The Snow Tank

Going for a ride.

Going for a ride.

Brought to the area by Gronway Parry in the late 1940’s, the snow tank proved a popular and valuable resource for local farmers and outdoor enthusiasts. One of only two known to exist, and towing its companion sled, the snow tank hauled skiers, horses, and during the brutal blizzard of 1948-49 carried hay to starving cattle in the Cedar Valley. Additionally, Gronway and his snow tank carried Utah Parks Company workers up to the Cedar Breaks lodge to provide winter maintenance.

The snow tank at the Cedar Breaks Lodge.

The snow tank at the Cedar Breaks Lodge.

Powered by a large diesel engine, the snow tank proved well suited for the Iron County winters and became a familiar sight on Cedar Mountain. The snow tank steered by a series of levers that tightened and loosened metal cables attached to the wood sledge. When the driver tightened the left cable it swung the sledge to the left and the tank to the right. The driver completed the opposite motion to turn the other way. This action serves exactly the same action as a rudder on a ship. Without the sledge, the tank could only move in a straight line.

Gronway Parry looks over his snow tank.

Gronway Parry looks over his snow tank.

In 1969, the snow tank, along with many other artifacts became the core of our museum collection. Today, visitors to Frontier Homestead State Park can still see the snow tank and through scenes from the Parry Family home movies, watch it in action.

The snow tank at Frontier Homestead.

The snow tank at Frontier Homestead.


Snapshots: Highlights from Springville Museum of Art’s “Family Vacation”

Family vacations boomed in post-war America. Amidst talk of nuclear conflict, packing the kids in the car and seeing the sites that defined the USA promoted family togetherness and national pride. In Utah, families came together to explore the lakes, canyons, ghost towns, and national parks that dot the Beehive State. This exhibit seeks to capture the feeling of a mid-century road trip through Utah.

"Family Vacation" 2015 Mixed Media on Panel Stephanie Deer

“Family Vacation” 2015
Mixed Media on Panel
Stephanie Deer

In our new special exhibit, Snapshots: Highlights from the Springville Museum of Art’s Family Vacation, we will seek to capture those moments of discovery, when after hours of travel, you open the car door and see the wonders of Utah for the first time. Through vintage-inspired artwork from Stephanie Deer, travel posters by John Clark, paintings by southern Utah artist Jim Jones, and traditional Utah landscapes from the SMA permanent collection, this exhibit will recreate a mid-century vacation the whole family will enjoy. By exploring this amazing collection families will call back memories for those who hit the open road in post-war America and inspire younger visitors to visit these places on their own.

"Cedar Breaks Night Sky"2013 Screenprint John Henry Clark

“Cedar Breaks Night Sky”2013
John Henry Clark

“In the old days, the vacation started the moment you got in the car and the road trip itself was the experience. It was about the journey, not the destination, more so than today,” said John Clark a Toole based graphic artist whose work we feature in the exhibit. 2016 marks the centennial of the National Parks and in many of the works, the National Parks of Utah are prominently featured.

Cedar City has a long history with the National Parks. For nearly fifty years the Utah Parks Company brought tourists to the national parks of southwestern Utah and northern Arizona. Cedar City marketed itself as the “Gateway to the National Parks” and became the jumping off point for the tour groups. We will explore the history of the Utah Parks Company in future posts.


"Zion" 1937 Watercolor Ethel Strauser

“Zion” 1937
Ethel Strauser

Snapshots: Highlights from the Springville Museum of Art’s Family Vacation runs from January 25- April 30th.

The Rise and Fall of Sleighing

Sleighing using horse-drawn vehicles was a popular activity during the period known as the “Little Ice Age.”  From the 1700s to the 1880s snows came earlier and stayed longer, providing perfect conditions for the use of winter transportation. Originally Americans copied designs from European sleighs, but soon redesigned these sleighs to make them sleeker, faster, and more elegant.  The more affluent sought the latest sleighs, designed for not only speed, but with luxurious interiors and attractive body work.  Likewise, the occupants of sleighs began wearing ever more fashionable clothes and using stylish robes and blankets for protection against the elements.

Ironically, the height of the sleighing craze coincided with a warming period that reduced the sleighing season from sixteen weeks, Thanksgiving to April, to just six short weeks.  Rather than grooming roads for sleigh riding, commuters demanded that urban streets be plowed to allow better access with wheeled vehicles.  Unfortunately, the sleigh runners did not fare well in the ruts produced by carriage and automobile tires.  Especially dangerous to horses and sleigh riders were street car tracks which caused sleighs to tip over and the horses to break free. A victim of a warming climate and the commuting needs of the masses, sleighing became less popular.  With the advent of inexpensive motor cars, the “Sunday drive” overtook the thrill of “dashing through the snow.”

Frontier Homestead has three sleigh types in our collection:

sleighs and irons 016Albany Cutter -Throughout the early nineteenth century, sleighs became increasingly lighter and more stylish.  The new stylish look included curved backs, flared sides and sweeping dashes.  In 1814, James Goold of Albany, New York, popularized this swell-body style and these sleighs became known as Albany sleighs.  The sleek design of the Albany cutter made the sleigh very popular in urban areas.

Portland Cutter – In Portland, Maine, Peter Kimball built a sleigh constructed of straight pine horizontal planks with vertical battens that resembled boat construction. sleighs and irons 013This style became known as the Portland Cutter which kept the box shaped floor and flat-paneled design of its predecessor, the Delaware Valley sleigh. Portland Cutters were favored in rural areas because of a higher seat position and superior wind protection over Albany Cutters.


sleighs and irons 011

Bob Sleigh – A bob sleigh is a vehicle in which the body of a wheeled carriage has been placed on bob-runners.  Bob runners are short runners with one set in the front and one set in the rear.  With this arrangement, the front bob runners pivot with the axle. For those who did not want to spend the money for a new sleigh, this provided a way to convert an existing carriage for winter use.


A Look Into Our Collection: The Eliason Snowmobile

In 1924, Carl Eliason of Sayner, Wisconsin injured his foot. The active Eliason developed his first “snow buggy” to aid him in negotiating the tough Wisconsin winter weather.  Starting in a garage behind his home, Eliason eventually built something like the machine on display at Frontier Homestead, using various parts of a boat motor, bicycles, and some skis.

Patented in 1927 as the “Motor Toboggan,” there was enough demand for the machine by 1939 that Mr. Eliason partnered with the Four Wheel Drive Company of Clintonville, Wisconsin to produce the first “snowmobile.”  There was a flurry of interest at the start of World War II from Finland, Russia and the U.S. Army.


Our snow machine in 1973. The Indian Motorcycle engine was stolen in the late 1970’s.

Our snow machine is most likely a Model B which features lever steering, half-round gas tank with attached tool box, and foot throttle.  It weighed close to 500 lbs and was powered by a 25 HP twin cylinder Indian motorcycle engine (missing from our machine.) Cleats attached to chain belt moved the machine through the snow.

This unit was purchased by Gronway Parry from the Idaho Power and Light Company who used it to patrol the power lines during the winter. Parry later used this snow machine to transport movie crews on the snow covered Cedar Mountains. It became part of the museum’s collection in 1973.

A  public service message featuring the Eliason Snow Machine. Life Magazine, 1944.

A public service message featuring the Eliason Snow Machine. Life Magazine, 1944.