The Byrd Snow Cruiser Passes Through Ashtabula and Conneaut on the Way to Antarctica



The Ashtabula Star Beacon published
November 4, 1939, reported the Snow Cruiser’s Ashtabula visit this way:

Moving slowly between lines
composed of thousands of thrilled spectators, the giant Snow Cruiser built for
the United States Antarctic Expedition, passed through Ashtabula shortly before
noon today.

After days of anxious waiting
to view the behemoth of the highway, the crowds had their curiosity satisfied. All through Friday night many had waited sending telephone calls of inquiry that swamped the Ashtabula telephone company switchboards, the Star Beacon Office, City Police Station, and the highway patrol headquarters.

It was 11:20 this morning when the big machine hove in sight at the westerly end of Prospect Road. The crowds that had waited since early morning and rushed for places along the curbs. The crowd was thickest at and in the vicinity of the Amoco Service Station at 1520 Prospect Road where the big machine stopped for ten minutes for a check up of gasoline and oil. Automobiles were parked on both sides of Prospect Road and
filled adjacent streets for blocks near the station and along Route 20 from Painesville to Conneaut.

Immediately after the checkup, the giant vehicle started to move on its way through the city passing along Prospect Road through Five Points and following Route 20 to Conneaut.

Greeted by City Manager

When the machine stopped at the Amoco Station, Dr. Thomas C. Poulter and other members of the crew were greeted by City Manager William H. Flower and members of the Star Beacon staff who were invited inside the Cruiser.

Halted at Painesville Friday by a broken oil line, the Cruiser was repaired and started from that place shortly before 9 this morning. Early Friday night, announcement was made that the Cruiser would pass through Ashtabula between 10 and 10:45. As soon as this fact was bulletined, the telephones began to jingle and automobiles began to fill Route 20 and adjacent streets, every vehicle on its way to claim a position along the route.

The crowd along city streets, estimated at 15,000 waited. Then came word of the mishap that delayed the Cruiser’s progress. All through the night until 2 a.m., telephone calls
continued, and the crowd waited patiently. Then at 1:30 a.m. word was received that the Cruiser would remain at Painesville overnight, the crowd started to thin out. But a few hopeful watchers remained in their position until along toward daylight fearing they would miss seeing the snowmobile.

At Erie Tonight

Dr. Thomas C. Poulter, chief of the research department at the Armour Institute of Technology at Chicago, who designed the machine, said the Cruiser would be taken to the General Electric Company plant at Erie where it would lay overnight, until two new motors were installed and steering gear was repaired. It is expected the vehicle will not
leave Erie on her way to Boston until Monday.

Dr. F.A. Wade, scientist of the United States Antarctic Expedition, who is a cousin of Mrs. W.W. Woodbury of Jefferson, was not aboard the craft when it arrived at Ashtabula. He was recalled Friday and was sent to Boston to take charge of packing the expedition’s equipment. Dr. Poulter said that Dr. Wade was disappointed because he had hoped to ride through this county where he has a number of friends, among them City Manager William H. Flower, who was a classmate of Dr. Wade at Western Reserve Academy, Cleveland.

Machine Held a Success

Despite difficulties encountered, Dr. Poulter, who is in charge of the Cruiser, said that he believed the machine was a successful engineering and scientific enterprise.
“When a pioneer project like this is constructed, it must pass through a period
of testing and experimentation,” Dr. Poulter said. “We are satisfied with the results and believe that the machine will prove of great value in Polar exploration.”

Passing Through Conneaut

On his Conneaut History website, Andy Pochatko features Albert Phillips reminiscing about the Snow Cruiser’s passage through Conneaut.

Conneaut. October 1939. Early snow and biting winds have reminded some of
the city’s residents of an event that attracted so much attention in October
1939 that traffic jams and even pedestrian jams resulted.

The occasion was the arrival of the Snow Cruiser part of Admiral Richard E.
Byrd’s Antarctic Expedition which passed briefly in the city, enroute from
Chicago to Boston where it embarked on its history -making cruise. The huge
mobile equipment caused considerable stir on its lumbering way.

Although residents were soon to become accustomed to the convoys of heavy
equipment as the war in Europe flamed into action, the approach of the awesome
looking behemoth was reason enough for many merchants along Main Street to lock
the doors of their establishments and hurry across town in the middle of the

Curious Line Streets

As the 75,000 pound cruiser powered by two rather uncommon diesel motors and
covering nearly the entire width of Route 20 rolled into the city, cameras
clicked like the frantic typing of an overworked secretary. Pedestrians lined
the streets, six deep at some points, and when the cruiser finally appeared at
the intersection of Harbor and Liberty Streets, the crush of curious humans
nearly overwhelmed the crew members.  Several of the more daring citizens
took advantage of the crews departure to a local restaurant to examine the
ponderous machinery more closely.

Forewarned of the pending arrival of the cruiser, a throng of motorists
jammed the streets of the city late the night before its actual arrival. Police
struggled with the crowds, which finally dispersed.  However, the police
were not finished with the spectators, for the curious citizens continued to
telephone the police station as well as the fire department and the newspaper
office for information regarding the slow approach of the vehicle. Pranksters
and wits took up the banner and the favorite approach of the anonymous caller
was, “I’m Admiral Byrd, where is my cruiser?”

As the city settled down to comparative calm the day after the celebrated
visit, Erie turned out to view the giant. There, a Boy Scout ovation was
extended to Boy Scout Paul Sipple whose grandparents resided in Kelloggsville.
Sipple had been selected to accompany Admiral Byrd on his expedition into the
unknown wastes of snow and ice.

Ashtabula Star Beacon, Conneaut 50 Years Ago

Sunday April 4, 2004 (The date on the page is the date that it was first
published in the

Conneaut Herald in October1954, not necessarily the same week or month of
Star Beacon date.)

Date of Snow Cruiser in Conneaut

October 1939

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