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Katahdin Power Sports

Snowmobiling News




Antique Run of '88


Despite 22 below zero weather, 
trip was a great success


An Excerpt from the Katahdin Times

(By Dr. Robert E. Erickson)

Katahdin Region - To go on a three day snowmobile trip, you might think of it on Thursday, get the people interested Thursday night, gas the sled up on Friday morning, and your off on the trail with no problems. That is ideal-now read on.

       A couple of weeks ago a weekend snowmobile trip took place, but it was a little bit more involved than mentioned. The ride was the "brainchild" of Steve Campbell, the premier antique snowmobile restorer in the Katahdin Region. Steve started planning our trip a year ago.

      The beginning however was in 1960 when Polaris Industries were making "Iron Dogs", the nickname for the 500 to 1,400 pound snow machines that are again catching peoples fancy. To become a member of the "club" of enthusiasts you must first find an antique sled. This is no small task as most machines are rusted beyond recognition. After the "big find" you bring it home and put in between 50 and 200 hours of work, bringing it back to" life". At this time you would be eligible for the "Antique Run of '88".

      Some of the snowsleds were brought to the Northern Timber Cruisers Snowmobile Club in Millinocket on Thursday night, prior to the Friday start of the weekend. Others were started in heated garages Friday morning and left running on the snowmobile trailer for the shuttle across town. Others were brought up from the southern part of the state. Wherever they came from, and however they arrived, all were running by 9:30 a.m. Friday morning. No small task at 22 degrees below zero.

      After a hearty breakfast furnished by the Northern Timber Cruisers, all gear was packed up, sleds were tuned up and we were off at a "blistering" pace of seven to eight miles per hour.

      For most of the participants, running an "Iron Dog" was quite a new experience. ( It was this writers first trip with an antique sled ). For others it was to bring back memories of longer trips in the early 1960's when a two hundred mile trip to the Allagash and back was a weeks vacation. Some took this trip annually.

      Our destination was to be the White House Landing at the head of Pemadumcook Lake. Other than one of the antique sleds losing its track on the way to the landing, ( he was able to continue on the one remaining track ), there were no breakdowns on the first day. Quite an amazing accomplishment considering the youngest sled was 22 years old!

      Arriving at the landing was a joy as there was heat, no more bumpy ride and BEST OF ALL...warm food available at the camps. After eating, we had the afternoon to try each other's sleds and time to tighten up all those loose nuts and bolts that had shaken off during the trip up.

      Throughout the weekend , we were able to ask questions of four men from Polaris Industries, including Edgar Hetteen, called the "grandfather of snowmobiling", and David Johnson. These two were responsible for building the great red machines of the early 1960's. I personally enjoyed their help, as my "Iron Dog" wasn't running quite right. One of the pair suggested I open my high speed jet an 1/8th of a turn. It then worked perfectly. I never did tell him I had tried every adjustment I could think of the night before to no avail. It was enjoyable to see them "tinker" on sleds that they had designed and built 20 to 30 years ago.

      Saturday was a day to sleep in, have a huge breakfast, ride a little and then traverse over to Third Debsconeag Lake for a day of ice fishing. In the way of old, I decided to try and dig a hole for my fishing traps with only an ice chisel. After three to five minutes, "chip-chip-chip" gave way to "vroom-vroom-vroom"as the chisel gave way to the Jiffy ice auger. "Ain't modern technology great?"

      More repairs and races took place the rest of the day. The largest antique sled was owned by Bill Tapley of Millinocket, was the fastest in the races. ( It was also the sled that towed mine home when I broke down on the return trip ). Many of the sleds made it through the weekend with no "ill effects". Ed Carr's "Bull Cat and two of Steve Campbell's sleds ( both of Millinocket ) joined Jack Sevigney's and Frank Scott's sleds ( from Down East ), as a few of the sleds that had no major breakdowns. This is a tribute to builders and restorers alike.

      Saturday night we found ourselves in front of a feast of food fit for a king, with Gene Nice of Millinocket and Steve Campbell tending the steaks. The staff of the White House Landing made the "fixings". The meal was one of good food, great company, and the topic of the evening....old sleds.

      With a Sunday forecast of rain, we decided that moving out early would be the wisest thing to do. A scouting party on modern snowmobiles ran ahead to look for slush as we plodded along. Breakdowns on the way out consisted of one broken oil line, another lost track, and more nuts and bolts missing, but most made the full round trip back to the Northern Timber Cruiser's Clubhouse.

      The general consensus was that the trip was a huge success and that everyone was in agreement that it should happen again.

      The Antique Run of '88 was complete, but will live in our memories forever.

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