Go Wood: Winter Road Maintenance, the Old-Fashioned Way

By Chuck Ray | Posted: 01/19/2014 10:01AM


Wood Snow Roller Chuck Ray Traffic jams and bad weather in the news lately got me thinking about traffic problems in the old days. Back then, too much competition for road space wasn't the issue...rather, it was hard enough to find a passable road, period. In winter, especially, roads tended to disappear, buried under the tons of snow that used to fall here in the Northeast way back before Global Warming.

But the old-timers, used to finding wooden solutions for almost every problem, found one for snow-covered roads.

"January was usually the season for winter road-work in the northern states when the snow was packed and graded to make the sledding season as long as possible. Snow was shoveled into melted or otherwise bare spots by snow-wardens, fed into covered bridges, and packed down with giant snow rollers by the road commissioner to keep the sleds going. Snow rollers are among the rarest of antique vehicles - perhaps no more than eight exist in America. Snow roads of a century ago were nursed along during the wintertime, just as modern ski-runs are, and when March winds melted the snow of the northern countryside, most of the old-time roads were still snow-packed."
- Eric Sloane, The Seasons of America Past

What? Snow rollers? Can you imagine what those must have looked like?

Fortunately, Mr. Sloane provided us with one of his famous drawings to help us imagine. And naturally, wood played a part...

Read more Chuck Ray:

Wood Science 101: Where Does Cork Come From?

Let the Furniture Buyer Beware

Great Designs in Wood: The House on the Rock

And if you think these snow rollers could be a lot of fun under the right conditions, guess what? You're not alone. As usual, the Canadians are way ahead of us in the realm of the unusual as attested in the accompanying video below.

Now that's what I call Going Wood With Style.


About the Author

Chuck Ray, PennState, Associate Professor of Wood Operations

Chuck Ray

Dr. Charles D. “Chuck” Ray is Associate Professor of Wood Operations Research at Pennsylvania State University. His specialty is in the area of operations research, specifically those operational issues that confront the majority of the wood products sector. He previously spent 15 years in research and quality management for two large building products corporations, Temple-Inland Forest Products and Louisiana-Pacific. Ray is the sixth generation of his family to work in the sawmill industry, the Ray Brothers Lumber Company, established in East Texas before the turn of the last century. He can be reached at cdrpsu@gmail.com and followed on Twitter @ChuckDRay. He maintains an Extension website for Penn State at http://extension.psu.edu/woodpro and also writes a blog on all wood issues called Go Wood which can be found at http://gowood.blogspot.com.

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