March 21, 2013 in Washington Voices

Museum features cross section of vintage snowmobiles

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Kathy Plonka photoBuy this photo

Jerry Kienbaum talked about collecting snowmobiles for his museum in Greenacres on Monday.
(Full-size photo)

Today

Shhhh. It’s a secret. The family of Jerry Kienbaum has planned a surprise 76th birthday party today from 4 to 7:30 p.m. at the Northwest Museum of Vintage Snowmobiles, 19013 E. Alki Ave. There will be pizza and a chance to see Kienbaum’s collection of snowmobiles, lighted signs, trophies, snow clothing, posters, banners, pictures and more. Call Paul Kienbaum at (509) 998-9802.

It’s a collection that has been in the making since Jerry Kienbaum took his first snowmobile ride as a kid.

“It was addicting,” Kienbaum said of that ride. He enjoyed the solitude, the beauty of winter, the deer and the elk he saw along the way and he loved getting places he couldn’t get to otherwise.

That first ride not only inspired Kienbaum’s love of snowmobiling, but a large collection of vintage snowmobiles, enough to open his own museum.

The collection’s first home was his garage or his son’s workshop.

“They (his family) were apprehensive when I got started buying a bunch of rusty iron,” he said. They are no longer apprehensive and are now celebrating his collection.

The Northwest Museum of Vintage Snowmobiles has been open for about seven years. Kienbaum said before that, he took some of his collection to shows, but the wear and tear on the vehicles became too much. He not only collects the sleds, he restores many of them as well.

“When he gets on a whirl, he gets on a whirl,” said his wife, Janice Kienbaum.

There are about 80 to 85 snowmobiles in the main showroom and 10 limited edition Mercury racing sleds made between 1974 and 1976. He said he has one of every model they made.

For many of the sleds in his collection, he has a story about who rode them and what they did with them.

One is a 1965 Polaris Super Mountaineer Sno Traveler, large enough to fit three people riding side-by-side. It includes the original toboggan that can be pulled behind it. Kienbaum said utility companies used it, as well as surveyors, ranchers or loggers. The toboggan added space to haul items. He said his was once owned by a trapper.

He also has a 1964 Arctic Cat 100 with a toboggan. It was once owned by a milkman in Walla Walla who used it to make his deliveries.

There is a 1975 Skidoo 245 RV, once owned by Evel Knievel, which the daredevil never rode.

He has a 1976 Arctic Cat 440X Twin Track Sno Pro, which he bought when it was chopped up and altered. He wasn’t even confident it was original until he contacted the engineer who built it who then helped Kienbaum restore it.

Tucked away on one side of the museum is a very strange looking sled that resembles a motorcycle on skis. Kienbaum said it was a Chrysler Sno-Rabbit.

“They are dangerous as holy heck,” he said.

All of the snowmobiles in the museum are vintage, the newest one is from 1990, Kienbaum’s personal trail sled.

“I don’t want anything new,” he said.

Since the museum has been open, Kienbaum said about 2,000 to 3,000 people have come to visit. There have been people who travel through town on vacation from Canada or Alaska, snowmobile clubs and through the open house he offers every July.

“It’s pretty much year-round,” he said. Free tours are available by appointment by calling (509) 220-7091 or emailing jkienbaum3@msn.com.


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