Sunday, November 26, 2017

MoW: Jordan Spreader

John Wilkosz posted, cropped
Jordan Spreader 1960's file photo from the Jackson Jordan Ludington, Mi plant.doing some ditching work. I believe this is someplace in Illinois. Photo is stamped Chicago, IL on back

Here's a little history on the Jordan Spreader. The spreader was the creation of Oswald F. Jordan, a Canadian road master who worked in the Niagara, Ontario area on the Canada Southern Railway, later a subsidiary of the New York Central Railroad. He designed the Jordan spreader as a multi-purpose MoW vehicle with adjustable blades and plough to allow improved conformation to the railbed. He supervised a crew at the St. Thomas Canada Southern shop in the early 1890s. He formed his own company, O.F. Jordan Company, in 1898 and continued construction of Jordan Spreaders. Walter Riley was appointed manager following Jordan's death in 1910 and directed the company for 50 years and the construction of 1,400 spreaders. Jordan spreaders are available by special order from Harsco Rail.

Jordan Spreaders are primarily used for ditching and vegetation control along the tracks, and during the winter months they can be used to plow snow. The two sets of wing plows along each side can be extended from the carbody to push snow, dirt, and gravel far off the right of way. When plowing snow, as long as it is not above the side plow's height, it can be a very effective snow removal machine. Anything higher than that usually requires a rotary snow plow. You can find spreaders at many division point yards along the Northern Transcon where they are used to clear rock slides and washouts during the warm months and snow drifts during the winter, but they can be found anywhere on the system working.
[Ramon Rhodes
David Young posted
Stephen Henshaw Still not all out.

Brandan J Dock shared
Phil Brazil I spent many a shift standing on the point of one just like this. We worked in a yard so my job was to watch for obstacles. We had 2 locomotives (we only used one to push) that could keep the air up reasonably well--the engineer would always keep some brake on during runs to help keep the pressure up. [Before hydraulic rams were developed, Jordan Srpeaders used air pistons to control the "wings."]
Steve Bafaro Put the sloper down to get that snow away from the tracks. If they push snow where I do, they would run out of room very fast. [I edited this comment for spelling and punctuation.]
Roy Gibson That sweet machine looks like the 62 that we used in the early years of my time on the rails. Then we got a hydraulic spreader which work slowly but boy did it push snow.
Larry Gawel The one I was on was a open cab.Came close a couple of times of taking down a signal because air valves took awhile to release.
David Williamson My favorite railroad machine!!
Bob Pennell I remember we took out the inner guard rails on a small open deck bridge that didn't have flanger signs up. You couldn't even see the bridge. They flew out just like noodles and didn't derail the Jordan spreader. We had about 30" of new snowfall and didn't run trains down the coal line cause the mines shut down because of the snow storm. Everything was closed.
Lewis Mann Bob Pennell
Similar instance on the Michigan Branch. Got called at 10pm to pilot one from Urbana,MP106, to Goshen,MP57. Almost took out a private farm crossing in the curve at Rose Hill. Not marked and snow so deep in the cut nothing was visible.
Doug McEwen Very awesome pic. Find it strange pushing with one unit [locomotive] with that much snow.

Erick Kurowski posted
Joe Dockrill posted
Al Laws: Snow ! Don’t know much about snow moving but sure moved a lot of dirt rocks and trees maybe a few whistle boards, these machines are the ultimate earth movers,with a good fresh six axle and a good man on the throttle, cab sure could use a better heater, I loved running one !

If you want to dig deeper, TrainWeb has a page of links of info on the Jordan spreader.

Rick Alison posted
Carrier wing at work.
Rick Leggett: The three most important things in track maintenance: 1. Drainage. 2. Drainage. 3. Drainage.
Center for Railroad Photography & Art posted
Ray Lewis won 1st prize for color in the 2022 John E. Gruber Creative Photography Awards -- the theme being "weather effects" -- with his image of Union Pacific Jordan spreaders and two “snow-fighter” equipped GP38-2s battling to clear snow off of the Lower Cascade Bridge near Troy, California, on February 11, 2009. See all the winners and those the judges also liked at
Dennis DeBruler shared

John J Barry posted a copyrighted photo of a ditching operation with the comment: "I worked the NorthEast Penn Central, then Conrail I never seen a Jordan Spreader ditching only snow plowing."
Robert Miller: 3-5 mph, 12hr day. As a brakeman in the caboose boring as hell. 12hrs seemed like 24!!
Patrick Hibbard: Last time I saw one was 2008 after Hurricane Ike. BNSF had one coming from Silsbee towards Cleveland Tx clearing trees off the track.
John Harre: Watch out for coverts and old signal boxes really bends the rail.
Ray Humphreys: John Harre you got that right,old signal bases and if the trip don't work that lets the wing fold.
Ray Humphreys: Had a SD 40 shoving the Jordan in a cut, had a load of mud about the size of a 1/2 ton pickup on the wig, old signal base in the ground, wing didn't release, shoved the main track 21 inches out of line. Luckily had a gang close, them men realigned the track in about 10 minutes. Foreman called the dispatcher asked if any train was close, he said yes in about 20 minutes, Foreman told him ,run him about 20 over this location and it will be good for max if you don't hear from me, Disp didn't ask why and he didn't tell him.
Paul Schmidt: Always had a Jordan when air dumping rip rap to grade it off. Worked on the BNSF line right along the Mississippi so we dumped a lot of rock.
Dan Kalfas: I ditched the low line lead going to Adams street street Yrd on the Peoria sub. Removed eight manhole covers that had been buried for years.
David Moore: The little wing at the end of the main blade is a ditching wing to slope the back side of a ditch.
Joe Gibbs: They were horrible snow plows, top heavy, while not heavy enough to plow at speed. Much more suited to ditch as they were originally designed.
Tom Winkle: Just had one doing this on the CN near Byron, IL.
[There are some comments about hitting something like a boulder that cause the spreader to derail.]
Robert Niesyn commented on John's post

Robert Niesyn commented on John's post

Darrell Burkhalter commented on John's post

Rick Leggett commented on John's post
A full wing.
Rick Leggett also commented on Andre Tardif's post

John Skordas commented on John's post
I shot this one in Wildwood Yard in Florida. I saw this thing from the road and my mind immediately went to "snowplow". I thought "No, it can't be. It is a million degrees out here."

David Muma posted
Canadian National Railway's (CNR) Jordan spreader No. 51069 clearing snow in the Boston Bar, BC yards. The date attributed to the photo is 1940, however it would seem to be incorrect as the spreader appears to be pushed by a diesel locomotive. - CN Images of Canada Collection
[Note another spreader parked in a siding on the left.]
Adam LeLacheur: Early to mid 60's due to the unit being a highhood GP9 in green and gold scheme.

Joe Dockrill shared
Joe Dockrill shared
Mike Tisdale posted
Clearing snow at Emigrant Gap, California with spreaders. GP-38-2s provide the power. Heavy snowfall had closed Donner Pass, forcing UP to use the rotaries for the first time in several years. The spreaders were busy, also.
[A spreader on both ends in case you can't go forward and it has been heavily snowing behind you. Also note the spinning windshields like they use on ships to deal with heavy precipitation.]
Mike Tisdale shared

[Using snowcats to help the Jordon push snow over the side.]

Sean William shared
Cristobal Martinez: Unique experience and area on donner summit.
Rick Leggett: We used a ski groomer as a "trail packer" in heavy snow years, to plow trails on both sides of the tracks in what we called "blood alley." Blood Alley was about a 70 mile stretch, where moose would wander up to the tracks because the walking was easier. Moose are so dumb, that even if a train was a mile away and the moose was 100 yards from the plowed tracks, they would run up to the tracks thinking it was safer to outrun the train between the rails. In one of our worst winters, about 70% of the 750 train killed moose were in this relatively short stretch where we primarily used this ski groomer. By plowing trails and then having the snow set up hard to make it easier walking for the moose, not only did it keep the moose off of the tracks, but if done correctly by wandering around in stands of young birch/willow/aspen trees, it also provided easy browse for the moose. Making it a win-win.
Robby Gragg posted
On 2/5/11 a Jordan Spreader heads west through Shabbona, IL after the blizzard a few days before.

Richard Luis Kitterman posted
1/14/2018: In 1890, Canada Southern Railway roadmaster O.F. Jordan filed a patent for a ballast spreader, and by the turn of the century Jordan spreaders had entered mass production, becoming common maintenance-of-way equipment in North America. A Cheseapeake and Ohio Railway (C&O) spreader is displayed at the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore, Maryland.

Joe Dockrill posted
From Railroad Maintenance of Way group
Outstanding photo
Paul Strubeck Early 1930s.
Mo Rensing That is a great tool. Can do a lot of damage though.
Paul Jones Cant tell, what road?
Paul Strubeck PRR
Mike Western Better have both wings down when digging that deep with that beast ..
Sam L'Huillier Ditched a few times with a Jordan but plowed/spread snow lots
[They didn't have to worry about hitting fiber optic cables back then.]

Steve LaBonte posted
Mike Simonds Wish we could do that today.
Andrew Mather Sadly some equipment isn't built to last the way it was years ago.
Phil Green those Air cylinders were so slow, we had a hard time with them moving up or unlocking.

Fox Osier NorthStar I recall watching you guys fiddling with that....but knew better than to ask. It wasnt hard to tell you guys were getting grumpy.
Andrew Beeman Wow a Jordan being used for what it was intended lol

Greg Beatty I worked for Jackson Jordan many years ago, the last spreader I sold was to the newly formed Conrail.

Mike Farley posted two photos.


Joe Dockrill posted, cropped
ready to rock
RJMcKay commented on Ramon's posting
What happens when you hit an old signal foundation hidden in the weeds, lol

Brendan commented on his post
Winging at sundown Capreol Ontario Canada.
Western Rail Images posted
Snow Fighting! Denver & Rio Grande Railroad - Jordan Spreader 048 at Moffatt Tunnel & Winter Park Colorado 1959 - By Jim Ozment

The Kentucky Trainman posted
Brendan J Dock that is very old, likley 70 years or so, air spreader Jordan

Andre Tardif shared
David Sweeney are those just snow wings ... or purpose built for brush?
Sam L'Huillier David Sweeney no they have changeable edges for snow or ditch,I have done some ditching,with snow blade, and shoulder cutting to pre move grade over
Don Wakely Super machine but from a structures point of view its hell on culverts.. takes the markers out, makes finding them difficult, and more often than not damages the ends. So not the best in wet or flood prone areas at least unless the operator is on board and can actually operate it instead of just running it.
Phil Kirkland Mess, just pulling all that crap into the ballast shoulders, look bhind the machine!

The current state of the art spreader.
Wired from Facebook
Essentially all spreaders on railroads are older plows that have been rebuilt if necessary. This new plow, built by Jordan plow successor Harsco enjoys better and new technology and a substantially heavier weight on the trucks (80 tons).
Mark Gillings BNSF has purchased a few of these and may have one or two more coming.
Michael Backhmann posted two photos of a spreader cleaning vegetation out of a drainage ditch. It appears the locomotive pulls, instead of pushes, the spreader. The comment is :
In my archives I found these. Gerry Haggerty was the main operator on this machine. If I am not mistaken, the serial plate on the spreader was dated 1906. Last time I saw it was at Railway Industrial a couple year back collecting rust.
Michael Bachmann All air operated and a pot belly stove for heat and the cold air wisped right though it.
Gregg Wolfersheim It's still at RIS end of track near Oakland Ave.


Bill Molony posted
John Govednik I'm a but clueless on the MOW tools and a lot of other RR details. 
What did the ditcher do? Dress the ballast along the track?

Dennis DeBruler
Matthew Linhart I was going to say that too,its a Jordan spreader. Ditcher???
Dennis DeBruler Jordan was a brand name. One of the summer jobs was cleaning out drainage ditches along side the track:
Dennis DeBruler I learned today that another "summer job" is grooming rip rap when a track is close to a river bank:
Michael Bachmann We called it the Jordan Spreader. I operated it a couple of times, the last time was in the winter of 1978 on the River Line, broke the wing and parked it at Caton Farm and tried to use the 666 to break through, got that stuck. We finally got out and had to help the train behind us. Cold day, wind chill about -60. Our engineer was from behind the iron curtain, don't remember his name.
David Gevaudan Sounds like a reel successful day. There was one on the Union RR used to plow the slag dumps and heavy snow.
Joe Kveton posted
We usually had 2 units.
Sam L'Huillier operated Jordan spreader snow plow for 30 + yrs in the UP of Michigan. had the hi v plow for snow on itFrank Irvine Where are / is the operator(s) ?Sam L'Huillier 1 each side in cab by window 4 hand levers for wing, 3 foot valves for boom locks nose flange/ plow forward leaver right side 3 rd man usually on air Jordan's ,, hyd ones almost same lay out .Sam L'Huillier last 1 i worked on had engineer in center with controls for power pushing , did not need radio , he was with us.
Keith Curtis posted three photos with the comment: "Rowesburg Wv."


Jerry Jackson posted
ATSF 199258. A Jordan Spreader, Fort Madison, IA 1986. It looks like the ghost of a 1980's crew member under the road number.

Joe Dockrill commented on Joe's posting
[Snow Plows has a photo of this same unit clearing snow.]
Jim Reider posted
Somebody is gonna get plowed! Sioux City yard yesterday
Hoosier Valley Museum
This postcard entitled "A WONDERFULL TIME SAVER IN TRACK BUILDING" was mailed on July 31, 1912 from Bremen, Indiana to Garrett, Indiana. The message reads, "Hello Kiddo. I am still in Bremen. I guess I will be here the rest of the week. We had our pictures taken, can you see me? I just had a squirrel dinner, don't I look fat? We are living pretty high. You can look for me Sat. night - Be a good girl. Love and Kisses, Jess." The card is addressed to Mrs. J. B. Bitwall. Jess must have worked for the B&O on the crew of the Jordan spreader and Mrs. Bitwall must have been his wife. The postcard is from the Russell Dove collection.
Robert Callahan posted
In a picture appropriate for the type of weather we continue to experience in the northeast, a flanger movement powered by a pair of RS-3 units heads west at Natick, MA in February of 1961. (Photo: Mr. Robert Coolidge)
Andre Tardif shared
Reece Sabrina Tewell posted
Dave Wall commented on Reece's posting
John Wilkosz posted three photos with the comment: "Jordan Spreader old brochure photos showing various operations."



Rick Leggett made two comments on John's posting:

They can plow snow? lol

Just make sure you don't have the wing locked...if it won't clear the bluff. Speaking for a friend. 🤣 (Yes, the rear trucks of the spreader and both trucks on the first loco are derailed from a turned rail.  )

John Wilkosz posted five photos with the comment: "Some old spreader photos. Jackson Jordan photo archives."





Austin Jacox posted
11/8/18 Bend, OR
BNSF 972678
BLT 4-57
WT. 142400
Formerly ATSF 199246
Wayne N Judy Shaw posted three photos with the comment: "1st two shots - Martins, Mile 141 CN Newmarket Sub - I'm thinking circa fall 1996 waiting for winter. Last shot fast forward to January 2017. Different spreader but almost the exact same spot, just one track over:"
Joe Dockrill old air spreader, no longer around


Jonathan Chavez posted two photos with the comment: "Truckee/Donner Ca."
Ron Manley Time for the Rotary plows to come out.
Dave Haggland Have to wait until it’s too late.

1, cropped

2, cropped
Dennis DeBruler shared
A spreader equipped for double tracks and sidings. This is the first photo I have seen of this configuration. UP at Donner Pass
Allan Gilbert SP had one in Oakridge, Oregon that was painted in Daylight colors.
Joe Dockrill posted
Joe Dockrill engineer can run from the spreader.
Joe commented on his post

Ken Ellison posted
Mark Gillings Home-built by Great Northern. This one built August 1970.
Clay Ercolin Mark Gillings Great Northern? How can that be when the merger creating Burlington Northern happened in March of 1970?
Mark Gillings Very good point! Further research indicates that the last four built were under BN.
Mark Hutchinson Those elephant ears were legendary for taking out depot windows.
Pierre-Luc Dumas posted two photos.
John Ives At least he kept it on the machine. I’ve had to cap all the lines and go back and get the wing with a Pettibone


One of seven photos posted by David Davis and shared by Joe Dockrill
NW Jordan Spreader shot by Larry Stiles 1985
[Note in the other photos how the front snowplow is mounted upside down for the Summer. It seems that it significantly reduces visibility.]

Andre Tardif shared
Joe Edwards Still has those air cylinders on it..

Brendan J Dock posted two photos with the comment: "snow business old and new from Pickle."
Chris Streich BN had a lot of input on the slide down window protection to prevent vandalism.


Rick Leggett commented on Brendon's post
Love the looks & features of the new ones, but even the older ones...can push a lot of snow.

He also commented on a post about rebuilding an air powered spreader.

Ray Battison commented on Brendon's post

Ganger Fernandex Jr. commented on Brendon's post
Sandpoint Idaho 2017

Jordan Campbell commented on Brendon's post
This old girl still runs off air

Joey Harer posted
Say goodbye to her boys. She's getting torched up and scrapped. Too bad we couldn't get her to a museum. All air cylinders with leather seals.
Mike Western Used to stuff oily rags around the seals to soften the leather up for use .. lol
Steve Gartlan CN has a habit of getting rid old equipment instead of donating it to a museum.
[At least let a museum pay scrap price for it.]

David Schauer posted

Brendan J Dock shared
David Gittler Don’t you put the other one part way out to balance, good way to D rail it with one wing out that way.
Brett Gell David Gittler it depends, cold powder verses avalanche packed cement.
David Gittler Brett Gell
You’re right on that account, however we always kept one wing out opposite side just for balance.
Rick Leggett commented on Brendan's share
The one thing you learn about snow, is that there are many, many different types that are primarily predicated on two things: 1-Moisture content, 2-Has it previously been moved? The making of a good operator is more of an art, than a science...and a butt that can feel the difference. In this pic, if the snow hadn't been relatively light and fluffy (and not previously plowed)...we would put the other wing out for stability.

Minkota Rail Fan posted three photos with the comment:
I saw this pair of SD40-2's and this plow parked on one of the yard tracks in the Fargo Yard last night. But last night's sleet and snow fall prevented me from getting a good pic of them.So I went by there this morning to see if the were still there, and they were.January 2nd 2020.
Chad Sandhofner Plowing fargo yard all day today



One of ten photos posted by Dale Brown
Sitting on the old Milwaukee road depot stub in savanna il
[I don't remember seeing one with a side bay window. That window makes a lot of sense given that the operator has to keep a close eye on the wing while it is plowing snow or dirt. The comments marvel that not only do the two stub tracks still exist, they have been rebuilt.]

Steve LaBonte shared a link
Found a nice photo essay article about Spreaders.
Charles Arthur Nickerson Used one to plow tumbleweeds out of cuts on Slaton Division Branchlines out of Lubbock, Tx in the late 70’s and 80’s on Santa Fe.
Vance Nelson Just about put the Gradall out of business!
Billy Schultz always loved running them.
Ken Sgroi Moved a lot of snow.

Joe Dockrill shared a link to these notes with the comment:
hey; I got a photo credit on this page, I did not know Jordan Spreader inventor was a Canadian and built in St. Thomas invention, interesting reading and pictures
Reginald Fitzpatrick: Interesting Read [I needed that after seeing a comment a couple of weeks ago about the TERRIBLE prose.]
Chuck Jarnagin commented on Joe's share, cropped
Here’s my little experience with a jordan spreader. The siding had a train in it and it got snowed in. We had to dig it out and bring out JS out to clean out the ditch.

Drew Jacksich posted
i believe this to be February 1988, the date stamp is not clear. Truckee, CA spreader set ready to head West over Donner Pass

Paul Jevert shared
Dennis DeBruler shared
I didn't notice it at first, but there is a spreader at each end.

Archie Artymovich posted
SW Saskatchewan Canada

Dennis DeBruler shared
A Jordan Spreader doing its wintertime job.

Lanny Billings commented on Archie's post

John Kanakos commented on Joe's share
We have one at the Elgin County Railway Museum located in the MCR Shops!

 Kick Klein commented on Joe's share
Just ran one today [Nov 11, 2020]

Normally a ballast regulator is used to groom the ballast. But here they are adding a significant amount of material to widen the bank, so they are using a spreader to shove the material down the side of the bank.
Rick Alison posted
Roger Dubielewicz: Bank widening a year ahead of the sled ballast program. After the sled raise and several lifts with the tampers you need something to hold new ballast.

Rick Alison posted
[An overview of the spreader train.]

It looks like GN modified the design of a Jordan Spreader to do just winter work.
Jon Bentz posted
The BNSF isn't all just running trains. Maintenance comes in many forms including keeping the line open during winter. Here an ex-GN snow dozer is clearing excess snow build up from the main line at Merritt, Washington. Many would expect the snow to be flying to the side, but Cascade Concret (as snow out here is sometimes referred to) can be near as solid as concrete. This crew was taking it slow and trying not over stress the equipment during this operation. 2017
Jeff Klurfeld: I like the rotary snowplow better.
Dave Gahlbeck: rotories only clear rails- plows clear much more....

Jon Bentz posted
Maintenance of Way work is vital to the operation of all railroad and is no exception for the BNSF. Here was see one of the railroads SnoDozers in action at Merritt, Washington. The job was to push snow back from the mainline in order to provide safe clearance along the right of way. Snow in the Cascades has a nickname, "Cascade Concrete". It is wet and heavy and packs to a harness that earned that moniker.
Ross Warnell: The snow in the Cascades, especially on the western slope, is some seriously wet, heavy, hard to move stuff.
Brett Gissel: That is a very different type of plow from what I have seen. Is this specifically designed to deal with the wet snow?
Bruce Deuel: She is parked at Skykomish Wa.

Rick Durrant posted five photos with the comment: "When the spreader derails on Donner 2011."
[You use sidewinders to get them back on the track.]





safe_image for Michael Berry Flickr
James Cantrell: The first one I ran was an old air Ditcher back in Minnesota plowed a lot of snow and widened a few cuts used them a lot was happy when we got hydraulic Jordan only ran the air Ditcher one winter.
[They level the plow on during "summer work."]

(new window) 4:23 taught me that you can use the wing to shove the snow up and further away from the track.

(new window)  Visible ditching starts at 2:46.

Skip to -4:20 in this video (source) a spreader in action including folding in a wing to pass an obstruction.

An action photo showing that the reason the winglets can be at a different angle is to restore the shape of the drainage ditches on each side of a track. They can also be used for vegetation control without the risk of herbicides. (Update: when posted, the comments discuss that good drainage is the most important aspect of maintaining a good track.)

In the winter a spreader can help remove snow off the track: clearing a single track, to remove the berm between a double track the spreader shoved the snow onto the other track where a rotary snow blower came along and threw the snow way off to the side.    A spreader and a rotary are in the same frame.

Pictures of EJ&E's and MWRD's spreaders parked on a siding waiting for their call to duty.

Another summertime job for a spreader is grooming rip rap when the tracks are close to a river's shore.

(new window, 2:07)

9:06 video @ 5:18

A video of a CSX ditching operation starts at 1:43. The modern units have an up down movement of the whole blade in addition to swing down and swing out. The video also shows B&O Colored Position Lights. In fact, at 9:10, you can see a signal drop from yellow to red.

1 comment:

  1. Hello

    Nice article. There s a Jordan Spreader standing still between Quebec and Montreal, certainly for snow removal. Very nice machine !