The Weirdest Snow Mobile In The World: The Monarch Sno-Motor

This 1938 Monarch Sno-Motor is believed to be the last of its kind left on earth, it’s been comprehensively restored, and it’s now in 100% operational condition.

This Sno-Motor was originally used during the construction of the Mt Hood Ski Lodge, after it was complete it was used for hauling skiers up the slopes. It was later restored by the George Schaaf team and there’s a video of it working below.

Fast Facts – The Monarch Sno-Motor

  • The Monarch Sno-Motor was designed by TP Flynn, Senior Equipment Engineer at the US Forest Service of Portland, Oregon and originally used to haul lumber out of the dense forests of the North Western United States.
  • The vehicle was built by the Monarch Forge and Machine Works in Portland, Oregon in the late 1930s, not long before the outbreak of WWII in Europe.
  • The design of the Sno-Motor is unique in that it has a forward tracked section that contains the engine and transmission. The driver’s cab is out the back, and there’s a trailer/sled behind it that also acts as a fulcrum point for turning/steering.
  • Power is provided by a 90 hp Hercules flathead six-cylinder engine which drives the tracks, the Sno-Motor is said to be able to climb slopes of over 40º, it can travel up to 25 mph, and it can carry up to two and to half tones.

The Origins Of The Monarch Sno-Motor

The 1920s and 1930s were the early days of machines designed for transportation on the snow and ice, engineers around the world came up with a vast array of different solutions including Joseph-Armand Bombardier who developed some unusual propeller-driven machines in the 1910s.

Above Video: this clip shows the Monarch Sno-Motor being driven in the snow, and it showcases both the propulsion and the unusual steering mechanism.

Bombardier would of course become a familiar name for this one who lived in places with winters that featured heavy snowfalls. He developed a remarkable array of snow vehicles like the Bombardier B7 “Snow Coach” that helped to revolutionize the lives of people in the far northern and southern latitudes.

While Joseph-Armand was hard at work developing his designs in the 1930s another engineer on the other side of the continent was carefully developing his own unique design. His name was TP Flynn and he was working on a new vehicle that would be called the Sno-Motor.

The Sno-Motor: How It Works

Flynn’s design was remarkably different to the designs from Bombardier, rather than use twin front skis for steering with rear tracks for propulsion the Sno-Motor would use a wide single track front end, a rear mounted driver cabin, and it would have a sled towed behind.

Interestingly, steering is accomplished by turning the sled relative to the front end, it acts as a fulcrum point to provide directional control whilst also being able to carry up to 2.5 tons of cargo or 18+ people.

Image DescriptionThe Sno-Motor was so unusual it was featured in Popular Mechanics magazine twice, once in 1938 and again on the cover in 1949.

Power is provided by a 90 hp Hercules flathead six-cylinder engine which is contained within the front tracked section, its considerable weight also helps with traction on loose snow. There are access doors on either side of the tracked section to allow access for mechanics, so that checks and maintenance can be performed.

The front section is 56 inches wide, or 4.6 feet, and it has steel plates attached to the tracks to ensure good grip into the snow and ice. The Sno-Motor proved adept at crossing even deep fresh snow, some apparently learned to drive it back and forth over particularly soft sections to compact it and make crossing it operators easier.

A Working Life In The Mountains

The Sno-Motor was built by the Monarch Forge and Machine Works of Portland, Oregon to Flynn’s design. A number of different versions were built over the years and the example you see here is thought to be the last surviving Sno-Motor in the world.

This machine was initially used in the construction of the Mt Hood Ski Lodge, after which time it was used primarily for hauling skiers up the slopes and for rescuing injured skiers, bringing them back down the mountain where they could receive medical treatment and be transferred to hospital.

Monarch Sno-Motor 1

Image DescriptionHere you can see the unusual steering control mechanism. The trailer sled is moved left and right by cables and pulleys to provide directional control.

One other, less common, usage was avalanche rescues. Due to the fact that the Sno-Motor could traverse almost any terrain it was used after avalanches to find survivors, recover bodies, and in 1949 it was used by scientists who were studying avalanches to better predict them.

The Monarch Sno-Motor Shown Here

The Monarch Sno-Motor in this article is a 1938 model that now benefits from a comprehensive restoration back to full working condition by the highly-regarded George Schaaf and his team.

It was purchased from a collection in Lake Tahoe and once the restoration was complete it was given a test run in the snow – you can see a video of it in action further up.

The vehicle is now due to be offered for sale by Mecum in late September, almost certainly once in a lifetime opportunity to acquire what is believed to be the last surviving example of the Monarch Sno-Motor in the world.

If you’d like to read more about this unusual machine or register to bid you can visit the listing here.
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Images courtesy of Mecum.

Monarch Sno-Motor

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