Tim's

TUCKER SNO-CAT
HISTORY Page

No Snow Too Deep, No Road Too Steep

This page has no connection whatsoever with the Tucker Sno-Cat Corporation, Medford, Oregon, owners of the Sno-Cat and Sno-Kitten trademarks, apart from an admiration for their products.
Sno-Cat is a registered trademark of Tucker Sno-Cat Corporation's over the snow vehicles.

Last updated 1/14/2004


Featuring Articles, Brochures, Artifacts and Photos of

Classic Tucker Sno-Cats 

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THE INVENTOR

CATS THAT WALK ON SNOW

An Old Sno-Cat Manual
(requires Acrobat Reader)

Articles

Gordon's Antarctic Tucker Page

Brochures

Artifacts

Photos

 

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Articles

Tucker Sno-Cat History

"I Ride the Sno-Cat"
"Mechanized St. Bernard" La expediciůn a la Barrera de Hielos Filtchner
An English translation of the text in the above site.
Sno-Cat to the Rescue Sno Fun without a Sno-Cat
Snow Travel Comes of Age Sno Cat Aids in Snag Removal
Cats That Walk on Snow Taxi Up Misery Mountain
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Brochures

1946 Tucker Sno-Cat brochure 1956 Tucker Sno-Cat brochure
An Old Tucker Sno-Cat brochure 300 Series Sno-Cat brochure
300 Series Sno-Kitten brochure 400 Series Sno-Cat brochure
Mud/Sno-Cat brochure 500 Series Sno-Cat brochure
1955 Price & Spec Sheet 700 Series Sno-Cat brochure
Fiberglass Pontoon Brochure  900 Series Sno-Cat brochure
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Artifacts

 
   
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Photos

 
Dash Decals from a 1954 Sno-Cat Tucker Sno-Cat Trailers
Tucker Sno-Cat Ad photos Imperial Whiskey ad
1949 Tucker Ad Tucker Development Photos
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LET'S GET ACQUAINTED WITH THE INVENTOR

The late E. M. Tucker, Sr. of Tucker SNO-CAT Corporation, was one of 13 children, born in a log cabin on Jump-Off Joe Creek in 1892 near Grants Pass, Oregon. He spent his early boyhood near Trail, Oregon in a stone house built by his father in 1901. The house overlooks a broad stretch of Rogue River and is still a landmark on the Rogue.

During his youth he walked to school through deep snow, and even at this early age he began working on different devices for transportation over snow which eventually lead to the development of the world famed Tucker SNO-CAT vehicle. In the early twenties Mr. Tucker built several spiral driven machines, but he had very little success with the principle involved. After these experiences, Mr. Tucker realized that unless he could come up with a completely different system, he would never achieve his desire to build a vehicle to travel over deep, soft snow with a minimum amount of mechanical trouble and expense.

Mr. Tucker worked in Los Angeles on models, perfecting the idea of an over-snow transportation. He then moved to Grass Valley, California, where the first production line was established. This successful venture was terminated by a move to Medford, Oregon, determined by Mr. Tucker's long expressed desire to return to the Rogue River Valley. Mr. Tucker spent 50 years in building and improving his snow machines, and his firm is recognized as the oldest successful manufacturer of snow vehicles in the world.

The newest model in production is the Tucker-Terra. It has four all rubber tracks. Some of the uses for the Tucker-Terra in winter and summer are: Snow Grooming, Snow Removal, Search & Rescue, Ambulance, Avalanche Control, Oil & Gas Exploration, Mining, Telecommunication Operations, Personnel & Cargo Carrier, Mowing, Agriculture, Airport Runway Snow Removal.

 
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CATS THAT WALK ON SNOW

Reprinted from MECHANIX ILLUSTRATED
Click here to see the entire illustrated article
 
Copyright 1957 Fawcett Publications, Inc.
Not responsible for typographical errors.

"No other machine can match these crazy Cats traveling over snow on any type of terrain."

By Montgomery M. Atwater
It was January 13, 1952 the winter of the Big Snow. The Donner Pass was cluttered with the roofs of abandoned cars. Pride of the Southern Pacific, the City of San Franciscoís huge diesel thrust its plow into the clogging mass of an avalanche. Like some prehistoric monster caught in the quicksand, the luxury train struggled but could not move.

For a day Southern Pacific men and machines fought to rescue its train and passengers. In rapid succession the storm swallowed four huge rotary snowplows. One it smashed with an avalanche, killing the crew. The trainís engine finally ran out of fuel. Cold, darkness and fear seeped in through the metal walls of the Pullmans as the snow drifted higher around them.

On the second day the railroad called for help. The Army sent a fleet of Weasels, those rugged little snow buggies so well known to the mountain troops of World War II. They wallowed helplessly in the white quagmire. News accounts began referring to the passengers on the train as the "Second Donner Party".

On the third day, two Tucker Sno-Cats calmly floated across the sea of snow that had blocked every other effort.

Rescuing the streamliner is the most spectacular exploit of the incredible Sno-Cats. But professionals of over-snow travel can think of many that were actually more difficult. In 1950, for instance, the Bell Telephone Company was trying to complete a new microwave station on Mt. Rose, not far from the Donner Pass, a year ahead of schedule. When avalanches obliterated the construction road a fleet of Sno-Cats took over. In 1955, the telephone company issued five of its coveted awards for heroism to the Sno-Cat jockeys who rescued 22 motorists stormbound in a Utah pass. Logically a sixth award might have gone to the inventor of the unique machine that did the job.

Emmitt Tucker canít explain what drove him to spend half a lifetime on this project. Part of it was a perfectly normal ambition to make some money. As far back as 1914 he realized that there was a market that would really travel on snow.

Thereís no great trick to designing a machine that will travel on well-packed snow and moderate grades, Tucker will tell you with a shrug. Dozens of inventors have gone that far with the problem. Because he insisted on a vehicle that would maneuver on every type of snow in rough country, Tucker at one point discarded a machine he had been working on for more than 20 years and began all over again.

This forerunner of the Sno-Cat on which Tucker labored from 1914 to 1938 is interested in itself. For one thing it was a new and radical approach to the double-barreled problem of travel over-snow flotation and traction. Most designers have tried to solve it with a sled or a tractor in one from or another Tuckerís spiral-driven machine got its flotation from a cylinder or pontoon. For traction he welded a fin, corkscrew-fashion to the cylinder. When the assembly was rotated, it floated and pulled itself forward like an auger.

In spite of its promising beginning, the spiral machine turned out to be an inventorís nightmare. Explaining why in simple terms is not easy. The first law of designing a snowbuggy is that its p.s.i. (pounds per square inch) must be approximately the same as a skierís. This is a simple rule but translating it into metal and horsepower leads the engineer into an impasse. He starts with a nice wide base runner, track, pontoon, whatever he happens to fancy. He adds a body to carry passengers and cargo. He adds an engine, transmission gear and controls. Nervously he watches the table of weight, which always goes up faster than he likes. Thus flotation and traction lead him around in a vicious and frustrating circle.

A skierís p.s.i. is about half a pound. Nothing that goes more than a few tenths above that figure can travel on soft snow. It doesnít give a designer much room to maneuver. Tucker spent years and built dozen of models of the spiral machine in the attempt to find a winning combination of flotation and traction.

No one, not even his own family, can predict how the brain of an inventor will react. After many failures with his corkscrew design, Emmitt Tucker went to bed one night in 1938 convinced that he was all done with snowbuggies and woke up next morning with an entirely new design blueprinted in his mind.

The test model that began to take shape in his garage was revolutionary. Yet it included one idea from spiral-the pontoon method of flotation. This had always been the spiral machineís best feature. The worst was the amount of power it took to spin that bulky screw in the snow. What Tucker literally dreamed-up was a new way of applying power. Instead of the spiral fins welded to a rotating pontoon, he saw the pontoon floating free with a track revolving around it.

This is the design, unlike anything that had been tried before, which at last made it possible for a machine to compete with a man on skis. Tucker was certain that it would work from the moment the picture was clear in his mind. He had to build it piece by piece, with hacksaw and file, of salvaged parts in his spare time. In the winter of 1941 he finally loaded the first Sno-Cat onto a trailer and started for the proving ground he knew so well, Crater Lake.

In a small town where Tucker stopped for lunch a stranger began to ask questions. Since the man seemed to be genuinely interested Tucker invited him along to watch the tests. It turned out that the stranger was manager of a mine near Mt. Shasta. He had a serious problem of hauling supplies in that big-snow country and was so impressed by the performance of the Sno-Cat that he bought the test model on the spot.

The Sno-Cat had to wait for its first real boost until after the war. At that time the Soil Conservation Service of the Department of Agriculture was rapidly expanding its network of snow survey courses.

By one of those happy coincidences R.A. Work, chief of the snow survey unit, was a personal friend of Tucker and knew all about the Sno-Cat. Between them they concocted an over-snow demonstration to end all demonstrations. It was a midwinter journey from the California border north to the Columbia River, along the crest of the Cascade Mountains. What it amounted to was 600 miles of the roughest, toughest, deepest snow country in any land.

It was an epic journey in March 1948, tougher than anything of the sort that had ever been attempted. Snowfall was heavier than usual that winter, so heavy that many of the trail markers had been buried. The network of trails and logging roads Work expected to follow through the dense coastal forest was choked with fallen timber. Soft snow or hard, wet snow or dry, across sidehills, up steep grades, over fallen logs, the Sno-Cat navigated the wilderness from Mt. Shasta to Mt. Hood.

The high point of the trip was a chance meeting with a party of engineers. This group had come directly up from the lowlands on a highway grade with a different type of snow machine.

Naturally the drivers got into an argument over the merits of their snowbuggies. And naturally the argument had to be settled by a tug-of-war. Thus on the summit of the Cascades in midwinter, two roaring snowbuggies fought it out before an audience of whiskery mountaineers, 50 miles from civilization. Both machines buried themselves. But the Sno-Cat got out of its hole under its own power and then rescued its adversary.

In 1950 the snow surveyors organized a come-one, come-all field trial for over-snow vehicles at Sun Valley, Idaho. By this time Tucker had made the final major improvement to the Sno-Cat design, the four-pontoon model. Fifteen different types of snowbuggies were entered in the tests that included obstacle courses, hill climbing, and sidehilling in all types of snow. The Sno-Cat won. There wasnít any second.

The Sno-Cat is still the yardstick. It looks like something out of a bad dream. Although its top speed is about 15 miles per hour, it costs as much as a custom-built sports car. It is appallingly rough and noisy. But its p.s.i. is .66 and its power factor compared to a skier is one to 500. Perhaps the greatest compliment ever paid to this machine and its inventor is that at his factory at Medford, Ore., Tucker and his sons built eight huge snow cruisers for the Antarctic expedition. These machines are self-contained, mobile weather stations for use during the forthcoming International Geophysical Year. Though they weigh 8,000 pounds each, they will tread on the snow as lightly as a skier will.

In addition to the armed forces, utilities companies whose troubleshooters must maintain power, communications and fuel lines in mountainous country use the Sno-Cat. Loggers, miners, ski area operators and game wardens also use the rugged Cats.

Emmitt Tucker is today a tall, slender, erect man of 64. With a sparkle in his eye he will tell you that he isnít much interested in over-snow transportation any more. Itís a completed job. Then heíll get his hands on the wheel of a Sno-Cat and make it do tricks no one else dares to try. You remember those hands, the big, long fingered, superbly dexterous hands that built the incredible Sno-Cat.

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Tim the toolman at work
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