LeTourneau Sno-Freighter

They say necessity is the mother of all invention. When the particular necessity happens to be the detection of Soviet Union bombers carrying nuclear warheads old mother invention is bound to have some outrageous children of her own. Remember those awesome Mack trucks used to ferry men and supplies to the distance radar bases that would make up the DEW Line? It was A land where man is closer to his God. Apparently they had some help in the form of this LeTourneau Sno-Freighter.

LeTourneau Sno-Freighter

David came across this unique piece of truck and American history just sitting by the road in Fox, Alaska. Can you believe this massive beast has just been abandoned and left to rot? Alaska Freight Lines had the contract in the early 1950’s to transport supplies for the construction of the before mentioned DEW Line. They commissioned heavy equipment specialist Le Tourneau Technologies to build a one of a kind land train capable of fording semi frozen rivers and deep snow. Powered by two Cummins engines generating 800 HP the Sno-Freighter was capable of pulling 150 tons of material through temperatures as low as minus 68 degrees fahrenheit. Much like a rail based locomotive the diesel engines powered electric motors located on each of the 24 combined wheels of the power unit and the trailing wagons.

Here is a shot of the 88 inch tall, 38 inch wide tubeless tires that went flat long ago. Exposed is part of the gearing of the electric motor.

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After completion of the DEW Line it was used to transport supplies for the exploration of the North Shore Oil fields. While the highly specialized nature of the Sno-Freighter made it so adept at its job it also was its greatest weakness. As the years rolled on spare parts became fewer and general maintenance costs increased. Eventually it was parked and left to rot by the side of the Steese Highway where it can be seen today.

What an ignominious fate for such a unique machine. If I had the green backs this rig would be rotting in my back yard. While you cry into your beer take a gander at how it once was in these old promotion films.

Part 2

We are in your debt David. Thanks for sharing.

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3 Responses to LeTourneau Sno-Freighter

  1. Joe says:

    I am not sure you could come across a rarer find than this. I am simply amazed it still exists. It belongs in a transportation museum but like many LeTourneau products, it is so big, transporting it would be big money.

    I wonder if the LT360 Electric Digger pan scraper still exists? Three scraper bowls in one machine with eight Detroit 16V-71N engines! No doubt the test operators suffered massive hearing loss as they aged.

  2. Jeffrey Smoker says:

    This is quite an impressive piece of equipment. It was never used for oil field work. On it’s second trip up north, the locomotive portion caught fire and was left to sit. It was eventually towed to it’s current position at a later date. Check out Cliff Bishop’s book, “Eighteen Wheels North to Alaska” for more about that.

    Some more on the LeTourneau. It was a model VC-22 Sno-Freighter, built in January 1955 (built in 1 month). Powered by two Cummins NVH-12B1 V-12 400hp diesel engines. Each of the five cars was 16ft wide, 40ft long, and had a 30 ton capacity each. Total full length was 274ft, and all 24 wheels had their own electric motor.

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