A Look Into Our Collection: The Eliason Snowmobile

In 1924, Carl Eliason of Sayner, Wisconsin injured his foot. The active Eliason developed his first “snow buggy” to aid him in negotiating the tough Wisconsin winter weather.  Starting in a garage behind his home, Eliason eventually built something like the machine on display at Frontier Homestead, using various parts of a boat motor, bicycles, and some skis.

Patented in 1927 as the “Motor Toboggan,” there was enough demand for the machine by 1939 that Mr. Eliason partnered with the Four Wheel Drive Company of Clintonville, Wisconsin to produce the first “snowmobile.”  There was a flurry of interest at the start of World War II from Finland, Russia and the U.S. Army.

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Our snow machine in 1973. The Indian Motorcycle engine was stolen in the late 1970’s.

Our snow machine is most likely a Model B which features lever steering, half-round gas tank with attached tool box, and foot throttle.  It weighed close to 500 lbs and was powered by a 25 HP twin cylinder Indian motorcycle engine (missing from our machine.) Cleats attached to chain belt moved the machine through the snow.

This unit was purchased by Gronway Parry from the Idaho Power and Light Company who used it to patrol the power lines during the winter. Parry later used this snow machine to transport movie crews on the snow covered Cedar Mountains. It became part of the museum’s collection in 1973.

A  public service message featuring the Eliason Snow Machine. Life Magazine, 1944.

A public service message featuring the Eliason Snow Machine. Life Magazine, 1944.