Late Winter Snowstorm Brings Out GN Plow Train

Ferndale, Washington

March 1951

Photos and Text Copyright 2001, 2006, 2009 by James E. Lancaster

In early March 1951 a pair of back-to-back, late winter storms dropped an unusually heavy amount of snow on Whatcom County in Northwest Washington. I lived in Ferndale at the time and we received 30-36 inches of snow from the two storms.

I'm not sure what the total operational impact of the storms was on the GN's Seattle-Vancouver BC line through Whatcom county, but I do know it was enough for the railroad to send Geep 613 and a spreader out to clear snow along the line.

Schools were closed in Ferndale because of the snow when the plow train arrived (I was in the 7th grade at the time) so I took my Kodak 620 box camera to the station and took a few B&W photos while they cleared the platform and sidings. The lighting was poor (it was still snowing a little) and the negatives were partially damaged during processing, but the photos, never-the-less, show an unusual event for the area. The final three photos were taken by my friend, Gary Thompson.

The two winters of 1949-50 and 1950-51 were unusually harsh in Ferndale with temperatures dropping to near zero many times. Total snowfall was between 50 and 60 inches each winter, culminating in the heavy snowfall in early March of 1951. Several times the snow was accompanied by strong winds resulting in drifts up to 10 feet deep.


This view was taken on Cedar Street (now Portal Way)
and shows part of the yard of my Grandmother's
house toward the end of the first storm.


The snow was really piling up on the stacks of firewood behind my Grandmother's house.
That's the kitchen of my family's house in the background. Snow did not accumulate
much on the uninsulated roof.

The plow train arrived in Ferndale toward the end of the second storm. The following photos show Geep 613, the spreader/plow, the station and the spreader clearing the station platform. Unfortunately the negatives of all of the photos were damaged during processing. I've partially restored them using PhotoShop.


GP7 613 pushes a spreader/plow past the Ferndale, WA depot.

The plowing operation covered the euquipment in snow.


Front of the spreader/plow with the depot in the background.


Clearing the platform in front of the depot.

Additional photos by Gary Thompson, a boyhood friend. He passed away in 2009.

Plow train - spreader, GP7 613 and caboose. (Gary Thompson photo)


GP7 613 has picked up a lot of snow. (Gary Thompson photo)


Plow train from the rear. The Ferndale depot is at the far left. (Gary Thompson photo)

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Last Update: 12/11/09
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