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The Trailmaker

Tracking up winter... & summer!
Back in the early 1960s the Iron Range of northern Minnesota was experiencing one of its worst economic downturns ever.

In 1961 Abe Mathews of Hibbing, Minn. had a steel fabrication company. He felt if they could keep things going for another few years they would see a turnaround of the mining industry. He purchased Electric Power Door from a firm in Minneapolis and along with it came Mr. John M. Howes who had been developing an “All Season Vehicle” since 1952. By 1958 Howes had acquired several patents for the unique track design and internal octagon drive system. Negotiations between Mathews and Howes culminated in the production of Howes’ “All Season Vehicle.” The TRAILMAKER!
Start of the Trail
Back in the ’50s in his shop in Canada, Howes was building a Trailmaker twice as wide as the one that would eventually be produced, with a tracked pull-behind trailer. One day he was asked to go and get a downed airplane fuselage that was 30 miles back into the bush. The Trailmaker easily helped with the expedition and proved its worth.
The Trailmaker’s huge skis looked like they were made from open culvert aluminum and had nice ridges to help in steering with no wear rods. Each sled came with adjustable ski spindles which had a narrow stance or a wider ski stance.

It had the option of swapping skis for wheels for an extra $28. The track was made using an 18-inch wide conveyer belt with alligator splicing to hold it together. There were 18-inch steel cleats, and two 4-inch cleats with a large stud of about three inches long on the inside. These insiders ran against the inside of the tires for track alignment. (36 cleats in total were used.)

The drive shaft of the Trailmaker was an exclusive Octagon Final Drive system using 12-inch steel wheels with rubber molded on the outside of the drive sprockets, eliminating snow and ice build-up on tracks. The 12-inch rubber tires for track support meant no slide rail system, so the Trailmaker was easily useable for summer or winter. It rides a little harsh in the swamps in the summer, but it’s not as bad in snow. The track has an 810 - inch footprint.

The Kohler air cooled 4-cycle engine came in 7-, 8- or 10-hp. The 7-horse came standard and some came with an air cleaner that took warm air from the muffler to keep the carburetor from freezing up.

A little known fact regarding the Trailmaker was the vacuum throttle. An actuator on the steering T-bar and a plastic hose going back to an actuator by the carburetor gave smooth engine power. The vacuum throttle was great if it was not rusted out. The power comes through a variable speed converter and then passed to the Apex transmission which had a forward, reverse and neutral.

Accessory-wise, there was an ice auger that fit on the rear of the unit with a v-belt drive ready for drilling. Holding the T-bar on top of the rotating shaft you could make it go up and down.

The frame was made with 1-inch ID steel pipe and a belly pan. The looks were utilitarian but tough. A big fiberglass front end kept you warm. The 7- and 8-hp machines weighed 375 lbs., and the 10-hp version weighed 430 lbs. This was a true sled for all seasons.

Thanks to Peter Hydukovich and his Trailmaker for help with this story.
PRICING for Trailmaker,
Sept. 1, 1964
7hp - $755, 8hp - $795
Extras: Wheels - $28, Wide Axle - $15, Ice Auger - $95, Snow Plow - $95, Recoil Starter - $15,
Lights - $15, Warranty: 90 days Load Cap.: 2 adults – Tow in excess of 1,500 lbs.
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