This W.H. Jackson photo taken near Hancock in 1890, shows a rotary snowplow working toward the Alpine Tunnel.  A contest was held between the Rotary and Jull snowplows up above.

Hancock, April, 1890: The winter of 1890 had a heavy snowfall and there were drifts 4 to 8 feet deep and as high as 20 feet across the railroad tracks. 

There were avalanches that brought down trees and rocks. Ice had built up under the snow drifts on the tracks, which made it even more difficult to plow the snow.

The Rotary Plow had been in use for years and cleared many miles of track. 

But a new plow with a centrifugal cone-shaped auger had been built by The Jull Manufacturing Company and designed by Orange Jull. 

The company wanted to show they, too, could clear the tracks. The contest was instigated by the Jull company, and they invited  photographer William Henry Jackson and Union Pacific officials to the contest.

There were also officials from the Midland and Rio Grande railroads at the contest. 

The contest lasted for 3 days. Each snowplow was backed up by extra engines to help push it through the snow. The Jull was derailed numerous times. 

Finally, the Rotary was able to open the line to the east portal of the Alpine tunnel. Jull owners declared the Rotary had won the contest.

For more information on the heritage behind the history of Buena Vista, visit

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