Snow-Motor from 1926

This post was written by Form & Reform on January 29, 2009
Posted Under: History


Now that I’ve had a chance to think about a modern version of this I’ve come up with a few updates.

  1. PTO to hydraulic pump,  then use separate hydraulic motors left and right to drive the screws. This would allow much better feathering of the controls and eliminate the need for a clutch on each side and the jerkiness of the steering seen in the film. Did you notice in the Russian film full forward on one side and reverse on the other move the machine sideways!
  2. Lower center of gravity and wider foot print. I’ll scale the vehicle to match modern trucks, so it can fit on normal dirt roads.
  3. A cab for sure, and a utility bed on the rear for moving people and stuff. This will be a work of art as well, so think 20,000 leagues under the sea for style!
  4. I like how aggressive the Russian spiral is. Should I go amphibious too, and could this run on pavement? Wondering if a rubber dock bumper would hold up to the street and dirt in place of the steel spiral.


Recently British adventurers Steven Brooks and Graham Stratford built a specialized vehicle which could cross the Bering Straights from Alaska to Russia, and could traverse water, ice, snow, and the tangled masses of ice ridges that can occur in that area. It could also climb out of the water onto the ice shelf. Their adventure is showcased at the team’s Ice Challenger site. The vehicle was a Bombardier snow grooming vehicle, driven by tracks, to which was added a screw propulsion system.

More info from Patent Pending



The crew that helped me build the snail car (god bless their souls) has a side bet as to when I’ll pop the new project on them for this year, well….. here it is.

I want to build a Playa-Motor based on this 1926 snowmobile and I have most of the parts in my shop, so crew are you ready?


In the 1920s the Armstead Snow Motor was developed. When this was used to convert a Fordson tractor into a screw propelled vehicle with a single pair of cylinders; the combination became known as the Fordson Snow Devil. A film was made to show the capabilities of the vehicle as well as a Chevrolet car fitted with an Armstead Snow Motor.[4] The film clearly shows that the vehicle copes well in snow. Steering was effected by having each cylinder receive power from a separate clutch which, depending on the position of the steering gear, engages and disengages; this results a vehicle that is relatively maneuverable. The promotional film shows the Armstead snow motor hauling 20 tones of logs.

In January 1926, Time magazine reported:

“Having used the motor car for almost every other conceivable purpose, leading Detroit automobile makers have now organized a company entitled “Snow Motors Inc.,” to put out a machine which will negotiate the deepest snowdrifts at six to eight miles an hour. The new car will consist of a Ford tractor power-plant mounted on two revolving cylinders instead of wheels—something on the order of a steam roller. The machine has already proved its usefulness in deep snow previously unnavigable. One such machine has done the work which formerly required three teams. In Oregon a stage line uses a snow motor in its two daily round trips over the Mackenzie Pass between Eugene and Bend. Orders are already in hand from Canada, Norway, Sweden, Alaska. The Hudson Bay Co. has ordered a supply to maintain communications with its most northern fur-trading stations. The Royal Northwest Mounted Police have also gone into the market for snow motors, and may cease to be horsemen and become chauffeurs, to the deep regret of cinema people. A number of prominent motor makers have also been interested in the proposition from the angle of adapting the snow motors equipment to their ordinary models. Hudson, Dodge and Chevrolet are mentioned especially as interested in practical possibilities along this line.[5]”

“An an extant example is in the collection of the Heidrick Ag History Center in Woodland, California. This particular vehicle is said to have been used to haul mail from Truckee to North Lake Tahoe.[6]“

“Despite this interest, the Armstead Snow Motor was not a long-term commercial success.”

A modern variation was done by our very own SRL and is called the Screw Machine. Our variation would sink quite nicely in any depth of snow, but works great on glass.



From Russia

Reader Comments

Would you need assistance? I would love to be involved!

Written By Mari Hsu on January 29th, 2009 @ 10:38 am

I’ll keep you in the loop. Please join the golden mean fan club as I’ll be posting info to that group once we’re ready to start.

Written By admin on January 29th, 2009 @ 11:02 am

I would like to see this principal adapted to ATV use too. I would buy one.

Written By Mark Goddard on February 11th, 2009 @ 2:34 pm

i saw a custom toy built like this on ebay, it led to your website. i just think it is the neatest thing i have ever seen. keep me posted on anything new. thanks

Written By bradd obrecht on April 1st, 2009 @ 7:03 pm

Can you post the link to the toy?

Written By admin on April 2nd, 2009 @ 7:45 am

You have look on ebay but if you want one I could build you one. I build all kinds of farm toys to sell them you can email me at the email that is listed thank you

Written By Bradd Obrecht on April 26th, 2009 @ 2:24 pm

I don’t understand your post/comment, do you have a website?

Written By admin on April 26th, 2009 @ 4:29 pm

It’s the first time I commented here and I must say you share us genuine, and quality information for bloggers! Good job.
p.s. You have a very good template for your blog. Where did you find it?

Written By mssmotorrd on May 3rd, 2009 @ 4:52 am

I made it from from congo blue, more info is on the very bottom of the blog page. Mostly changed the colors.
Thanks I try to post about things I do, want to do, or how. Great to know people like it.

Written By admin on May 3rd, 2009 @ 4:49 pm

What is your status on building this project? Would love to see it being built.

Alliance, NE

Written By Donald Bolt on December 22nd, 2009 @ 9:57 am

On hold while I build an 85 foot long Zeppelin

Written By admin on December 22nd, 2009 @ 10:17 am

You’re offical on my top favorite for technology.
I was wondering, with that vechile, can you digging down and arrive China? (*joking*) But seriously, that ideas was really amazing! wooow! If suppose use Oil driller, You’d be going from west coast to east coast within 3-5 days or a snap if the engine are faster than a airplane engine itself.
Beside that, Let’s talking about WATER try with something that can float and a boat engine that will swimming on the top surface or a helipilotor for the air. .. I would say.. it look like a DILDO but interior you will be not turning You’ll be like I’m drilling a *&$%#! *laughing*
Well I want to say You got fucking great machine! Rock it on!!

Written By Handstalker on December 24th, 2009 @ 7:11 am

I love these things. Great project idea! I can’t wait to see it.

I was around when they built one of these on Junkyard Wars. (It failed in part because of a bum hydraulic pump.) Using rubber isn’t going to work because all that friction is counter to how these things work. (With higher friction rubber in order to get it to turn you’d need a ton more power all going into fighting the other spirals motion, tearing off your drive spiral, and straining your drive/suspension, non of it going into driving your device forward.)

The trick is to make the whole spiral as smooth and sleek as possible so there’s not much friction against the rotation, and more of the power goes into the forward/back drive. If you have too much friction you can rev and rev all you want to but you never go anywhere.

Take care choosing your pitch/spiral height to work with the target material. (the playa) More aggressive pitch means more stress on the drive train and spiral. If the spiral is too high (tall) it’ll be unable to turn in the playa and will tear itself off. Trying to make it work on lots of different materials is going to be much much harder then trying to tune for just one.

A cab is good because if the a spiral starts to come off it flogs the passengers. :] (I guess you can choose a rotation direction where it flogs the undercarriage instead for forward motion.)

For playa I wouldn’t choose a single perpendicular spiral strip. (too easy to bend/tear off) Much better to use an inverted V shape (or even maybe a 90 deg V) so both legs are welded down. For Playa you won’t need a lot of penetration, so you might even just be able to use stock small sized angle iron.

Sorry I’m just thinking out loud. blah blah blah.

Good luck with this project. I loved the Snail Car, and I can’t wait to see this come to life!


Written By Kurt on January 27th, 2010 @ 1:24 pm

Great thoughts thanks. I keep delaying making this because of the lack of space to use it in. I live in the city and I hate to make something I can only off road in.

Written By admin on January 27th, 2010 @ 2:13 pm

It seems that by mounting the rollers pictured in the Modern Variation by SRL on the outer edge of the flanges of a standard drum version, you would retain the snow/water capabilities, and also be able to negotiate paved roads. I would probably recess the rollers into the flanges inorder to protectd them and give them a little more structural integrety. I would probably also try to use a rubber surfaced wheel not unlike skateboard or roller blade wheels. Like the rollerblade wheels I would go for something with a narrow profile to keep the flanges as knife like as possible.

Written By Rick Bowen on January 3rd, 2011 @ 8:48 am

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