Oh what fun, indeed, it would have been to ride a sled as well crafted as this one!
Imagine riding this.
The sleds used are from 14 to 18 feet long, and each will hold from ten to fifteen people. Instead of having a wheel they are steered by ropes and pulleys, like those used on a yacht. The long springy seats are upholstered in plush. At each side of the seat is a groove in which to place the feet. At each side of the seat is a groove in which to place the feet and a firm hardwood rod to grasp the hands. On the inside of the hind runners are two broad steel grabs, which can be driven into the snow to check the headway or stop the sled. They are under the control of the man who sits behind, and enable him to stop the sled wherever he wishes. The steersman sits clear forward and guides his hurrying steed with hempen reins. The runners are shod with round iron, and have a wide “tread” making it impossible to tip them over.
What they don’t mention in the article is how they get the sleds a quarter-mile back up to the top of the hill after those 10-15 people rode down. In addition to the rear brakes, this one also has a set that can be controlled from the driver at the front.
There’s a great image of people coasting down Burlington’s Main Street during one of the Winter Carnivals is in the collection of the Fleming Museum and the Landscape Change project.