Saturday, 13 December 2008

Snow and the roads in 1880s Ottawa

Now that the first major snowfall of the year has come to Ottawa let's look back to the 1880s when City streets weren't cleared of snow.

A January 1967 Ottawa Citizen article, found in the clipping collection in the Ottawa Room of the Ottawa Public Library, describes how horse-drawn street cars were taken off their wheels and mounted on sleds, with plenty of straw piled inside the cars to keep passenger's feet warm.

The 1880s mechanism of clearing sidewalks was the pride of the city engineering department. A vee-shaped plow was jerked along by a team of Clydesdales, the driver holding onto the handle and shouting instructions.

"A short distance behind came another team, this time with a driver mounted on a little machine. Sticking out one side was a long board - a wing plow -- which smoothed the snow bank out onto the roadway so sleighs, bread and milk wagons could drive up to the sidewalk.

Then half a block behind came the third team, snorting and blowing steam from their nostrils as they hauled along a huge wooden snow roller to pack the snow remaining on the sidewalk so a person could walk. The weighted roller, five feet in diameter and six feet wide often did such a thorough job that it was well into the summer before all the ice disappeared from the sidewalks."

Ah, the good old days! At least they had public transport.

1 comment:

Apple said...

Thanks for sharing this. My mother remembers horse drawn plows in Michigan in the 1930's but I hadn't really thought about my earlier ancestors in Ottawa. When I think of winter in Ottawa I think of my grandmother ice skating on the canal.