Bobsledding was invented by a group of Englishmen vacationing in Switzerland in 1890. Their aim was to create a sled that could carry two or more people down a snow covered road between St Moritz and Celerina. The new sport immediately caught on and a special track, complete with banked curves, made of ice, was constructed next to the road in 1902. The first races were for 5 and 6 people and a requirement of the competition was that each crew included at least one woman. This requirement was dropped in the 1930s and the disciplines altered to 2 and 4 man events.
Here is what those early sliders had to deal with: The run was one and a half miles long with no lips on the curves or walls on the straightaways. The ice wasn't nearly as smooth or as hard as it is now and the runners would gouge the unrefrigerated curves with every trip. The curves were slushed on stone and the straightaways on bare ground which would shift and heave with the frost, effectively creating a new drive line with every temperature change. The run was wide enough to allow a sled to get into precarious predicaments on the straightaways with usually disasterous consequences.
The sleds weren't exactly high-tech either but they came shooting down the mile and a half run faster than any sane person would care to travel under those circumstances. There was no suspension for the runners and the steering was done with wheels, which gave less control and feel of the run than the ropes that the europeans used. (Americans have gone to using ropes exclusively over the last few decades.) There was no protection on the sides of the sled and injured shoulders and elbows were accepted as just part of the sport. You held onto canvas straps with rubber balls attached and hoped for the best as you careened down the course while wearing a leather helmet which you knew wouldn't be much help in protecting your noggin in the likely event of an 81.
No wonder these guys and, yes, gals hoisted a few brews after surviving another day of sliding, they deserved it!
EARLY SLIDING FORM.
THE OLD RUN AFTER THE TOP 1/2 MILE WAS REMOVED
WHITEFACE CURVE, WAY ABOVE "OLD" SHADY
THROUGH "OLD" SHADY AND HEADED FOR ZIG ZAG
IN ZIG ZAG
ANOTHER LOOK AT THE FINISH
CONSERVATION DEPARTMENT CREW 40's
CCC Co. # 257 bobsled team - driver Paul Baker, 2nd man Whitey Kamm, 3rd man "Eggs" Lundy and brakeman "Babyface" Bruce
CIVILIAN CONSERVATION CORPS SLED
THE EARLY YEARS
In the late 1930's Bob Linney, of Mineville, NY, along with his father, Joseph, and brother, Bill, developed the fastest bobsled ever made in the U.S. up to that time.In October of 1935, J. Hubert Stevens was seeking to re-establish himself and his brother, Curtis, at the top of international bobsledding. The pair had won the two-man gold medal at the 1932 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid but had since been shut out in a variety of world events.
Hubert Stevens had ideas about how an improved sled could enliven the sport, but had no idea how to implement them.
Forty miles north of Hubert Stevens' home lived Robert J. Linney, a man with the knowledge, the materials and the equipment that Hubert Stevens was searching for. Only 27 years old, Mr. Linney was superintendent at the Chateaugay Ore and Iron Companies in his hometown of Lyon Mountain. He had been employed there since his graduation in 1929 from Yale University as a mining engineer. He later served as a foreman before becoming mine superintendent.
When he met Hubert Stevens, Mr. Linney had never seen a bobsled, much less driven one. But his ignorance seemingly proved to be an advantage, and he took to the task of redesigning the sled with zeal and dedication. By the time Mr. Linney and his brother William finished competing in bobsledding more than a decade later, their design changes had revolutionized the sport and their sleds had set record times at Mt. Van Hoevenberg.
Named "Iron Shoes", Mr. Linney's was the first all-metal bobsled. It was made with materials mined solely at Lyon Mountain and cost about $1,000 to $1,500 more than the standard four-man bobsled of the day.
Mr. Linney had little difficulty obtaining the men and materials from Chateaugay Ore and Iron Companies to produce the bobsled. It could help America's bobsled team -and it certainly did- and thus the venture was considered patriotic. Besides, it also was good publicity for the company.
Conceived by Hubert Stevens' ambition and Bob Linney's engineering expertise, "Iron Shoes" made its debut at Mt. Van Hoevenberg on Jan 11,1936. It measured 11 feet seven inches in length and was two feet, 10 inches in width. Its front runners were just slightly longer than three feet, 11 inches and its rear runners measured about 4 1/2 feet.
With Bob at the controls, "Iron Shoes" made its first decent run. Long, silvery and sleek, it attracted a good amount of attention during its inaugural run, but not nearly as much as it did one week later.
Mr. Linney returned the next weekend with his team, the Lyon Mountain Miners, and won the North American Junior Bobsled Championship. In a sport where winners often are determined by hundredths of a second, the miners' time was eight seconds faster than their closest challenger.
Later a second all iron sled was put into competition. This was named the "Iron Clipper".
With the "Iron Clipper" the Lyon Mountain Miners won the North American Club Championship in 1946 and the National Amateur Athletic Union Title in 1948. This was the last time either of the Linney brothers won in bobsledding competition. Both returned to their full-time occupations of mining. William Joseph Linney died on September 23, 1956 at Port Henry, N.Y. at the age of 44.
THE LYON MOUNTAIN MINERS BOBSLED TEAM OF MINEVILLE, NY (IRON SHOES)
THE MINERS AND A MINOR (IRON SHOES)
THE MINERS ABOARD IRON CLIPPER
KATE SMITH "PILOTING" IRON CLIPPER
KATE SMITH AT THE BOBRUN
THE SARATOGA BOBSLED TEAM
THE PLATTSBURG BOBSLED TEAM
The pilot of this sled, (circa. 1930s), is Walter “Brud” Marvin Sr. He was followed in the sport by his sons, Walter “Smitty” Marvin Jr., Ed Marvin and Tim Marvin and later, his Grandsons, Walter "Smitty" Marvin the third and Ed Marvin the fifth.
Thanks to Jack Shea for IDing the Elizabethtown Red Arrows sliders below!
1936 photo of the Elizabethtown Red Arrows. Team made up of brakeman Percy Egglefield, Gordon Otis, John Denton, and driver Walter "Brud" Marvin. This was last year of the one and a half mile track.
ELIZABETHTOWN 4 MAN SLED
UNIDENTIFIED 4 MAN SLED
NEW YORK STATE CONSERVATION DEPARTMENT CREW
NYS CONSERVATION DEPT 4 MAN SLED
EARLY NYS CONSERVATION DEPT TRUCK (thanks to Rudi Snyder)
NYS CONSERVATION DEPT 4 MAN SLED 2
CATHERIN DEWEY, DAUGHTER OF MELVILLE DEWEY, WHO CONCOCTED THE DEWEY DECIMAL SYSTEM, (PROBABLY WHY HE LEFT OFF THE E IN CATHERIN) WAS ONE OF THE FIRST (IF NOT THE FIRST) FEMALE BOBSLED PILOT. SHE WON THE NORTH AMERICAN CHAMPIONSHIP IN 1940. WOMEN WERE BANNED FROM BOBSLEDDING THAT SAME YEAR. MELVILLE POPULARIZED WINTER SPORTS IN LAKE PLACID AND OWNED THE LAKE PLACID CLUB AND A RESORT HOTEL IN LAKE PLACID, FLORIDA.
CATHERIN DEWEY, PRETTY PILOT
CATHERIN DEWEY AND CREW, LAKE PLACID CLUB SNOBIRDS
KATE SMITH PRESENTING TROPHY TO CATHERIN DEWEY
HERE'S A LINK TO "STEEL AND ICE", WHICH CONTAINS A LOT OF INFO ON TODAY'S WOMEN'S BOBSLEDDING. (Thanx to Lois Hollan)
STEEL AND ICE
ARTHUR GODFREY WAS A FREQUENT GUEST AT THE LAKE PLACID CLUB
Next to him is Sharon J. Mauhs, the State Conservation Commissioner from 1956-1958 (Thanx to Jack Shea for the ID of Maus!)
ARTHUR GODFREY VISITS THE BOBRUN
In years past almost every Adirondack village had a bobsled club which competed regularly. Each had it's own identifiable patch. These were bought, traded and collected by the sliders and bobsled fans. The dues and profits from the sale of patches went to buy sleds and sliding time at the run. Here are a few of the Saranac Lake Bobsled Club patches from past years.
SARANAC LAKE BOBSLED CLUB ON 1939 MI COVER. WILL BOBSLEDS WIN THE WAR?
The Quaker Oil Bobsled Team--Nov.16, 1946--Saturday Evening Post
In the four photos below are Henry Homburger, Percy Bryant, F. Paul Stevens and Edmund Horton. Henry Homburger designed the bobrun, so he knew the way down. The team was sponsored by the Saranac Lake Elks Club BPOE #1508.
They took a silver medal at the 1932 Olympics.
SARANAC LAKE RED DEVIL BOBSLED CLUB, 1928-THE PHANTOMS OF THE RUN
SARANAC LAKE BOBSLED CLUB, 1930
SARANAC LAKE RED DEVIL BOBSLED CLUB, 1932
SARANAC LAKE RED DEVIL BOBSLED CLUB, 1932
SARANAC LAKE RED DEVIL BOBSLED CLUB, 1932
1932 OLYMPIC BOBSLED GROUP, LAKE PLACID
SARANAC LAKE BOBSLED CLUB, 1932- IN ZIG ZAG
1936 USA OLYMPIC BOBSLED TEAM , GARMISCH, GERMANY
An article from a 1945 British magazine
In September 1939, more than two years before America entered the War, Billy Fiske, an American citizen, joined the Royal Air force, pledging his life and loyalty to the King, George VI. At Tangmere, nearly a year later, aged 29, he redeemed that pledge. In those 29 years, Fiske, the first American serviceman in the RAF to lose his life in action, had always lived life to the full. He died a hero's death, surely the way he would have wanted to die, fighting the enemy in the form of a patrol of Junkers 87s about 12,000 feet above the Sussex countryside, at the controls of a Hurricane P3358.
He was an accomplished sportsman, well-known on the Cresta run at St Moritz and for many years the unbeaten champion. He led the bobsleigh team for the USA in the Winter Olympics of 1928 at St Moritz, and at the 1932 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid. At this event, he carried the flag for the Americans at the opening ceremonies, presided over by Governor Franklin D Roosevelt of New York. He was invited, but declined to lead the bobsleigh team in the 1936 Winter Olympics.
The Billy Fiske trophy is named for him, the youngest Gold Medal winner, at the age of 16, in the sport.
BILLY FISKE AND CREW
In this photo Luftwaffe Captain, Werner Zahn, is presenting the world championship trophy to U.S. driver, Billy Fiske, during Feb. 15 ceremonies at Mt. Van Hoevenberg. At left, Paul Stevens,of second-place U.S. team, holds microphone. Other gold medalists on Fiske sled are (left to right): Edward Eagan, Clifford Gray and Jay O'Brien. German driver Hans Kilian is behind Gray; at far right is Swiss driver Reto Capadrutt.
SARANAC LAKE BOBSLEDDERS IN 1947
These four shots were submitted by Sheila Betters.
Left to right -
Left front to back-
Robert "Boob" Swain,
Right front to back-
Larry Mc Killip
Left to right-
Left to right-
SARANAC LAKE BOBSLED CLUB, MONK FLAGG & CREW 1941
CLARENCE PRESTON, OF THE ONEONTA BOBSLED CLUB, DRIVING "THE CITY OF THE HILLS" INTO SHADY, 1951
YET TO BE IDENTIFIED CREW -SARANAC LAKE BOBSLED CLUB
STAN BENHAM, JERRY TENNANT, GARY SHEFFIELD, CHUCK PANDOLPH--1961--
STAN BENHAM, SHARON J. MAUS (State Conservation Commissioner), JIM BICKFORD AND PAT MARTIN
JIM BICKFORD ON THE BRAKES --UNKNOWN LADY AT THE WHEEL
TUFFY LATOUR AND PAUL DUPREE 1940's
"I'D SLIDE A MILE FOR A CAMEL"--- FRANCIS TYLER, WINNER OF THE GOLD IN THE 1948 OLYMPICS AND BRAKEMAN, "GIB" MANLEY BOTH ENJOYED A CAMEL AFTER A FAST RUN. IN THE SIXTIES "HANDELBAR" SHERMAN, OWNER OF THE HANDELBAR GRILL, OUTDID THEM BY ALWAYS HAVING A LIT CIGARETTE IN HIS MOUTH ON EACH RUN. HE ALSO RANG AN ALARM DURING EACH TRIP FROM SHADY TO THE FINISH LINE. MAYBE IT WAS IN CASE HIS MOUSTACHE CAUGHT FIRE.
SMOKIN' FRANCIS TYLER
IT'S ALWAYS A GOOD IDEA TO HAVE A QUICK SHOT BEFORE A RUN
THE STEVENS BROTHERS RELIVE THE PAST
SARANAC LAKE BOBSLED CLUB- 40's
OUR OLD BUDDY, CHUCK PANDOLPH, BRAKEMAN AND JACK HELMER, PILOT-- OSLO, NORWAY-1952
GROUP OF OLD-TIME SLIDERS
JERRY MORGAN AND BOB McGONEGAL, "THE VOICE OF THE BOBRUN"
Gil Miron, below, was one of the few Americans using rope steering at this point in bobsledding history.
GIL MIRON, PILOT, JIM MOSE, #2, JIMMY LAFOUNTAIN, #3 AND CHARLIE HOFFER, BRAKEMAN--SPORTS ILLUSTRATED COVER, FEBRUARY, 27, 1961
DEW DROP MORGAN AND HIS CREW, HANK NEVERET, BUNK GRIFFIN AND BOB CROWLEY TAKING SHADY IN THE "SLIDING SIXTIES"
--February 22, 1966--The North American Championships--It was bitter cold, 40 below on Van Hoevenberg. Zig Curve appeared to have heaved out in the belly. We "sandbaggers" had taken a rough run through Zig Zag with Louie Hooper piloting and decided to walk back up to Zig and observe how Sergio Zardini would drive it. We had only walked as far as Zag when Zardini began his run so we stayed put there. We heard the crash as he entered Zig. We were shocked when the sled came off Zig on it's side and hit the wooden lip of Zag. His helmet had come off during the crash in Zig and his head was left unprotected. In that fraction of a second we had lost a true gentleman of bobsledding. Sergio Zardini was an unassuming, considerate and highly respected bobsledder. The dapper little Italian with the big heart was gone.
Joe McKillip was next on the starting line and, after some convincing, decided not to make his run. Bob McGonegal, "The Voice of The Bobrun" announced that the run was now closed and everyone put away their sleds and left in a daze. Most went off to get drunk.
Sergio had recently moved to Canada from Italy, where he and Eugenio Monte had ruled bobsledding.
After the move to Canada, Zardini would often come to Saranac Lake to stop at Chuck's Bar to visit his old buddy, Chuck Pandolph. He never forgot his old bobsledding friends and they never forgot him.
Mike Young, Sergio's number three man and twenty two years old at that time, needed extensive reconstruction on his face after the accident but returned to bobsledding for a couple of seasons. Mike had been introduced to bobsledding by his cousin, Vic Emery, a top notch driver and good friend of both Zardini and Monte. Mike and Vic were inducted into the Canada Sports Hall of Fame several years ago. Last I heard, Mike was living in Dallas, Texas and working as a business consultant. He has no memory of the crash itself and that may be a blessing.
SERGIO ZARDINI'S "81"
ZARDINI AND MIKE YOUNG ON THE ICE
ZARDINI LOSES BRAKEMAN IN 1961
GIL JONES, FRED FORTUNE AND JIM LAMY
JIM LAMY AND BUCKY SNOW
BUCKY SNOW AND BILL DUNDON-2003-
BRENT "STUNTMAN" RUSHLAW WITH WATERHOLE #3 BOBSLED
BRENT "STUNTMAN" RUSHLAW AND "B.J." DICKIE IN CLIFFSIDE
"STUNTMAN" AND "B.J." DICKIE TAKING CURVE EIGHT
BRENT RUSHLAW MISSES BY A HAIR IN 1988
THE FOLLOWING SIX SHOTS OF STUNTMAN'S 1988 CALGARY WINTER OLYMPIC TEAM WERE SENT IN BY TEAM MATE MIKE WASKO. THANKS MIKE!
BILL WHITE, BRENT RUSHLAW AND MIKE WASKO
TWO MAN - BRENT RUSHLAW AND MIKE WASKO
FOUR MAN START- BRENT, HAL HOYE, MIKE WASKO AND BILL WHITE
FOUR MAN CURVE - BRENT, HAL HOYE, MIKE WASKO AND BILL WHITE
FOUR MAN - BRENT, HAL HOYE, MIKE WASKO AND BILL WHITE
FOUR MAN FINISH - BRENT, HAL HOYE, MIKE WASKO AND BILL WHITE
"BRENT RUSHLAW DAY" IN SARANAC LAKE
BRENT RUSHLAW - BUD SLED
PAUL LAMY TAKING CURVE EIGHT
SEAN MORGAN, SPIDER DUPREY, ? , BRENT RUSHLAW, JOHN MORGAN-1975
WE'LL NEVER FORGET OUR OLD BUDDY, JIMMY "NITRO" MORGAN 1975
"NITRO" MORGAN AND JEFF BEAMISH 1976
"NITRO" AND JEFF 1975
"NITRO" MORGAN AND CREW AT THE TOP
"NITRO" MORGAN AND JEFF BEAMISH
"NITRO" MORGAN, RED HOGLE AND THE EXCALIBUR SLED
GREG BENHAM, NITRO AND JEFF BEAMISH
TIM MARVIN AND KEN NEVERETT OUT OF SHADY 1973
TIM MARVIN AND PETER FRISBIE 1975
JOHN MORGAN AT WORK
JIMMY HICKEY PILOTING AIR FORCE ONE
JIMMY HICKEY, GARY SHEFFIELD, B.J. DICKIE, BRENT RUSHLAW, WALT FINNEGAN
JACK SHEA AND LAKE PLACID MAYOR PEACOCK
THE NAVY TEAM, HIGH IN SHADY
START-2 MAN MARINE SLED 1975-PAUL VINCENT PILOT, TOM CROWLEY BRAKING
1975-PAUL VINCENT PILOT, TOM CROWLEY BRAKEMAN, RECEIVING BEST SERVICE SLIDERS AWARD
4 MAN MARINE SLED 1975-PAUL VINCENT PILOT, TOM CROWLEY BRAKING
2 MAN MARINE SLED 1975-PAUL VINCENT PILOT, TOM CROWLEY BRAKING
Donna de Varona was a double gold medal Olympic swimmer and the first female network sportscaster. She was Vice President of ABC sports. She was recently fired because she is too old to attract male viewers and sued ABC for age descrimination. Time sucks, huh?
PAUL VINCENT, TOM CROWLEY AND DONNA DE VARONA
In 1953, Swiss bobsledding world champion Felix Endrich was killed while the four-man bobsled he was driving crashed into a tree during the World's Cup in Garmisch, Germany. Felix had just won a gold medal two days earlier in the the two-man event. His wife of one month was watching.
Felix had also won two medals in the 1947 Worlds Cup. He garnered a silver while driving in the two-man race and claimed a gold as number three rider with Fritz Feierabend on the four-man. In both 1948 and 1949 he had taken gold medals in the two-man world's competitions.
Brakeman, Fritz Stoeckli, saved himself from injury by grabbing an Austrian flag as he passed underneath.
DEAD MAN'S CURVE-SWISS TEAM-GARMISCH, GERMANY-1953
BRAKEMAN STOECKLI GRABS FLAG
THE 1980 OLYMPIANS -- NITRO MORGAN, ? , TOM CAROL, JEFF BEAMISH
THE 1980 OLYMPIANS
THE 1979 WORLDS TEAM
THE QUEBEC BOBSLEIGH
1982 UNITED STATES WORLDS BOBSLED TEAM
LATVIANS GO RUNNERS UP ON SHADY TWO-2003
For this shot I was in the right place at the right time. The Latvians, however, were in the wrong place at the wrong time! (No serious injuries.)
TOURIST SLED COPIES LATVIA
NOTE: THE TWO TOURISTS ABOARD THIS SLED HAD WON A "LUCKY" DRAWING TO RIDE!