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Lorch Snowplane

Lorch Snowplane, 1934 and 1935 models.
Saskatchewan Archives Board R-A20714-1

Named after its creator, the Lorch Snowplane changed winter transportation in Saskatchewan. Karl Lorch, when growing up in rural Saskatchewan in the 1920s, realized roads were virtually impassable during the winter months. His first experiments involved a makeshift snow machine with skis on the front and chained wheels on the back. After several more experiments, he developed a design that included a propeller-driven body consisting of the lightweight tubular steel frame, covered with cloth (linen) sheathing, favoured by aircraft manufacturers of the time.This creation involved all members of Lorch’s family. The men welded the frame in the family-owned Ford garage, and Lorch’s mother and sister installed the hand-sewn linen over the frame. They then sewed a flannelette lining to cover the snowplane’s interior. The propellers were made of birch and walnut, and were pressed in an old book-press in the family home. The runners were constructed of white oak, and the curved fronts were made by soaking the boards in hot water on the kitchen stove, bending them in a specially-made press and drying them over the living-room register.

In later years, Lorch began full-scale production of the snowplanes in a heated building behind his father’s garage. Eventually his production staff grew to twenty, as the demand for snowplanes increased throughout the Canadian prairies. A branch plant to build snowplanes for the United States mail carrier market was also established at Wolford, North Dakota. Production of Lorch snowplanes ceased in 1955 after the introduction of rotary snowploughs made roads more passable. By then, Lorch had manufactured more than 600 Lorch snowplanes. The contributions made by the Lorch Snowplane to the lives of hundreds of North Americans are impressive: doctors were able to visit their patients quickly; mail was delivered faster; school teachers could get to their country schools; and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, armed forces, geologists, and many other important contributors to the social and economic well-being of Saskatchewan were able to provide their services in a timely and efficient manner.

Wayne Lorch

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