The new snowplows that JR West has introduced on the Hokuriku Shinkansen boast formidable horsepower, which they will put to use gobbling up snow and flinging it away from the tracks.
The operator announced the introduction of the vehicles on Nov. 19, 2014. On both the Joetsu and Tohoku Shinkansen lines, which pass through areas with heavy snowfall, snow is removed by melting it, mainly by spraying it with water drawn from nearby rivers. But since there are few rivers for the Hokuriku Shinkansen to draw water from, it has been decided to introduce powerful snowplows for the section between Joetsumyoko and Toyama stations, where there are particularly large accumulations of snow.
The plow cars are 14 meters in length, four meters high, and three meters wide. They weigh 32 tons. They have a top speed of 70 kph, but move at 5 kph to 45 kph while operating. Twenty-three plow cars in total are deployed, with 11 of the vehicles having 800 horsepower -- unprecedented on a Shinkansen line -- and the other 12 vehicles having 600 horsepower.
The 800-horsepower vehicles are 1.3 times stronger than the previous record-holders, the snowplows for the Tohoku Shinkansen. They are designed with “scrape blades” that look like two outspread hands to collect and suck up snow, while a nozzle hurls the snow toward the outer side of the fences on either side of the railway. Although the overpasses of the Hokuriku Shinkansen include spaces into which the trains can naturally push the snow as they pass, the powerful plows will see action when there are big snowfalls and in areas with consistent heavy snowfall. In some areas with heavy snowfall, sprinklers and shelters to cover sections of track have also been put in place.