The Snowy Road to New Inventions

By Kayla Craig–Marketing and Communications Intern

Jack Frost held off his icy grip longer than expected this season in 2016, but in light of the chilling fact that our roads are now covered in ice and snow, there is no denying that winter is here and here to stay. As hard as we might find it to step outside and brave the cold it was unimaginably more challenging back in 1869 when Fort Whoop-up was first opened.

Long before 4-wheel-drive and pavement salt, First Nations people used frozen waterways as winter roads. Their example was soon followed by explorers, settlers and soldiers since cleared snowy pathways were too rough for wagons. Travelling by foot or horseback were the most efficient ways to travel before the introduction of corduroy roads. Corduroy roads were created by placing sand-covered logs side-by-side, perpendicular to the road to help with traction. The result was an improvement over impassable mud or dirt roads, yet they were rough in the best of conditions and a hazard to horses due to shifting loose logs.

Prior to 1869 removing snow from train tracks required thousands of hired men with shovels; this dangerous job resulted in many deaths. It was Toronto dentist J.W Elliott who came to the rescue by developing a revolving snow shovel. Once fitted in front of a locomotive, the machine would scoop up the snow and throw it off the track using a rotary engine. Elliott’s design was improved by Canadian inventor, Orange Jull. The Elliott-Jull snowplough soon became the North American standard.

Travel back to 1869 with the Galt Museum & Archives as we celebrate an old-fashioned Christmas. From 1–4 pm on Friday, December 23 enjoy hot chocolate, s’mores, themed crafts, and more at Fort Whoop-Up. Admission is free to this open house. All the fun without the cold this Holiday seasons.

Your old photos, documents and artifacts might have historical value. Please contact Galt Museum & Archives for advice before destroying them.

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