The snow removal revolution


“Oh! how the snow has snowed! said the poet Émile Nelligan, comparing his boredom to the rigors of winter.

While winter is at the heart of our collective identity, travel has long proven to be complex, particularly in Quebec cities.

In the days of New France, the arrival of snow made several roads impassable for most of the winter.

In town in 1700, the day after a heavy snowfall, the snow was simply pushed into the middle of the streets, which obviously made getting around difficult, if not impossible.

We have to wait until the middle of the 18and century for municipal administrators to write the first ordinances to facilitate traffic in urban areas.

For example, from 1747, Jacques-Joseph Guiton de Monrepos tried to establish snow removal rules each winter by increasing the number of ordinances obliging citizens to clean the streets in front of their houses under the threat of a fine of 3 pounds, roughly the equivalent of a parking ticket today.

Previously, Guiton de Monrepos even banned residents, on several occasions, from throwing snowballs at passers-by, but as with snow removal, people often ignore the orders of the authorities.


A stormy day on Sainte-Catherine Street in Montreal in 1893. Since the snowblower had not yet been invented, it had to be cleared of snow from its driveway with a shovel.

Photo courtesy, McCord Museum

A stormy day on Sainte-Catherine Street in Montreal in 1893. Since the snowblower had not yet been invented, it had to be cleared of snow from its driveway with a shovel.

Basement flooding

In the spring, the melting of the snow generates the appearance of large, often nauseating streams. When the snow melts too quickly, the basements of homes frequently flood.

Moreover, the primary function of city sewers is to allow rainwater to flow underground, but also water from melting snow.

In 1796, the task of snow removal was also entrusted to British soldiers garrisoned on the island of Montreal.

At 19and century, citizens tend to beat the snow in the streets rather than remove it.

After 1841, the regulations of the authorities became clearer, and citizens were then asked to ensure that there was no more than two feet of snow in front of their house.


Snow removal from rue Notre-Dame, in Montreal, in 1887, using a horse-drawn plow.

Photo courtesy, McCord Museum

Snow removal from rue Notre-Dame, in Montreal, in 1887, using a horse-drawn plow.

The following year, it was specified that only four inches of snow were tolerated on the sidewalks in front of each residence, under penalty of a fine.


A man is busy clearing snow on rue Sous-le-Cap, in Quebec City, in 1895, using a horse-drawn plow.

Photo courtesy, McCord Museum

A man is busy clearing snow on rue Sous-le-Cap, in Quebec City, in 1895, using a horse-drawn plow.

Between 1866 and 1930, the horse-drawn plow was at the heart of the snow removal operation.


Electric streetcars equipped with a snow plow or a removable broom appear in 1892. Here, employees of the Montreal streetcar, in 1895.

Photo courtesy, McCord Museum

Electric streetcars equipped with a snow plow or a removable broom appear in 1892. Here, employees of the Montreal streetcar, in 1895.

At the end of the 19and century, the electric tramways of Montreal and Quebec appear. In winter, they can be equipped with a shovel placed in front to push the snow.

Nevertheless, it was not until 1910 that a large city like Montreal ensured the snow removal of all the streets in its territory.

In the aftermath of the storms, men are hired at 25 cents an hour to carry out the snow removal chore.

The snow is deposited in large snow dumpsters pulled by horses.

Arthur Sicard’s snow loader

In 1925, a machine revolutionized travel in winter.


In 1925, Arthur Sicard created a snow blower inspired by a combine harvester.  Pictured is a 1944 model.

Photo archives of the city of Montreal

In 1925, Arthur Sicard created a snow blower inspired by a combine harvester. Pictured is a 1944 model.

Arthur Sicard creates the automatic snow loader. Sicard is inspired by the good old combine harvester to create its blower.

Two years later, the City of Outremont bought the “automatic snow loader” from Sicard for the sum of $13,000.

The invention is timely because the population and the road network are growing.

As early as 1929, on the eve of the Great Depression, the Quebec government decided to clear the road linking Montreal and Quebec.

Sicard snowblowers are then used, behemoths capable of crushing ten to twelve tonnes of snow per minute.

Then Bomber

In the following decades, Joseph-Armand Bombardier’s tankettes would join Arthur Sicard’s invention to facilitate winter travel.

Over time, Quebec snow removal practices have improved. They are now the envy of other snow-affected countries.




Reference-www.journaldemontreal.com

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