A Curious Craft Once Skimmed the Ice on Utah Lake.
A homemade sleigh-boat once skimmed across the frozen surface of Utah Lake. Hewitt Strong and Elmer Smith, two young, mechanically inclined enthusiasts of Utah Lake, constructed the strange 18-foot-long craft. It consisted of a canvas-covered frame forming a helicopter-like body that was mounted on a sturdy set of steel runners. A glass windshield gave the driver a clear view of the course ahead and two small, round porthole-like windows gave passengers (the craft could carry give or six people) a glimpse of the frozen lake.
An 80-horsepower LeRhone airplane engine and propeller mounted on an elevated stand in front of the body provided the means of locomotion. The pilot steered the craft by using a third, movable runner and a large rudder that resembled the tail of an airplane. There was one major problem that made trips more exciting: the vehicle had no brakes.
The men took the curious craft for its first trip on Utah Lake in January, 1924. It reached speeds of approximately 60 miles per hour. The builders anticipated that under optimum conditions with no snow and smooth ice, it could achieve eighty miles per hour. Strong and Smith made four more trips to the frozen lake that year. When the roads were covered with snow, they drove their creation to the shore and onto the frozen surface of the lake. This doubtless scared many horses and startled many people they happened to pass on the way to the lake.
A reporter for the Deseret News covered one of their trips to the lake. When he asked Hewitt the name of the strange vehicle, the young Provo man replied, “Damned if I know.” From that response, the reporter christened the craft the Dami-phi-no,” and the name stuck. During the summer, the owners attached pontoons to the rails and sailed their creation on open water.
After several seasons, the novelty of the curious craft, as well as its canvas, wore thin, and the men to the “Dami-phi-no” in mothballs, awaiting its inevitable salvage.