What do you do with your old electronics? Hopefully you recycle them in a environmentally safe manor. Around these parts we dispose of our old televisions and computers by driving down an empty street in the middle of the night and tossing them onto the front yard of some unsuspecting sap. Problem solved. Eventually DPW crews pick up these orphans in a futile effort to stop streets from becoming a sea of broken glass and toxic metals. Hoping to stem the flow of illegal dumping a free drop off event was organized at the city garage for all things electronic. If it ran on electricity or had a cord you were encouraged to bring it on down for safe disposal. Never missing a chance to snoop around places I am usually forbidden from visiting I found an old clock radio to use as my cover story. Upon arrival I found the drop off line stretching around the block, up a street, and back to the interstate. I decided to head in the back way sparing the clock radio for at least another year. With the drop off taking place in the garage I was expecting to catch a glimpse of some displaced equipment. Sadly not much was outside but I did catch sight of an old Vohl snow blower that immediately set my mind aflame with the possibilities of seeing this vintage machine in action. With all the heavy snow falling I figured if the blower still worked it would make an appearance….sooner or later. For weeks I followed the clean up of downtown with anticipation of catching the Vohl but I never saw much more than loaders and dump trucks. I began to lose hope and wrote the machine off as being a relic that no longer ran. This past Saturday I found a few free moments to journey downtown figuring on seeing more of the same removal action. I was in for a surprise.
There it was sitting in the bright winter sun, the object of my obsession. Powered by two diesel engines the Vohl is based off an imported English 4×4 tractor. The head of the blower can raise and lower along with the telescoping neck and rotating chute. In the late 70’s this was the machine for battling the intense winters that seemed to wrack the Northeast on a regular basis. This 1978 article from the Montreal Gazette provides an interesting glimpse to the start of the company and the products offered. Despite the optimistic tone of all involved Vohl Snowblowers appears to be no more. Click here to read.
The tactics for clearing the streets using this machine are simple. Three loaders pull the standing piles of snow from the shoulders and sidewalks to the center of the street.
Next, a snow plow makes a loop through around the pile winging it closer to the center of the street with each pass.
Finally the Vohl is ready to make an appearance.
About 10 to 15 trucks were on hand when I stopped by. Within 10 minutes all had been filled and were on their way to the snow dump. Fill time varied by dump body with some trucks maxing out in less than a minute while larger rigs like the dumpster trucks taking significantly more snow. Loading tall and heavy was the name of the game.
Listen to the beautiful music! I’m not entirely sure this Vohl has two diesel engines. The one at the rear definitely was of the no spark plug persuasion but I’m fairly sure the tractor engine was gas. I assume the rear engine is the one powering the blower.
The cleaning process moves as quickly as the return of trucks allow.
Here is a second video as the removal effort moved down Erie Blvd right past the historic Niagara Mohawk building.
Who could ask for anything more!?
Two things: Where is SL#1, and I am not an expert, but I think that started life as a Ford (County),4×4 tractor. CR
Good question! But I have no idea. You are correct about the make of tractor.
You are now officially the “Plow King!!” Stellar journalism and videography!! Makes my 65 degree weather feel so much better.
You might be interested in this Ebay listing – http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Allis-Chalmers-Tractor-Engine-/332073139723
A farmer in Wales is breaking a Vohl snowblower for spares – looks very similar. The chassis definitely looks like a Ford County, and the power unit is a turbocharged Allis-Chalmers diesel.
Cool. Yes, the chassis is definitely a Ford Country. Units were imported to Vohl shops in Quebec for transformation. Thanks!
Exactly. It was based on a ford country.
Vohl is still in business. They are up to the VL series, and the units are now a self-powered attachment. https://www.vohl.ca/en/products/snowblowers
In 2003, Tenco purchased Vohl’s snow removal equipment division. In 1999, they had also purchased SMI (formerly Sicard), thereby ending the once-ubiquitous, dedicated (truck-blower combined vehicle) snowblowers from Canadian streets. See:
Today’s public works departments and private contractors rarely possess any Sicard, SMI, or Vohl DV904s. I have not seen any vintage Sicards operating during Montreal area winters since the mid-to-late 1980s nor have I seen any Vohl DV904s since the 1990s. City workers have told me that the Vohls were a pleasure to operate, but were much more expensive than the Sicard/SMIs.
Fortunately, one generous public works attendant let me pry off some Sicard name plates from the sides of their rusting, ready to be scrapped blowers and I’ve been using them as souvenir paper weights ever since.
Nice to have both the “Senior” and Junior Sicard Snowmaster name plate on my desk after decades of having seen and heard their un-muffled machines’ ear-splitting roar! They’d likely be banned today due to reports of hearing loss experienced by their long-suffering drivers!
Lots of great vintage Sicard photos can be found online. Strange there has never been a die-cast model of a snowblower, although it may well exist somewhere.
It took a long time for public works and private contractors to upgrade to the more practical front-end-loader-attachment-type blowers.
Still, the most impressive blowers are those used to clear mountain highways and for airport runways, including American and Swedish-made models.
If you know where to look, you can still find SMI’s and Vohls running today. Larue also ended up making a similar product to SMI blowers, which they still offer a modern version of.
Yes, I have indeed seen the odd Sicard/SMI blower still operated by suburban and small town public works and contractors. Depends on how well-maintained they were over several winters.
The Larue is such a close copy of a late model Sicard/SMI dedicated blower that, from a distance, one could easily confuse the two.
I stumbled across this Idaho Norland blower video (see link below) with a steerable rear axle. Clearly very effective on corners! Not sure if Sicard/SMI or Larue ever manufactured that type. Not necessary today, though, as front-end loaders with blower attachments are more practical.