Shovels are all well and good for your driveway, but when it comes to serious snow removal, you need a much more intense tool to get the job done properly. Sometime that tool comes in the form of bigger shovels, plows and backhoes and the like. But the most robust snow maneuvers don't rely on scoops of metal to get the job done. They use jet engines.
If you know even the least bit about how a jet engine works, you can probably figure out why it might be a good tool for the job. For one, jet engines can put out an absurd amount of thrust. Even the most minute of jet planes—take the for example—can throw out an impressive 3,000 pounds of force. Not only that, but it's hot too. Exhaust temperatures can reach around 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. A jet engine is one heck of a hairdryer.
That power has been put to work blowing (and melting) snow for almost as long as it's been putting people in the sky. . A single jet-blower could accomplish in hours what would take days for traditional plows and shovelers. Around the same time, Russians started using jet-powered trucks to clear snow-covered runways.
While jet engines are powerful snow melter/blowers, they do have their drawbacks. Perhaps the biggest one is price. For a job as simple as getting rid of snow, a jet engine is kind of overkill. It's for that reason that the majority of jet-engine snow blowers used old engines, usually fighter jet thrusters that had put in as much work as they could before becoming questionably safe. A fair number of Klimov VK-1s—the first Soviet jet engine to see mass production starting in the late 1940s—made their way into these sorts of blowers Maybe they weren't reliable enough to keep MiG-15s and their pilot's in the air, but if a jet-engine snow blower suddenly gives out, it's not such a big deal.
The idea hasn't died out, and many a jet-blower is still in use today, many along the America's eastern seaboard. Like the Russian variety, most still rely on retired airplane engines and are beginning to show their age, the vast majority having been manufactured in the before the 1980s.
The Boston Globe took at one of the city's modern jet-blowers in a 2011 article, dishing a whole bunch of great details on the lovingly dubbed "Snowzilla." Officially the "Portec RMC Hurricane Jet Snow Blower," the giganto snow destroyer makes use of a jet fighter engine that dates back to the 50s, but is still able to put out some 3,000 pounds of thrust and heat up its stream to a thousand degrees.
A powerful but homely creature, Snowzilla sounds like 10,000 hair dryers running at once and resembles a cross between an aardvark and a tollbooth. It sits on railroad wheels, weighs 26,000 pounds, and measures 8 by 12 by 27 feet — though most of that length is taken up by its elongated snout. Its thirst for fuel is so great — it guzzles 900 gallons in a single run — that a tanker truck must follow it from station to station.
But despite the high cost of operation and the fact that maintenance is a job that borders on historic restoration, the blowers still see action. Just last year Boston's . When they're back home, they can be found taking care of business in railyards and on tracks along the Metro-North, and with , they're likely to get some exercise soon.
Hold onto your shovel if you hear one of these sneaking up.