A flanger is a railroad car that clears the area between the rails of ice and snow. A flanger would often be used in conjunction with a rotary snow plow when there was significant snow buildup on the tracks.
Whereas a rotary is placed on the front of a train to blast the majority of the snow forward and sideways, the flanger is at the back clearing the rails nearly down to the ties. Because the flanger blades sit so low to the ties, the operator would need to lift them before the car crosses any switch or grade crossing.
The article says the runaway flanger started near the water tower at St. Elmo, but since I couldn’t find any pictures of that, here’s a restored water tower near the old Woodstock station just a few miles to the west of St. Elmo. This water tower was the Alpine Junction tower.
Check out the video below to see a flanger in action on the Durango & Silverton line. At some point I really need to ride this Durango and Silverton narrow gauge — looks like so much fun!
I accidentally selected 1916 instead of 1919 on my date search in the Colorado Historic Newspapers database, but I didn’t realize it until after I’d already learned about flangers, which are really a neat piece of railroad history. Since they were still in use in 1919 I’m going with it