroad Museum in Duluth.

The Northern Pacific Rotary Snowplow No. 2 was built in 1887 by Cooke Locomotive & Machine Works, which advanced earlier designs to develop a novel rotational wheel mechanism that could revolve in both directions to throw snow right and left.  The unit was pushed by three or four steam locomotives, moving at a speed of 4-6 miles per hour.

 “Rotary plows proved much more effective against heavy snowfalls than wedge plows and manual labor,” said ASME in a bronze plaque presented to the Lake Superior Railroad Museum, which purchased the No. 2 in 1975.

No amount of snow was too challenging for the No. 2.  It was originally pressed into service to clear deep snow drifts in the Cascade Mountains region, before the plow was shipped to Minnesota, where it worked until the World War II years.

About ASME
ASME helps the global engineering community develop solutions to real world challenges. Founded in 1880 as the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, ASME is a not-for-profit professional organization that enables collaboration, knowledge sharing and skill development across all engineering disciplines, while promoting the vital role of the engineer in society. ASME codes and standards, publications, conferences, continuing education and professional development programs provide a foundation for advancing technical knowledge and a safer world.