Old Scout Made it to Portland in 1905, Winning the First Transcontinental Car Race
The World of Speed Archive recently scanned a group of images covering the first transcontinental race that just so happened to end in Portland, Oregon in time for 1905 Lewis & Clark Exposition.
On May 8, 1905, a pair of 7-horsepower Curved Dash Oldsmobile Runabouts, notably Old Scout and Old Steady, made their way from New York City to Portland, Oregon. Old Scout was driven by Dwight Huss and his mechanic and co-driver was Milford Wigle. Old Steady was driven by Percy Megargel and Barton Stanchfield.
Once they crossed the Missouri River at Council Bluffs, Iowa, "civilization" was left behind. From there, the race followed the Oregon Trail, moving on to Nebraska, Wyoming, then Idaho and ultimately Oregon. Old Scout's driver Dwight Huss wrote of one day driving in Wyoming, "we drove 18 hours, forded five streams and made a total of 11 miles."
To handle the logistics of supplying the cars and drivers along the way, the race's route followed the Oregon Trail just as the Union Pacific railroads followed the trail. Knowing supplies in route would be limited, supply depots were arranged prior along the course. Gasoline was stockpiled in advance by train and stagecoach, as well as oil, tires and batteries.
Three days into the trip, rain began and continued for half of the race. It rained every day for three weeks. Dwight Huss wrote of following roads that were completely under water, and he steered by keeping parallel to the telegraph poles.
From Nebraska on, the two cars made their way under conditions much like those half a century before. The racers had no road maps except for guidebooks written for the pioneers crossing the Oregon and California trails during the mid-1800s.
The trip was expected to take only 30 days but instead took 44 long and grueling days and nights.
Settlers throughout the west including townspeople, ranchers, cowboys and farmers rode for miles on horseback to see Old Scout and Old Steady pass through their neck of the country. While the race was a much publicized event, many came out to see if automobiles were practical enough to be useful in the rugged West.
Old Scout got to Portland just in time for the Lewis and Clark Exposition in Portland on June 21. Old Steady rode in eight days later.
For more information, check out a great article about the first transcontinental race at HistoryNet.