BC Tel- Snowcats

North-West, British Columbia, Canada

Snow Cats used by BC Tel/ Telus Radio Crew in Northern BC


“Model 1402 Thiokol Imp” Snow Machine
Under BC Telephone Co. colours, sitting beside the old Aiyansh CO
We used this little machine in various places, certain times of year, it was used from Aiyansh CO to Aiyansh radio site.
It was also hauled on our trailers to the old Kitsumkalum Radio Site.
specs- 30hp, Gas, 4 cylinder, air cooled, Wisconsin motor, 635 kg payload, 15 cm ground clearance, planetary differential in oil bath,
rubber sprockets, 80% maximum slope in snow. Built in 1960's. Operated by 2 pull brake levers. no engine cover inside, noisy and hot! small storage area on the back, with canvas cover.
Only a 2 seater, 2 doors. 2 pull brake steering levers. Simple, but it worked.
I still have a burnt sleeve on a Down Parka from this machine! If we were in a hurry, you could reach over the manifold and play with the governor spring.
But doing this, your sleeve would lay close to the hot exhaust. As I found out the hard way!

Westerasmaskiner (Aktiv) Snow-Trac ST4
For many years, the machine before the Sprynt was the Skinner, or Westerasmaskiner.
It had a Volkswagen 1200cc air cooled gas engine, Volkswagen transmission, narrow tracks, cabin like a bus, Rear Door access only, 2 swing out windows, and no interior heaters originally. They added an optional gas heater to the left of the driver later on, which burnt the hell out of your left arm, meanwhile your body would freeze. Also your right gas pedal foot would cook, while your left clutch foot would freeze. It was the only machine at the time, with a steering wheel, it was a very poor design, in that before you came to a corner you had to start turning like mad, and depending on the snow conditions you might, or might not turn in time. It took some practice to get it right. The machine was very reliable most of the time. Passengers sat facing the center of the machine on side benches. Outside it had 2 side rails , above the tracks, for storing gear. Made in Sweden, used as a school bus.

General Under the hood view
Note the 2 large drive disks at the top rear

General Interior view
Ours had Gas heaters located where the red dot is

  • Length 3.64 m (11 ft 11 in)
  • Width 1.90 m (6 ft 2 in)
  • Height 1.85 m (6 ft)
  • Unladen Weight 1.35 tonnes
  • max speed 24kmh

Steering mechanism was via a variator belt, and disk assembly which would brake one drive shaft or the other.
Power was supplied thru a huge duplex chain to the drive sprockets. The chain made the machine a little noisy.
Units are still for sale on the Internet, and wanted by buyers.
These units were even made into armoured vehicles, for British Commandos.
The over snow vehicle Snow-Trac was invented by Lars Larsson an engineer who worked for Vasteras Maskiner in Morgongava, Sweden
A company that manufactured farming equipment. In 1955 he registered a patent for his creation. Vasteras Maskiner, later renamed Aktiv.

There is even a matchbox toy of this machine, made in 1964, plus a puzzle made by Matchbox.
I can only ask why??

Thiokol Sprynt on Copper Mountain ca 1968-69
picture by Don Gent

The Thiokol Sprynt, model 1201 C, was a great machine and used for many years. Powered by a 6 cylinder Ford Industrial 170 cid engine, 36 inch wide tracks, 2 pull brake steering levers, and large 5 person cabin, with 4 full doors and large rear deck. This machine could side bank a very steep angle, center of gravity was very low. Only failing was walking out of its track very often if the track wasn’t adjusted properly, or front tire went flat. It was quite a job to reinstall the track on a cold snowy day. Now Thiokol makes Rocket parts for NASA! Made in Logan, Utah They later made solid rubber tires, so no more flats!

Views of the track system

View inside the cab
2 steering levers visible, as well as the parking brake lever.

Someone who hated us, sent out a Spider machine in the mid 70’s.
This machine had a V8 engine, and Hydrostatic drive, which ran a Hydraulic pump, which ran hydraulic motors for each track. All this was controlled by a center 6” joy-stick. It was a large machine, like the Sprynt, but unfortunately it worked only in warmer climates. When it got cold, the hydraulic oil became molasses, and nothing would work until the machine warmed up for half an hour. After it started, and you had to run it, the hot oil thru the center console would make the joy stick impossible to hold.
All in all a terrible machine. Would go like hell in a straight line, and turn on a dime, but not any good for anything else. Constant pressure had to be applied before the machine would move, so operating for any length of time, like from Brown Bear to Meziadin, your hand, would be numb and burnt. It was a full size machine, very comfortable riding, it was just the hot oil thing.
No Picture yet, but would love one.
I am not exactly sure if I have the spelling right for this machine. Would love to know the manufacturer one day. I am now thinking this was made by Nodwell. But only a guess.

One story involving the Spider, was when it broke down between Meziadin and Brown Bear, and I had to go up with the snow machine trailer, and load it up and bring it home, to the garage, to get fixed. Well the trailer had an expanded metal top, the machine had metal cleats. The two do not match, trust me. We struggled with the machine for hours, to load it, with winches, and come-alongs, in tandom. All at well below 0 temperatures.
Now as Paul Harvey says, “for the rest of the story”. I knew I needed help, so Stan Miller, our Boss at the time, assigned Bob Pegg, from Toll, and John Hardie, a radio man at the time, to help me. Well John had the largest down coat, (Jones Tent and Awning made, Pioneer brand), Huge mitts, Big Insulated overshoes, He was dressed for Arctic –50 deg or more. Bob had light overshoes, and a light winter coat. So the obvious choice for running the winch, (controls were inside the heated truck), was Bob. Nope, John took control of the winch, and wouldn’t get out of the truck! Bob and myself, were taking turns, getting in to warm up, in the passenger seat.
After returning to Terrace, many hours later, the story got out, and soon after that, John became known as John “Winchman” Hardie.
I heard via email in 2005, from John Hardie, who now lives in Australia of all places, and I am sure he read this article after he emailed me, and probably wasn't pleased with my interpretation of the day, but again I tell them like I see them. I don't tell these stories to hurt feelings, but hope now 30 years later, we can laugh at them. I know I do.
John Hardie is now married, has 2 daughters, left Terrace in 1973. Lives in Downer, ACT, Canberra, Australia. He looks after the central betting system there, as the Senior Analyst / Programmer.

Tucker’s Motto= No snow too deep, no road too steep
One of the best machines for our area, was the Tucker built in Medford Oregon.
Equipped with 4 floating pontoon track assemblies, and a Chrysler 318 engine these things would go just about anywhere.
Only draw back was the high center of gravity, and smaller cabin. They were a little shy on deck space also.

Tucker Sno-Cat at Copper Mountain Radio Site -Apr 2000 picture by Glen Olver
The machine above is equipped with a chrysler 318 V8 mounted over the front tracks
This is the style of Tucker I used in the late 70's and early 80's
4 person cab, 4 speed manual transmission and hydraulic steering wheel
Great comfort, and fast speed! These babies were nice machines.

Newer Tucker approaching Copper Mountain Radio site
picture by Glen Olver
This new machine is equipped with a diesel engine mounted in the rear
I believe this is a series 2000 machine

Prince Rupert Radio Department, used a Bombardier with a blade on it for many years on Mt. Hays, and supposedly liked it. We tried the machine on Copper mountain and were not impressed. The last few years the Terrace Radio Crew have used a bigger bombardier machine, with a blade on Copper Mountain. It is equipped with a diesel engine.

In front of Copper Mountain Garage

Pictures in first set below from Brooke Hodson Collection

1, 2, 3

Tucker, DMC1200, Thiokol?, BR200 Bombardier

4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

BR200 Bombardier Snow-Cat

10, 11, 12, 13

DMC1200, DMC1200, Unknown, Tucker

14, 15

Interior BR200 Bombardier, rear Thiokol?

Pictures below from Ron Anderson Collection

Tucker Snowcat

These were taken on Copper Mountain Road, Feb 1990

  • Last modified: 2018/02/18 18:56
  • by dlgent