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Snowmobile History

Odds and Ends From The MUSEUM!

By Trudy Wyman, Curator, Millinocket Historical Society Museum

  Every winter the snowmobilers arrive in the Millinocket area and travel the trails in their colorful, sleek sleds. Many do not know that some of the earliest of snow sleds came from right here in Millinocket. Variations of the Lombard log haulers were used by Great Northern Paper Company in the North Woods in the early 1900’s. They provided the power for the “log trains” that pulled multiple sleds of wood to areas where they could be transported to the paper mill.

Fred Salem built the first air driven snow machine in 1937. Between 1937 and 1947, he built four such sleds which came to be used by the Civil Air Patrol for rescue missions during WWII. Dr. Ernest Young was known to enlist Salem and his sled for trips to area camps for medical emergencies. The museum has a photo of the two men beside an early sled. In another photo, Frank “Binky” LePage, Oville Gonya, Sr., Fred Brown, Father Arsenault and Mr. Bennett are seen near a 1940 sled built by Salem for search and rescue. On the back of the photo, it states that this sled was to be used by the War Department.

By 1957, Earlan Campbell began selling Sno-Travelers at his garage on Medway Road. In the 1960’s, Polaris Company sent representatives to Millinocket to test new machines with Earlan Campbell serving as guide and mechanic.

Between the 1960’s and the 1980’s and early 1990’s, several different local dealers sold a variety of the rapidly improving machines. Ski-dos were sold at Ron Leet’s business on Aroostook Avenue and later on Central Street. Bob Moscone owned a Sno-jet dealership. Ellery Dumas sold Hus-ski’s, Bob Ouellette had Moto Skis and David Wyse peddled Sno-Jet. In the early 1990’s, Brian Wiley and David Moore opened Destination Sports and sold Polaris machines.

In February of 1961, an historic long-distance ride was undertaken. It was the first in Maine and included nine men participating on a two-day ride from Rip Dam to Churchill Lake. This ride was organized by Earlan Campbell. A re-enactment of this same ride took place in 1985. Named the Earlan B. Campbell Memorial Expedition, this reenactment ride covered 75 miles each way and took 4 days.

In 1985, the Northern Timber Cruisers opened an antique snow sled museum where many vintage and restored sleds may be seen. It is located on the Lake Road near the clubhouse. One unique sled to be seen at the museum was restored by Gene Nice and Steve Campbell. It is a Bombardier R-12, a large enclosed sled originally built by a Quebec company for use as an ambulance, school bus or mail delivery according to a Portland Press Herald 1993 article.

The museum has a collection of photos of vintage snowmobiles (various local events and of the snowmobile museum) donated by Gene Nice and others.

 A large photo displayed at MHS shows several men and their sleds at Chimney Pond in Baxter State Park. The photo was taken by and donated by local photographer Roger Boynton.

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