I love weird old stuff like this. So I just found this one and wanted to share.
The original conception of the Snow Cruiser is most often credited to Dr. Thomas C. Poulter. Dr. Poulter served as second in command of Admiral Byrd's Antarctic Expedition II. During this expedition, Admiral Byrd nearly lost his life when he was isolated by the weather at the Advanced Base. It took three attempts for Dr. Poulter to rescue the Admiral due to the difficulty of traveling a mere 123 miles in the inhospitable conditions. This incident is believed to have been the spark that inspired Dr. Poulter to first visualize the Snow Cruiser.
Idea to Design
After returning from Antarctica Dr. Poulter took the position of scientific director of the Research Foundation of the Armour Institute of Technology in Chicago, Illinois. Dr. Poulter is said to have presented the idea for the Snow Cruiser to Harold Vagtborg, the Director Research Foundation and the rest of the staff of the Foundation. The Foundation elected to undertake design of the Snow Cruiser, and assigned it Project Number I-69. Under the direction of Dr. Poulter, the staff of the Research Foundation worked for approximately two years (1937 to 1939) on the design.
Design to Reality
In the spring of 1939 the Research Foundation learned that the government was considering appropriations for a possible Antarctic expedition. Mr. Vagtborg and Dr. Poulter presented the completed plans for the Snow Cruiser to the expedition officials in Washington on April 29, 1939. The officials were enthusiastic over the idea and it was agreed the Foundation would supervise the construction and finance the cost, estimated at $150,000. The Snow Cruiser would then be loaned to the U.S. Antarctic Service, who would defray the costs of operation and maintenance, and then return the Cruiser to the Foundation upon return of the expedition.
Work on the Snow Cruiser was begun on August 8, 1939 at the Pullman shops in Chicago Illinois. The Foundation had just eleven weeks to build, test and deliver the completed Snow Cruiser to Boston, Massachusetts where it would be loaded aboard ship for transport to Antarctica.
Chicago to Boston
On October 24, 1939 the nearly completed Snow Cruise began a 1021 mile trek to Boston. This trip would be the shakedown cruise as well as a race the reach Boston before the North Star sailed for the Antarctic. If the Cruiser did not arrive in time, she might be left behind. On November 12, the Snow Cruiser pulled alongside the North Star at Boston Army Wharf. To fit on the deck of the North Star, the Cruiser's tail section had to be temporarily removed. At high tide Dr. Poulter drove the Cruiser onto the North Star.
Boston to Antarctica
The North Star put out to sea on November 15, with the Snow Cruiser safely lashed to her deck. As she neared Antarctica, rough seas caused the Cruiser to shift during the night giving Dr. Poulter and the Snow Cruiser crew a bit of a scare. They tightened up the chains and the Cruiser was secure for the remainder of the trip. The North Star arrived in Antarctica on January 11 and began the search for a suitable place to unload the Cruiser.
South to the Pole
On January 12 the North Star anchored at the Bay of Whales. To unload the Snow Cruiser from the deck of the North Star, a large ramp was constructed of heavy timber. Unloading of the Snow Cruiser took place on January 15, with Dr. Poulter at the helm. Half way down the ramp the timbers began to break. Dr. Poulter quickly gave the Cruiser full throttle and she lurched from the ramp to the safety of the ice.
On the Ice
The Snow Cruiser failed to perform up to expectations. The tires sank deeply into the snow and spun too easily. In an attempt to improve the cruiser’s performance, the crew attached the two spare wheels and tires to the front front wheels, increasing the surface area of the tires by 50 percent. To improve traction, they installed chains on the smooth rear tires.
the coolest part is the vid clips.
some more to the story
The Antarctic Edsel
The unsolved mystery of Byrd's doomed cruiser
By Bob Hanes
Special to the Sun
In the fall of 1939 I was only 12 years old, but I vividly remember the "event of all events" that took place near my hometown of Lima, Ohio. One of the greatest explorers of all time, Admiral Richard Byrd, was leaving for Antarctica. Once there, he planned to use a newly-designed and -constructed "snow cruiser." Although Byrd himself wouldn't be in Lima, the snow cruiser would be coming past town, en route from Chicago to Boston, where Byrd's ship was waiting.
Everyone in school was talking about the cruiser. Newspapers contained articles about the "coming spectacular." Life magazine carried details and drawings of the device. Even the newsreels at local theaters were publicizing the vehicle.
The machine's magnificence lay in its size and technology. It carried a crew of seven, measured 55 feet long, 20 feet wide, and 12 feet high. It was powered by twin 150 horsepower engines, and tipped the scales at 37 tons. Each of the four wheels was 10 feet tall, weighed 700 pounds and was perfectly smooth and treadless.
The cruiser was designed to cross crevasses up to 15 feet wide, by sliding its front wheels forward, crossing the gap, then retracting its back wheels. It could carry a ski-equipped biplane on top. It was to be the last word in polar transportation, with a price tag of $150,000--a lot of money in those days. One inspired writer described it as a "fantastic dream."
I saved all the newspaper articles I could find on the subject, including the six pages from Life magazine. I couldn't wait to see it.
But the cruiser's trip from Chicago to Boston was plagued with problems. In Columbia City, Indiana, a truck sideswiped it. In Ft. Wayne, Indiana, a fuel pump developed trouble. Then, within six miles of our town, the cruiser struck the corner of a bridge and plunged eight feet into a small creek. It was stuck in the creek for three days.
During that period, an estimated 125,000 people went to view the "unstoppable machine." Route 30 was crowded with traffic jams for miles.
For me, the big moment arrived when my parents fought their way through the traffic to the site. There it was! But what a sad sight. Helplessly stuck nose-down in the mud, the magnificent monster was fast becoming a national joke. When they finally got it back on the road, two new electric motors had to be installed. The trip to Boston took a total of 19 days.
Once the cruiser arrived in Antarctica, it was based out of Little America, Byrd's station on the continent. But it was quickly discovered that the vehicle's smooth tires developed very little traction in the Antarctic snow. It took only a small amount of snow in front of each tire to stop the "unstoppable."
Though two spare tires were mounted on the front axles to provide extra traction, nothing seemed to help. That's until someone discovered the vehicle operated better in reverse. The cruiser's longest venture was 92 miles--all driven backwards.
Byrd's expedition extended into 1941, and with World War II pressing, Congress would not approve funding to continue. In May 1941 the group returned to the United States, its experiments terminated.
What happened to the cruiser? It was left behind in Antarctica in an underground ice garage. In the late 1940s another expedition found the vehicle and discovered it needed only air in the tires and some servicing to make it operational. It was again rediscovered in 1962, still perfectly preserved.
Where is Byrd's snow cruiser now? As of 1985 there has been speculation as to its whereabouts. Antarctic ice is in constant motion, and the ice shelf the cruiser was on is constantly moving out to sea. In the mid-1960s, a large chunk of the Ross Ice Shelf broke off and drifted away. The break occurred right through Little America. On which side of the break was the snow cruiser? No one seemed to know at the time.
The end of this story is still uncertain. Either the vehicle is buried under many, many feet of ice--where it might possibly be discovered by future explorers. Or it could be resting on the bottom of the Southern Ocean.
Whatever its fate, it was still a magnificent machine. But what a flop!