Did you know that New Hampshire has two snowmobile museums? Not only do we have The New Hampshire Snowmobile Museum located in Allenstown, NH, there is a second snowmobile museum in Lancaster, NH. Crane’s Snowmobile Museum in Lancaster is owned by Paul T. Crane. The museum was started in 2004 and is currently operated by Paul and his family.
First US Distributer of Ski Dog
At twenty years of age, Paul started working for Timberland Machine Inc. in Lancaster, NH. In 1958 Paul and his boss, Bob Bottoms, drove up to Valcourt, Quebec, to meet with J. Armand Bombardier to have a look at Bombardier’s latest invention. During this visit Paul became the first US citizen to test drive a prototype of the new Ski Dog snowmobile (the early Bombardier machines were called Ski Dogs, the name was later changed to Ski-Doo). After successful testing of the sled, an agreement was made between Bombardier and Timberland Machine Inc., naming themas the first US distributer of Ski Dog snowmobiles.
In December of 1959 Paul and Bob took delivery of the first Ski Dog snowmobile to be imported into the United States. The machine was a 1960 model, serial # 60-22. This first sled was sold to Red Parks of Lancaster, NH, by Paul Crane. After a few years of riding this sled, Red traded it in for a newer model, a 1966 Ski-Doo Olympic. Ski Dog # 60-22 is currently on display at The New Hampshire Snowmobile Museum in Allenstown, NH, along with a lineup of early Ski-Doo snowmobiles.
Paul Crane’s Collection
Paul started collecting snowmobiles in 1961. By his own admission, he started collecting because he just didn’t want to let them go. Over the years Paul has amassed quite a diverse collection of antique snowmobiles. From an early Model T snowmobile to sleds built in the ’80’s, the museum houses approximately 118 snowmobiles. There are about thirty more in the shop out back awaiting restoration, and this does not include what he keeps at home. He can likely claim to be the first antique snowmobile collector in the state of New Hampshire.
Oldest Snowmobile Club in the World
None of these accomplishments convey the many other contributions Paul brought to the sport of snowmobiling. In 1964, he was involved with Bob Bottoms in the starting the Lancaster Grand Prix Snowmobile Race, a race that pre-dates the Eagle River Derby in Wisconsin. Paul was also involved in forming what is now the oldest snowmobile club in the world, The Lancaster Snow Drifters snowmobile club. The Cranes also owned and operated Crane’s Sporting Goods store in Lancaster, NH.
In more recent years, Paul was involved in bringing back the Lancaster Grand Prix for its 50th anniversary in 2014. Along with the race, Crane’s Museum hosted an antique snowmobile show and a display of antique snowmobiles at the race site. The snowmobile show at the museum has been held yearly since then.
Snowmobile Hall of Fame
Paul was also instrumental in bringing the 11th Annual Vintage Snowmobile Club of America’s National Championship Show to Lancaster in 2016. This was a two-day show that brought hundreds of antique snowmobiles from across the country to the Lancaster Fair grounds.
On September 25, 2015, Paul T. Crane was inducted into the International Snowmobile Hall of Fame in Eagle River, Wisconsin. His picture hangs on a wall there along with many of the legends in the sport of snowmobiling. There is far more that can be said about Paul than I can fit in this article. He has accomplished so much for the sport.
Visit Crane’s Snowmobile Museum
Crane’s Snowmobile Museum is located at 172 Main Street in Lancaster, NH. You can visit the museum website, www.cranesnowmobilemuseum.com, or go to Crane’s Snowmobile Museum Facebook page for more information on Paul or his museum.