It originally appeared with the picture in the January 1984 issue of-Blair & Ketchum 's Country Journal, and is reprinted here with their permission and that of Anna Thompson, RFD 1, Ashland, NH 03217, who owns the photo.
Oscar York had an inventive turn of mind, and like many young men around the turn of the century, he liked to tinker with machines. By the time he was seventeen Oscar had designed and built a steam engine for an automobile. His pride and joy, however, was the steam-powered sled shown in this photograph, which he launched on Lake Winnipesaukee near his home in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, early in 1909.
Steam generated in the boiler at the rear of the sled was piped forward to the piston assembly just behind the steersman. The reciprocating motion of the piston was transformed into rotary power at the bicycle sprocket just behind and below the piston assembly. As the sprocket turned, its motion was transferred via bicycle chain to the toothed wheel amidships. The wheel's teeth dug into the ice and provided motive power, which, according to Anna Thompson of Ashland, New Hampshire, who sent us the photograph, could propel the craft along the ice at speeds up to 15 miles an hour. The helmsman's name is not known, but the engineer at the boiler controls is Oscar's good friend Fred Brewster. Our thanks to Anna Thompson for this example of rural ingenuity.