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Peter Sinclair (page4) ---

Tales from the Territories : Wrigley Station
By Peter Sinclair

Vehicle Problems. The first vehicle casualty was the D4 Cat that had been on loan to Good Hope to install a radial ground. It was returned on the last southbound boat of the season and was received with a cracked block. Someone had not paid attention to the anti-freeze level before shipping it after freezing temperatures had arrived. The first problem was how to get a dead piece of machinery off the Barge. We used the D7 to winch it around the deck, then dozed a ramp to the deck, winched it off and hauled it into camp.

This left the D7 for airstrip maintenance and all the hauling duties. In early summer, 1949, Hal Zinn and I were bringing in a load from the beach when the Cat broke a track on the hill. We pulled the track back together with come-alongs and wove it with wire rope. The tractor was slowly moved back to base - walking alongside with crowbars to ease the broken part over the drive sprocket. We had no idea how to repair the tracks. Track pins are put in using a hydraulic press. That's when S/Sgt Alex Lowe came in from Ft. Simpson where he was in charge of the transmitters and the Cat 4600 power plants.

Alex knew what to do about the Cat tracks. With the broken track lying on the ground fore-and-aft with the track plates removed, oxy-acetylene heat was applied and the track pins hammered out. New track links and two-piece track pins were then installed, track plates replaced, and the track tensioned - we were back in business.

In late winter the RCAF delivered the new block and replacement parts for the D4. Alex had stripped the engine while waiting for the track parts, then started in rebuilding the engine. I was on evening shifts and was able to get in a week as mechanic's helper on the D4.

The next vehicle casualty was the 3-ton stake truck, the clutch of which gave out after too many trips to the beach while the cats were out of service. Cpl Ray Bebeau and Signm. Jack Unger, vehicle mechanics from Calder, came in to replace the clutch. That is when they had the Bear Hunt.

Alex Lowe had an interesting history. He came from the Yukon where he had his own gold claim and had worked the gold dredges in the summer. In the winter he took correspondence courses and attended courses on the "outside". He was a qualified welder, diesel mechanic, radio mechanic, and cat operator, and held a DOT 2nd class operator's certificate.

Alex enlisted in the army in Dawson City in 1939 and was put directly on the circuit, spending his entire army career in the north.

One evening Ken Stewart and Joe Murree were out in front of the station with two of the .303 Rifles doing arms drill - Porte arms, slope arms, present arms, and so on. Alex stood in the doorway watching this performance with a look of amazement. Finally he said, "What on earth is that?"

Howie Crowell, who was also watching replied, "That's arms drill."

"What," said Lowe, "is arms drill?" Here was a S/Sgt, 10 years in the army, who had never seen arms drill before. Staying in the North did have some advantages.

The starting engine of the D7 had been getting low on compression. After the cold weather and snow arrived it stalled outside the garage and could not be started. Hal Zinn thought he could repair it if we could get enough heat around the engine to prevent frost burn and fingers sticking to the cold metal. Parts came on the next CPA flight. By that time a structure had been built on the side of the Cat and draped in canvas. Snow was banked to block off the spaces around the tracks. The temperature was in the -25 Fahrenheit range. I had managed to get one of the old worn-out Stewart Warner aircraft heaters running, and with that bearing directly on the starting engine along with several 100 watt light bulbs, Hal installed new rings and connecting rod bearings. Calder was finding out that running a station that had an airstrip could be expensive.



Footwear. The army-issue winter footwear was an ankle-high felt boot. This would have been OK around the station but was useless on the icy cold deck plates of the Cats. I had my duffle socks made by one of the local Indian ladies through the HBC Factor. The others already had theirs from previous stations.

With a pair of thick wool stockings, foot duffle, ankle duffel, a felt insole and a pair of high cut cowhide moccasins mail-ordered from T. Eaton Co., your feet did not freeze even sitting on the Cat.

In late 1949 the system sent in flight boots and new style parkas. The new boots were a welcome addition but I found the old style B parka was better for Cat. driving.

Velox Versutus Vigilans