With several winter storms already under our belts in New York state, we're well-acquainted with the large town and city snowplows that come barreling down the road to clear the snow and ice. But what did snow plows used to look like?

More that 100 years ago, New Yorkers had the same snow problem, but with a much different solution. With hulking trucks pushing massive plow blades still decades in the future, New Yorkers plagued by winter weather had to look elsewhere: the Snow Roller.

The Adirondack Experience, a museum in Blue Mountain Lake, NY shared one of New York's first snow plows called a Snow Roller
The Adirondack Experience, a museum in Blue Mountain Lake, NY shared one of New York's first snow plows called a Snow Roller (theadx.org)
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Historic Snow Roller at the Adirondack Experience Museum in Blue Mountain Lake, NY

The Adirondack Experience (formerly the Adirondack Museum) in Blue Mountain Lake, NY recently shared how massive snowfalls were dealt with in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and it looks like a contraption straight out of the Flintstones cartoon.

A Snow Roller was an early ancestor of a modern snowplow. It would pack the snow down to allow for easy travel by horse-drawn sleighs
A Snow Roller was an early ancestor of a modern snowplow. It would pack the snow down to allow for easy travel by horse-drawn sleighs (theadx.org)
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The Snow Roller: the Ancestor of the Modern Snowplow in New York State

The Snow Roller, which looks like a giant steamroller made out of wooden planks, wasn't made to clear snow, but rather tamp it down. The idea behind the invention was to create a flat surface on top of the packed snow to still allow travel. From the Adirondack Experience:

In the late 1800s and early 1900s... the best way to keep the roads relatively safe was the Snow Roller. This device would actually pack down the snow that was already on the roadways, allowing a nice smooth surface for horse-drawn sleighs to drive on

Benefits of the Snow Roller in New York State

Many commenters made the point that not only would these rollers create a safe path for sleighs, but that they could make travel easier overall. "Dirt roads could be very rough, requiring strong, heavy wagons which would then need to be pulled by large horses", said one history buff, "but in the winter the snow allowed light sleighs that could be pulled by fast horses. Hence the Christmas song about one horse sleighs, they were the sports cars of that time."

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The Adirondack Experience Museum in Blue Mountain Lake, NY

The Adirondack Experience reopens for the season on May 24th, 2024, and welcomes visitors to immerse themselves in all the museum has to offer, including their Life in the Adirondacks exhibit that includes their impressive snow roller. Check out some more impressive New York snow facts below.

New York's Top 5 Snowiest Counties

New York State is one of the snowiest States in the Nation, Here is where the snow falls most.

Gallery Credit: Karolyi

Biggest snowfalls recorded in New York history

Stacker compiled a list of the biggest 1-day snowfalls in New York using data from the National Centers for Environmental Information.

Gallery Credit: Stacker