In the corner of the large vehicle hall at REME Museum, visitors can see an unusual tracked vehicle with grey and white camouflage. This is an Aktiv Fischer Snow Trac, a compact over-snow vehicle developed in Sweden in the mid 20th century. The Army have used these vehicles to carry personnel across snow and ice, and REME expertise ensured they stayed in good working order, even at sub-zero temperatures.

Snow Trac on display at REME Museum in our Around the World gallery.

In 1954, Lars Larsson set about designing a tracked vehicle to make family fishing trips easier during Scandinavian winters. Larsson was the chief designer for a Swedish farm machinery company, AB Westerasmaskiner. His design proved popular with the company and the vehicle went in to production in 1957 with Aktiv Fischer.

The Snow Trac had a number of advantages over other over-snow vehicles. The Snow Trac could be used on deep snow, powder snow, ice and soft surfaces. The vehicle was small, making storage much easier. Many older snow vehicles required a complex set of levers to steer the vehicle. The Snow Trac used a variator, which allowed the operator to steer the vehicle using a standard steering wheel. Early advertisements emphasised this development, describing the Snow Trac as “easy to drive as a car”.

The interior of a Snow Trac showing the steering mechanism, Oslo, Norway 1960, photograph by Leif Ørnelund. Oslo Museum via Wikimedia CommonsCC BY-SA 3.0 NO.

The Snow Trac could be easily configured for different uses, and this contributed to its success and popularity. At least four hundred were shipped to Canada to support railway and highway repairs. They were used as winter rescue vehicles in the Alps and in Scandinavia.  Fitted with ploughs, they could clear tracks or prepare slopes for skiing and winter sports. A few were even adapted for use in the sandy conditions of the Texas oilfields and Sahara Desert, where they were called ‘Sand Tracs’.

NATO forces used the Snow Trac during the Cold War, while on patrol in eastern Scandinavia. The vehicle on display at REME Museum was used by the Royal Marines, who sometimes fitted out these vehicles with anti-tank guns, such as the L 6 Wombat recoilless rifle, and other heavy weapons. Their manoeuvrability and adaptability made these vehicles an excellent choice for military patrols in snowy conditions.

Snow Trac on the Seiser Alm in South Tyrol by Wolfgang Moroder via Wikimedia CommonsCC BY-SA 3.0.

The Snow Trac has featured in a number of films and tv shows, including in the Dr Who Episode ‘The Seeds of Doom’ (although it is referred to as a ‘Snow Cat’ in dialogue), the Laurence Oliver film ‘The Shoes of the Fishermen’ and in the recent BBC series ‘His Dark Materials’. Although ‘The Shining’ is better known for its yellow VW Beetle and Thiokol Spryte, a bright red Snow Trac can be seen at the Overlook Hotel early in the film.

The vehicle on display at the museum was presented to us in 1990 and was previously used by the AMF (L) Workshop. This was the REME Workshop serving Allied Command Europe Mobile Force (Land). REME personnel would maintain these vehicles and use them as a way of transporting personnel and equipment.