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Historical Vignettes of the North

Dateline: March 9, 2013.

Glover's Locomotive, "The Snow Conqueror."

Glover's Locomotive, 'The Snow Conqueror' - a steam tractor headed for the Klondike goldfields

      The above is a correct picture of the snow and ice train referred to in the following dispatch which appeared in the daily press of Dec. 19 [1897]:-

      WASHINGTON, Dec. 18 -- The expeditions which will be sent to the relief of the starving miners in the Klondike will be remarkable in many respects. Snow locomotives are to be used for beating a trail, and 600 reindeer will be purchased for hauling most of the supplies. Ten snow locomotives, with sled trains, are at the service of the War Department. Secretary Alger, who will have the relief appropriation at his disposal, believes that these locomotives can be used part of the way to the Klondike, but he will engage them with the express stipulation in the contract with the owners that no compensation will be given unless the amount of labour guaranteed is performed. The owners are willing to assume the risk. They claim that their machines will beat down the snow and ice on the trails, make a good track for reindeer and dog-teams, and haul big sleds at a good rate of speed.

      The above sounds like a Jules Verne story. The idea that a train of 26 cars on runners can be sent 800 miles overland, from Fort Wrangel to Dawson City, without a prepared track, seems incredible. And yet Secretary Alger has been using just such trains for several years in his Northern Michigan lumber camps.

      The locomotive is the invention of a Vermont man - George T. Glover by name. He is now a resident of Chicago. While they are on runners, they also have spiked driving wheels, which gives them a hold on the ice. The entire distance over which they will run - with the exception of about 60 miles, will be over rivers and lakes. A locomotive with a hot cylinder - somewhat after the order of the street-roller - will go ahead and break a path.

      The first train is advertised to leave Fort Wrangel about Jan. 20. A limited number of passengers will be taken, each of whom will be charged $200 for passage on this first trip - all passengers being fed and furnished with sleeping-berths for the entire trip. The cars will be heated. 300 pounds of baggage will be allowed for each person. In consideration of the low price charged for passage, all passengers will be required to help in such emergencies as may arise in breaking he trail. After the first trip, $300 will be charged.

      The company running the train is called "The Klondike Snow and Ice Transit Co." Joseph Ladue is president and their head office is at 1209 Chamber of Commerce, Chicago. Their Boston office is at 60 State Street.

George T. Glover


  • The illustration of George T. Glover is from the Biloxi Herald, of September 20, 1897.

  • A report from Washington, DC, on September 21, 1897, stated that S. T. Neal of Otterville, Missouri, a clerk with the Treasury Department, submitted plans for an ice train he invented to Secretary of War Russell Alger. Neal felt that his invention "will render travel to the Klondike country as comfortable and rapid as is railroad travel in the United States", and that "if his plans are adopted argonauts will be speeding up the Yukon before Christmas, and that all danger of starvation to those who are already upon the ground will be removed."

  • In November 1897, the United States government did actually authorize sending an expedition to Dawson City with reindeer to relieve an expected food shortage. The ice train was not used, however, and the expedition was a disaster. Of the 539 reindeer to start at Haines in May 1898, only 114 reached Dawson City, and it took almost 8 months to get there. For the story of the relief expedition, see The Great Reindeer Caper: The Missionary and the Miners, by Peter M. Rinaldo.

More on Joseph Ladue, founder of Dawson City

More Klondike Gold Rush Links

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