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The Franklin News-Post
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Fax: 540-483-8013

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Endicott couple buys 1932 Olympic sled
Richard Pollock plans to restore the German-made marvel
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Photo by Morris Stephenson: Richard and Martha Pollock of Endicott are shown with son, Robert, standing behind one of the German-made “Fram” 4-man bobsleds used in the 1932 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid, N.Y.

Friday, March 15, 2013

By MORRIS STEPHENSON - Special to the News-Post

A German-made bobsled used in the 1932 Winter Olympics has found a home in Franklin County.

Richard and Martha Pollock of Endicott are the latest owners of the sled. Richard purchased it last year at an auction.

The sled, which was called "decades ahead of its time," was one of three originally made for the 1932 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid, N.Y.

When the German bobsled team showed up with their new sled design, it apparently caused a stir because of its aerodynamic shape. Because of its modern design, the four-man team from Germany was an early favorite to win the gold medal.

"Fram III" had an enclosed rocket-shaped front to help divert the wind around the driver and the three riders. According to an old Associated Press newspaper account, 14,000 spectators turned out for the Olympic competition. Days before the games opened, rumors had spread about the German sled because of its design. (Fram is a Norwegian word meaning "explore.")

The other bobsleds in the 1932 games did not even have windshields.

The bobsled used in the actual 1932 competition is on display at the Winter Olympic Museum at Lake Placid.

There were three known sleds in existence at one time, according to Martha Pollock.

"There's the one in the museum at Lake Placid, one burned in a barn where it was stored, and we believe this is the third one," she said.

The Pollocks now have the sled stored in a garage at their son Robert's house. Richard, who is retired from the Franklin County school system, plans to restore the sled.

"I've always liked to tinker with things, and I plan to see what I can do with this," he said, nodding to the sled with its rusty steel frame and rotten wooden parts.

"Ed (Jamison) brought the sled back from Pennsylvania and put it in one of his auctions that we attended," he said. "Nobody was interested in it that night, and I got it for $200. I just played a hunch that the sled had a lot of history behind it."

And the couple has gone out of its way to learn as much history as they can about the sled. They have in their possession an undated story about the Fram III being donated to the Olympic museum. The story contains more about the donation than the sled's history.

The story says Fram III was designed to handle the tightly packed snow of Europe and not the ice-covered racks in New York. As a result, the sled, with Werner Vaughn at the helm, crashed and his arm was broken.

A replacement driver took Vaughn's place, and the German team had to settle for third place, as two American teams won the gold and silver. Hanns Kilian was listed as the driver of Fram III, with Max Ludwig, Dr. Hans Mahlhom and Sebastian Huber rounding out the team.

The German sled was also known for its curved front runners that were supposed to grip the snow better. Apparently, the runners didn't work as expected because the team crashed during a trial run at about 70 mph.

The Pollocks said they have searched the internet for more information after going to the Winter Games Museum at Lake Placid to see what information was in its records. They discovered design drawings and measurements for a 4-man bobsled, but the information doesn't show the enclosed front end.

Richard Pollock noted that the steel cover on the front is strong with only one small area that is rusting out. Almost all of the wood in the seating area is in tact with some boards being in better shape than others.

In examining the sled closer, the brake consists of two long handles with a wooden grip. To stop the sled at the end of a run, the man in the back seat of the sled had to pull up hard on the handles, which lowered a heavy steel trailing bar to dig into the snow.

The round steering wheel is made of individual layers of wood shaped into a circle. There is room enough behind the enclosed front for the driver's legs. The steering wheel is underneath the front cover to allow all of the driver's body to be shielded from the wind, except for his goggle-covered eyes and the top of his helmet.

Based on old newspaper clippings and photographs of competitors, each team member wore a seat-belt type of apparatus.

"I think all the pieces and parts of the sled are in tact," Richard said. "It's going to take a lot of time to replace all the wood parts and to clean all the rusted steel that's holding it together. I really have no idea how long it will take. I'm learning as I go."

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