The North Eastern Railway had several routes that were likely to suffer severely from blockage by drifting snow in winter blizzards. Stainmore - and especially the section between the summit and Rookby Scarth - was perhaps the worst. But the upland branches in Weardale and western Country Durham and rural Northumberland were also frequently brought to a halt by snowdrifts. On the other side of the NER system in easterly winter gales the railways in Cleveland and the main line to Edinburgh could be paralysed by snow carried across the North Sea from Scandinavia.
To meet this challenge over the years the company built several distinctive six wheel snowploughs which were stored during the summer at strategic locations such as Kirkby Stephen ready for seasonal use. Often the ploughs were kept in pairs to be worked at each end of a track clearance train in which two locomotives would be 'sandwiched' in between to provide lots of 'muscle'.
Snowplough No.18 was built together with Nos.19 and 20 at York in 1909 and it remained as a 'pair' with No.20 - now preserved at Beamish - almost its whole working life. Its whole operational history has not yet been identified but it was probably based at Bishop Auckland in 1912-1915, was at Shildon in 1935 and then based at West Auckland from 1947-1956. During this latter period it was often used to clear snowdrifts over Stainmore and in 1954 'starred' in the BTF Film 'Snowdrift at Bleathgill' Between 1958 and 1962 it was based at Darlington.
Sold for scrap in 1973 it was bought privately and has since been mainly based on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. It is currently owned by Mr. Bryan Blundell