New York State is rumored to be the starting place of the sport of Bobsled, but did you know, that New York State also revolutionized the sport and helped kick off a period of American bobsledding dominance in the 1930s and ’40s?

It all began in 1935 with a request from 1932 Olympic gold medal winner and Lake Placid native Hubert Stevens, to Bob Linney, a Supervisor at Chateaugay Ore and Iron in Lyon Mountain, NY, sixty miles to the north of Lake Placid. Stevens wanted a sled that would help him defeat the Europeans.

Early 4-man Bobsled
Republic Miners Bobsled Club of Lyon Mt. N.Y. winning North American 4 man Bobsled Championship on February 22, 1940. William J. Linney, driver; John S. Kerr, William Stacavich and Angus Clain, brakemen. Photo by E.H. Pierson, Lake Placid, N.Y. courtesy of Dave Jones.

Bob Linney had the knowledge, the materials, and the equipment Stevens was searching for, but had never even seen a bobsled. This proved to be an advantage and he took to the task of re-designing the sled and making important innovations.

The design turned into the “rocket ship” – the first all-metal sled with cast-iron runners instead of steel. At the time, most sleds were made from wood. All the materials for the steel sled were mined in Lyon Mountain, NY. This was also the first sled to use a steel plank as the linkage, which allowed for greater control and speed through turns and the first built-in shock absorbers, that dissipated eighty percent of the shock that went through the rider’s bodies.

Ironshoes Bobsled
Hazel Franklin pictured with legendary Lyon Mountain Bobsled Team driver William Linney and John Kerr, Jerry Blanch and Angus Clain, brakemen and their sled Ironshoes. Photo courtesy of John Morgan.

Not wanting to sit on the sidelines, the Linney brothers started a team, the Lyon Mountain Miners. Bob piloted his sled, called “Iron Shoes,” on its maiden run at Mt Van Hoevenberg in 1936. A week later, he and his team won the North American Junior Bobsled Championship.

While Linney realized the importance of the sled design to winning races, he also realized that the most critical part of the race was the first four or five seconds. He installed side-mounted handles, he called “Swiss pushers” used by pushers to build momentum. Once these were installed, Linney tested them and lo and behold, the Miners could push “Iron Shoes” 100 feet in four and a half seconds with the “Swiss pushers,” but they needed over five seconds to do it without the pushers.

By the time Bob Linney and his brother William finished competing in bobsledding more than a decade later, their design changes had revolutionized the sport and many of these innovations are still being used today.

2021 World Championships