Building a Better Bobsled

Folks careening down Mt. Van Hoevenberg’s Olympic bobsled run—the public can catch a ride on the world-class track Wednesdays through Sundays during the winter—are probably not contemplating proper angles of approach and ciphering out each curve’s radii. But that’s how Bob Linney, a mining superintendent from Lyon Mountain, and three engineers from his outfit approached the dropoff in the 1930s. They came away with a new, all-metal bobsled design that beat out all other comers to the North American junior bobsled championship in January 1936 by eight seconds—light years in a sport measured by fractions of a heartbeat.

The Lyon Mountain Miners and their sled “Iron Shoes,” which was later outfitted with metal grips for even faster push-offs, won a slot at the 1940 Olympics; the crew lost out on its chance to compete when the games were cancelled by World War II. Linney would later write, “The story of the 1940 Olympic Games is history and instead of producing ore to build sleds with which to compete against other countries in friendly games, my brother [who followed Bob into the sport] and myself dug iron ore for the steel that produced the material that our boys used to fight against these same people.”

Find out what it took to build a championship sled and lead a team of scrappy mountain boys to Lake Placid glory in “Iron Shoes,” from our February 1980 issue.

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