Building the 1940 Soo Line Russell Snow Plow

Building the 1940 Soo Line Russell Snow Plow

Written by R Grosser

01a Drawing
Jay made a very nice layout plan of this unique piece of MOW (maintenance of way) equipment to represent an erection drawing of the car.

An Overland brass O scale model of a 1940 Soo Line Russell snow plow #183 (not shown), was 3d scanned by Jay Gross of JG Conversions and DWG drawings to 1.6 scale created from that. These were made so the main body parts could be laser or water jet cut out including the rivet holes.

My dad was a Soo Line freight brakeman but I do not recall him ever being called for a plow extra. The winters of 48-49 and 49-50 saw lots of plow extras around my hometown of Glenwood MN. I can remember the yard being plowed with a rotary plow to get the 8’ drifts of snow away from the yard ladders. The snow was too much for a Russell or a Jordan spreader at the time, but I clearly remember a snow extra steam locomotive pushing a Russell into town from Minneapolis late one night. The front of the plow was caked with ice and snow. I also remember my dad talking about the tough time they had clearing the line to Enderlin ND during one of those tough winters.

Even though snow is not a great problem here in Kentucky where we live, I just wanted to have a model of a Russell. Kevin Sprayberry of Canton GA put me in touch with Jay and I sent him our O scale model for the drawings. The plow works as designed on our railroad and it is quite fun on a snowy day to push it around the track. I made several You Tube videos of our plow in operation including the wings being extended to clear the ROW. and if you are interested in seeing it in operation.  

01b Russell plow parts
Plow pieces were laser cut.

The plow pieces were laser cut for me by a shop in Wisconsin through David Newell, a master model builder. David can have the sides, cupola, roofs, underframe, wings, and plow shovel components if a builder is interested. He can be contacted at in Mt. Pleasant WI for pricing.

The first thing that needs to be done is the installation of the rivets. None of the rivets are structural so the sides, shovel, nose, roof, end, cupola sections can have all the detail rivets installed before any of the components are put together. Several methods of installation are available as are several types of rivets. On this model, steel rivets were used and installed for me with a rivet machine by David Newell. He might be willing to do this work, write or call him for pricing.

I started assembly with the shovel and nose of the plow. The pieces are tack welded together with a MIG welder. Continuous welds are not necessary and they tend to warp the steel components, so a good penetration tack weld every few inches works very well.


05 nose assembly
The the shovel and deflection nose pieces
20 Template for shovel deflectors
Template for shovel deflectors
21 Shovel deflectors being welded in
Shovel deflectors being welded in
22 deflectors body putty being installed
Deflectors body putty being installed

Interior bracing is very important. I used 1/2″X1” channel cut to length, clamped in place and welded to insure the components of the plow shovel stayed level and straight. None of the bracing is shown on the erection drawings and it is up to the builder to figure out where the bracing might be needed. I found that the nose of the plow had to be reinforced after bumping into the stop on our barn storage track, and that will be addressed later in this build.

Building the shovel and deflection nose pieces is easily done during this early stage of building the plow as it has to be turned for welding as parts are installed. There is no specific sequence for this work as I did it as I thought best for something being built for the first time.

Next I assembled the underframe to the 1/8”X1”X2” tube steel center beam, truck bolsters, and trucks. I used a pair of MCC (Titan) trucks as they were left over from a car I sold, but any truck type will work for this car including Tom Bee with some additional bolster parts required for TB trucks.  I assembled the wings at this time as well. The deflecting angles are cut from the same thickness steel as the wings and are easily welded into place.

16 wing wells welded upI have never seen the front truck of a Russell snow plow but Glenn Guerra had and he told me that in place of the springs on the front or nose truck some wood blocks were installed. That way the weight of the snow could not push the nose down to drag on the rail. I did not attempt to model the wood block figuring that we are not dealing with prototype weight of heavy snow. I found that the plow tracked well without the solid blocking. I might add here that the plow needed extra weight. I learned that later when plowing snow, and I used an 80 pound solid concrete wall block with 18 body assemblysome wood blocking to keep it from being moved around on the steel floor. That additional weight proved to work excellently and we did not suffer derailments at switch frogs as long as they did not have ice in them. Ice would derail a prototype plow as well.

Next came what I thought might be the most difficult part, making patterns and making steel shovel deflection sections for the plow nose. Once I had a pattern of cardboard close to what I thought they should be, I cut them out of 16 gauge steel. I found that was too heavy to bend so I made them again using 22 gauge steel. Once they are welded in place they will be more than sound for the working of the plow.

23 Wings being installed
Wings being installed

Assembling the wings. Very straightforward but some care needs to be taken to install the deflection angles in correctly. They are made with an angle because on the prototype they are narrow on the lower end and wider at the upper end.

Now the body taking shape with the wing wells, turret or cupola depending on who you talk to, body filler and sanding of the plow nose, interior bracing and roof components is coming up.

29 Russell snow plow flanger
Flanger body ready for tack welding.

Next the flanger body gets assembled. This is the supporting structure for the flanger that could be moved down to flange out between the rails, and raised up by air cylinders inside the car body to clear switches, grade crossings and other obstructions between the rails installations. Some railroads had flanger signs for grade crossings and switches but I do not remember them on the Soo Line. They usually had a road master in the middle seat to instruct the wings and flanger operations by the left and right crew operators. Our flanger is non-operational but it is set up so that it could be if someone were to come up with an RC control to operate it, and the same for the wings.

It was about here that I discovered that the plow nose would not take a thumping against the stopper block at the end of our barn storage track. The engine pushed it in and I did not get it under control before it whacked the stop, bending the nose of the shovel down. After straightening it all back out with a hammer and some heat from a torch, I welded in some substantial bracing to keep that from happening again. 

35 Temporary wing operator 4
Temporary wing operator

Wings just begged to be operational. The wings are installed with hinges from Lowe’s and are welded in. I wanted to be able to remove the pins and take the wings off if necessary so I bought some 1”X4” hinges and cut them in two and installing some removable pins in the hinge sections. Again, until someone invents an RC control system that could be used from the engineer back behind the pusher locomotive, the wings have to be operated manually. These particular parts need to be fairly stout as the snow will try to force the wings back to the car body. I made mine operational with some 1/4″X1/2″ steel pieces with several holes in them to stop them on the car side for a specific setting. I use a couple of pins to hold them in place during operation.


Several detail items were purchased from Precision Steel Car Company in Hamilton OH.  such as the brake wheel behind the turret and the roof walks. The original Soo Line plow had wood roof walks but in looking at one of the prototype plows on a trip to Glenwood MN I found it had the perforated metal type so that is what I installed on mine. The Pyle National steam locomotive headlight came from another manufacture, Railroad Supply I think but I cannot be sure.



The plow was cleaned with lacquer thinner and painted with oxide red primer from NAPA. The finish exterior color is leather brown also from NAPA, and the interior grey is NAPA. The windows are glazed with 1/8” Plexiglas glued in with silicon clear. The headlight operates with the installation of a 12v 5amh battery from Batteries Plus. The last photo is showing it in the snow.

First plowing job
First plowing job