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March 1997 - Page 59

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Text and Photography by Dick Dorn


te in the evening of Dec. 20, j ust hours before the official start of the season, winter came roar ing into Cali fornia's Sierra Nevada mountains l i ke a l i o n . Six feet of snow fel l on Donner Pass, and railroaders fought to keep the line in service. This is their story. Until this storm, a scant 2 0 inches of snow was on the ground at Norden-the rai l road summit-and the season had required only a single f1anger movement. Roadmaster Steve La Vigne had made several trips up the mountain out of Truckee with his pair of winter equipped regu lators to clear the right-of-way during earlier small storms. Each regulator can remove up to a foot of snow and, operated by two persons, provides a cost-effective way to keep the rai lroad clear. But regulators would be no match for this storm, and h e l p was q u i c k l y d i sp a t c h ed from Rosev i l l e , Calif., with a f1anger called t o duty at 1 2: 1 5 a . m . on Dec. 2 1 . A s econd f1anger was c a l l e d out at 1 0 : 0 5 a . m . Flangers are pul led b y a pair of G P 3 8 s specially e q u i pped for snow d u t y, with rotating disc w i n d shields a n d breaker bars t h a t extend upward from the roof of t h e c a b to knock d own i c i c l e s i n t u n n e l s . These special units are kept captive in t h e Roseville area during the winter months.

O n Dec. 22, 1 998, a South ern Pacific flanger blasts through the fresh snow at Soda Springs, Calif. Note the icicle breakers and revolving window, both telltale signs 01 a SP loco motive assigned to snow fighting duty. RailNews - 59

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