HOULTON, Maine — When it comes to snowmobiling, Scott Tompkins is purely vintage.
Tompkins of Houlton has amassed a large collection of antique snowmobiles over the years — about 30 at last count. Most of them are vintage, with the oldest from 1966 to the newest manufactured in 2009. He has displayed his machines in museums and at shows around the country, and has one of the rarest machines made.
Snowmobiling has been a popular winter activity in Aroostook County and Maine for decades. Each year, the snowmobiling industry brings in heaps of tourists who generate millions of dollars for the state’s economy. While many love the industry for its evolving sleds — each generation is faster and sleeker — there are people like Tompkins who appreciate the history behind vintage models.
“I don’t know why the passion for these machines runs so deep,” Tompkins said. “The new stuff is great, but at some point, the old stuff will be gone, and I don’t want it to be gone, I want to preserve it.”
Tompkins’ love for snowmobiles began when he was just 6 years old growing up in Brookline, Massachusetts. In 1969, Tompkins accompanied his father on a snowmobile run with his best friend from Houlton. The trio rode to Pittsburg, New Hampshire, sparking Tompkins’ love of the machines.
He was able to buy his first sled in 1986, but still holds onto parts from the same sled he drove when he was 6 years old.
One of Tompkins favorite acquisitions was in 1995, when he bought an old Skidoo snowmobile in Mapleton. He was intrigued by the carburetors on the sled and wanted the unique machine in his collection.
In 1996, he took the sled to a snowmobile show. While Tompkins fawned over the wide variety of sleds there, he was unaware that many of the other patrons were flocking around his snowmobile.
It was here that Tompkins learned he had a 1968 TNT 600 Ski-Doo, an incredibly rare sled that was the first vertical twin engine made specifically for racing. It’s estimated that fewer than 50 exist in the world today, and is one of the most sought after vintage snowmobiles.
Tompkins has also participated in a number of snowmobile shows, including coming in third in the national championship competition in Boonville, New York. Tompkins began attending competitions to win, but eventually grew to love going for the social experience of meeting fellow sled enthusiasts.
Before moving to Houlton, Tompkins had several of his sleds in museums, but had to remove them once he moved to Houlton two years ago. Now, he wants to get his sleds in museums again, with the names of the original owners displayed with them.
Every sled has a story, and who owned them is part of it, he said.
Tompkins has not pursued his hobby alone. He has amassed a network of reliable people who help him locate and restore old snowmobiles, including Greg Rodrick of Presque Isle who has helped Tompkins restore many sleds over their two years of friendship.
Tompkins has gotten sleds from Mansonville, Manitoba and Halifax in Canada, and from Casper, Wyoming.
Tompkins urges anyone who has an old sled, sledding memorabilia or spare parts to call him at 508-361-6309.
“We don’t want anything to go in the trash,” Tompkins said. “It would be a shame for this equipment to just waste away in a barn. We want to preserve it.”