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Snowcat Restoration & Modification Projects Forum Major Restorations, Upgrades, and Non-Stock Snowcat Modifications

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Old 04-27-2006, 12:47 AM
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Default Winches on Snow Cats

When I got my first Snow Trac I showed it to a bunch of guy's in the Boeing Jeep Club and another Jeep club. The responses were along the lines of: " Wow, gnarly Rig! but you need a winch on it" Then, thinking back I grew up Skiing in Vermont, New Hampshire and Mass, and I looked at lots of Snow Cats. Very few had winches, and those that did had it in the rear. So we took the 63, with it's tame little 1/2 deep grousers out on 20 trips in the rough terraine of the Cascades. The Average trip was 24 Miles and what we found was that it was almost impossable to get stuck. About the only snow condition that presented a challenge was "corn snow" the slushy kind you encounter in spring. We got the truck and trailer stuck plenty of times,but always managed to pull it out with the cat. Not bad considering that the truck and trailer weighs in at about 10,000 Lbs, and the cat only weighs 2800.

The second or third year we restored a Tucker 443, which is their standard 4 steel track machine with a little Dodge Flat Head 6 that only develops about 100 Hp. It was a 1963 also and I bought it to have around as a 'Tow Truck' incase I had a problem with my ST4. Never did use it for that, but on it's maiden voyage after a thorough restoration we were able to pull Earls 3/4 Dodge Pick Up with the cummings in it, and a Huge Alaskan Camper on it, plus a double axel car trailer that we used to haul the machine. We were going up an un plowed logging road, in waist deep snow, and snow was going over the hood of the Dodge. The trailer was dragging along like a surf board tied to the truck. After a mile and a half of this we got to a spot where we could turn around the whole mess. We did a giant 3 point turn with the Tucker pulling the truck and trailer one way and then pulling it back the other by chaining on to the trailer. The tracks never slipped, and the engine never overheated. Needless to say we were duly impressed. At work some of the guys at Boeing gave Earl a hard time about not having a winch on his truck. Ever since then Earl has proudly displayed on his Tool Chest at work A picture of his truck & camper hitched to the trailer with the Tucker sitting on it. The Caption reads: MY TRUCK ----MY WINCH, directly under the photo. He doesn't get much flack anymore!
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Old 04-27-2006, 01:04 AM
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Default Re: Winches on Snow Cats

The next year we took 2 snow trac's up mount Baker, a 10,000 Ft. Volcano. One of the machines developed a starter problem. We had installed a bigger 80HP modified VW engine and the heat siezed up the starter bushing in the transaxel. To our surprise we were able to pull start it and even turn it around with the other Snow Trac. This was in a ravine, at 7 or 8 thousand feet, where the measured depth of the snow was over 25 Feet! After that I saw no reason to keep the Tucker and sold it.

On another ocassion in Alaska, I got a Bombardier Muskeg tractor stuck in a ravine in some Tundra. It was about 56 miles out of Fairbanks at Chena Hot Springs. It had a Winch, but there was nothing around substantial enough to hook on to. After deforesting almost the entire side of a hill with our winch ( entire groups of trees pulled down), we got a D7 cat to pull it out. the D7 didn't like Tundra and would get stuck itself if you drove it in the same spot twice. Once again a winch was of little use.

I did have a Trac Master with a winch, but that machine was also impossible to get stuck. I made a sort of boom that attached to the back and used it to pick up semi heavy stuff, but real heavy stuff just tipped the machine up on it's rear wheels. I ended up removing the winch some years later.
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Old 04-27-2006, 01:21 AM
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Default Re: Winches on Snow Cats

On the Trans Alaska pipeline they had all 1983 & 1984 tuckers with belted tracks, a diesel, 150 Gallon tanks, Crew Cab Pick up bodies. These don't have the steel tracks, they have a belted track similar to all the other later machines, with fairly tall Aluminum or Steel grousers. Every year they have an Oil Spill Drill, sort of like a Fire drill. The Snow cats and the Helicopter rush out to a pre determined spot along the pipeline and set up containment boom and cart out lots of supplies. On one of these exercises a tucker got hung up on a Ice flow, where a stream had crossed the road. They sent out another tucker to pull it out with little success. There were a bunch of tired and weary Alyeska workers at the camp that night.
Mostly what they used the Snow cats for was Bridge inspection. Along the 800 Mile TAPS (Trans Alaska Pipeline Service) there are some 800 bridges ranging in size and all of different designs. It's much easier to inspect the bridge embuckments in the winter as you don't have to muck around in the water.
Prior to 1983 the Pipeline had all Snow Trac's and some Snow Masters, about 44 in all, but by the time I started working there as an inspector they were all gone. I did manage to get some left behind service literature from them.
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Old 04-27-2006, 01:38 AM
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Default Re: Winches on Snow Cats

In the late 90's the pipeline purchased several Bombardier Ski Dozer's. They had mechanical problems and were not nearly as aggressive as the Tucker's. We had a crew of electricians in the 'Man Box'(enclosed box on the back, like a truck body with windows and a roof hatch) and were just leaving a site on the pipeline. There was a generator, a Pipe Threader and a big extension ladder along with the 4 sparkies in the back, and I was riding in the cab with the operator. The machine was very noisy and the operator and I wore Hearing protection. The double back doors kept poping open and they wired it shut from the outsid with a rope. We were having a hard time gitting up this one hill (in the $300,000 machine!) and I noticed a thumping noise. Seems a fire extinguisher had tipped over inside the man box and discharged. The poor guys were trying to get air in from the roof hatch and trying to get us to stop and let them out. No body got hurt but it was a bit embarrising. The hill that this happened on would have been a cake walk for an ST4 or A Kristi. For all further work requiring a snow cat we used the Tucker's. In Prudho they even have one with a bucket truck on it. The Oilfield service guy's like it because instead of having to plow there way in and stomp around in the snow, they simply drive up to the valve or whatever it is thay need to service, climb into the Bucket, boom over and service the equipment all without having to get their feet wet, or snowy in this case.
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Old 04-27-2006, 02:18 AM
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Default Re: Winches on Snow Cats

Lyndon you need to write a book! These are great. Have any pictures and more stories?
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Old 04-27-2006, 03:18 AM
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Default Re: One more story:

In my Freshman or sophmore year of High school the school had a ski outing. It was STOWE! Stowe Vt. is one of the oldest ski area's in the US, pre dating the western areas buy about 25 years. They had a chair lift in 1926, Sun Valley and Vail didn't even exsist yet. this would be around 1968 and Stowe was a prestiegous well developed ski area. Amherst Mass, my home town is about a 6 to 8 hour ride in a Grey Hound bus south of Stowe. My best friend David was a native of Stowe, the only one out of my whole high school. We were fairly accomplished skiier's and got our kick's by showing up with the oldest wooden ski's, a hand nitted sweater and jeans, and Ski poles with huge baskets for snow shoeing. Rich folks from N.Y. in there fancy parka's and latest generation of metal Ski's would look at us as if we were alians. Of course we could blow the doors off most of them.The second day there another close friend of mine, Jimmy, broke his leg. The Ski Patrol loaded him up into a Tucker 443 that had obviously been rolled. The roof had been pounded out and was pretty crinkeled. In New England you learn to ski on ice. They do the best they can at grooming it, but it's still a very hard packed surface, not at all like the fluffy light snow we get out here. Anyway, their taking Jimmy down this huge bowl and the Tucker Sno Cat is partially sliding sideways down this steep slope. Jimmy laying in a strecher on the floor of the cat is looking up at the damaged roof. He asks the operator: " do these things ever roll over?" to which the operator replied;"only when they slide sideways". This didn't give poor James much reassurance. In those days Tucker's were the most popular machines at the ski area's. They have a look all their own, and left a lasting impression on me. There are roughly a hundred ski area's in Vermont, another 50 in New Hampshire and Dave and I tried to ski every one of them. We would try to do every trail, ride every lift(look at the design and engineering of the lifts) and of course we saw lots of snow cats. this is no doubt where my interest in these machines was spawned. I still like to go to new ski area's that I've never been to and try every trail and check out the lifts. Dave and another buddie of ours hand made some of their own snow boards. People looked on in amazement when they went down the slopes on what looked like a modified skate board. They didn't have bindings and were not nearly as big as today's boards, but back when Dave and John were doing it nobody else was. Real Pioneer's!
There's this Ski Area in New Hampshire call Mt. Cranmore/Skimobile. There lift system instead of having some sort of cable system was a series of rollercoaster like cars that rode on a raised track system. MT. Snow, in Vermont, had Chairs, hung from a track system that tended to drip greese on the riders. I'm sure it's all been replaced by now. Mt Snow also had the biggest fleet of ST4's of any of the major ski area's.Dave and I skiied in the tracks made by 2 belt, then 3 belt,4 and eventually 5 belt machines. Hogback Ski area, now closed and is private land, had at least one Kristi, but I remember seeing Kristi's at other major ski area's. From 68' to 90', what's that? 22 years, and all 3 of us, myself, John, and David still ski.They both live in Vermont now. Generally if I get the chance I go to wherever they house the groomers and snow cats and look to see what's in their bone yard. At Ski area's it's usually pretty slim pickins though.
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Old 04-30-2006, 08:30 AM
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Default Re: Winches on Snow Cats

Just a thought, something to attach to would obviously be a problem if you need to winch your snow trac out.

In the climbing fraternity a snow anchor is used to secure a climber where no other method of attachment is available.

A larger version of the attached picture could be designed as a "I'm a snow cat driver - get me out of here" aid.

To work it would be pushed or hammered into the snow and the load spreading effect of a large plate would allow the snow to be used as anchor point for a winch.
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Old 04-30-2006, 04:11 PM
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Default Re: Winches on Snow Cats

Tried all manner of combinations of stakes, bars and anchors. One has to set up a cabling system that distributes the load over all your anchors. What seemed to work best for the logging guy's and dozer opertors, was to dig a trench perpendicular to the direction of travel, and bury a log in it. For a dozer stuck in a stream or river bed it was common to chain or tie a log to the tracks themselves. Once you've moved one track length you have to untie the log and this get's tough in cold moving water, but it will work and usually you're Un-stuck with one attempt. Once you get into Ice fields or Tundra above the Arctic Circle, or above the tree line, there is usually little to tie on to. Even if you have a mile of winch line it doesn't do much good. This is where one get's good at "Snow Anchor Systems"
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Old 05-03-2006, 12:17 PM
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Default Re: Winches on Snow Cats

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