Snow Cruiser Built to Explore the Antarctic
Published on July 6, 2015 in News & Updates, Vintage
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Built in 1939 for $150,000 ($2.5 million in 2015 dollars) the Snow Cruiser was designed to explore the Antarctic under the command of U.S. Rear-Admiral Richard E. Byrd.

Snow Cruiser cutaway

Designed by Dr. Thomas C. Poulter, Director of the Armour Institute in Chicago, and built by the Pullman Company, of railroad sleep coach fame. When complete, the 55-foot-long, 30 ton self-contained Snow Cruiser was driven to Boston to be loaded on a ship and delivered to the South Pole.

Snow Cruiser cutaway

The diesel-electric hybrid powertrain was said to be underpowered, with a cruising speed of approximately 10 MPH and a claimed maximum of 30 MPH, which was questionable. When it reached Framingham, Massachusetts, on November 12, 1939 traffic was snarled for 20 miles in a jam that involved 70,000 automobiles, as the curious flocked to the area to get a glimpse of the gigantic Snow Cruiser.

Snow Cruiser Explores the Antarctic

All the excitement came to end after the Snow Cruiser was delivered to the Antarctic. A combination of excess weight (70 tons fully loaded), and tires designed for swamps, mired the Snow Cruiser in snow. It was thereafter used as a stationary heated shelter, stuck about 12 miles from where it was unloaded.

It was abandoned a few years later, seen once again in the 1950’s, and now thought to be buried in ice or sitting at the bottom of the ocean.

The Atlantic has posted 16 rare photos of the Snow Cruiser, many of which were taken in Massachusetts.


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