Cold Snapped

Fairbanks has always been famous for its cold snaps. We bundle up and push on despite the plummeting temperatures. As it gets colder, transportation slows and machines break down. Here is one interesting story of driving an automobile during a cold snap in 1916. Warning! Do not try this at home!

The Alaska Citizen- December 4, 1916


Everybody realizes that the cold weather season is at hand. And nobody realizes it more than do the automobilists who are operating machines on the big trail (what we call the Richardson Highway) and on the trails to the various creeks. For the cold is hampering their movements, and consequently hurting their business, to a considerable extent. However, it takes fifty below (-50°F) º°weather to put the automobiles out of business, therefore it is safe to say that all of them will resume operations within the next few days, or as soon as the present cold snap is over. And cold snaps rarely last longer than a week or ten days at the most.

Tom Gibson, driving for the Sheldon automobile line, had an experience out the trail on Friday night that he will remember for along time. He started early Friday morning from Salcha intending to make Fairbanks, but he had all kinds of trouble with his gasoline feed pipe, which kept freezing up on him. He kept it open by continually thawing it out with a torch, until he reached the Nine-Mile roadhouse, at a late hour Friday night, when he gave it up as a bad job, and accordingly came to Fairbanks yesterday morning. During the continued operation of thawing out the feed pipe with the torch and poking the water crystals out of it with a wire, Tom froze one of this thumbs pretty badly.

Water in the gasoline is being blamed by the automobilists as the reason why the feed pipes cannot be kept open. Which is a good reason why they should use a good grade of gasoline, although they are now using the best that is imported into the country. The time of departure of the next outgoing Sheldon line automobile has not yet been announced, on account of the cold weather. Nor will it be announced until the cold snap shows sign of letting up.

Note: Thankfully today we have inline fuel filters and de-icing solvents. However today, just like yesterday, transportation is greatly affected when the temperature drops to fifty below. Tom Gibson and Bobby Sheldon were both members of the Fairbanks Pioneers. This hypothermic History Nugget has been proudly brought to you by Men’s Igloo No. 4 and Women’s Igloo No. 8 of the Pioneers of Alaska.

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