P. O. Box 1487, Elma, Washington 98541
In April 1989 a letter came to our EDGE&TA, Branch #20 club from Sam Erlandson of Champlin, Minnesota asking for some help in finding the origin of his crawler tractor. He had written several people about the excellent little crawler he had owned for about two years, getting the best response from Waukesha Company. It seems all the identification was missing from the tractor, except for engine identification.
Waukesha Company checked out the numbers and found the engine had been sold to a General Tractor Company in Seattle, Washington, on January 3, 1949. With nothing more to go on and no listing of the General Tractor Company, Sam thought maybe some of our club members may have had some experience with this tractor. No such luck.
Being interested in small crawlers, I found a listing of a tractor called a Westrak in a book on tractors by R. B. Gray several months later. It was made by a company called General Tractor Company in Seattle, Washington, and powered by a 24 B H.P. Waukesha engine. Excited about this find, I immediately sent a copy of the information to Mr. Erlandson.
Now, with a tractor name, we found a Branch #20 club member, Mr. Mark Vukich, who shed some further light on the subject of Westrak. He had conversed with a Mr. Dean Field of Auburn, Washington who used to deal in used equipment in the 1940's and 1950's. Mr. Field knew of a possible dealer in Seattle who had such a machine on his sales floor. They believed the manufacturer was actually from Ephrata or Wenatchee in Eastern Washington. However, this lead came to a dead end since the dealer had been deceased for some time and none of his surviving relatives could help.
Then, after further research by Mr. Erlandson through the Seattle Public Library and the University of Washington Library, some more leads were generated. City directories and records showed that the General Tractor Company of Seattle was incorporated on September 23, 1950. They also showed the people involved. From these names, a Mrs. Claude Casady was located. It turned out she was the widow of the man who started building the Westrak. After several interesting phone conversations, Mr. Erlandson found out that the tractor was developed in the late 1940's and put on the market in 1950.
Much research was done around the country and nothing else has been found, including other tractors of this make. The previous owner did tell Mr. Erlandson he had gotten the tractor from a tractor manufacturing company that bought other different tractors. It was apparently the practice to search competitors' tractors for new ideas that they could use. The company had removed all the tractor identification including grinding the Westrak name off of the top of the grille.
A later conversation with a granddaughter brought the bad news that Mrs. Casady, age 86, had a stroke and was unable to assist any more with details of how many tractors had been built, manuals, etc. The granddaughter did say that she thought she had a home movie of her grandfather on a Westrak and that she would send a video copy when she found the movie.
A nephew, Mr. Vern Arnold, who was taking care of his aunt's things, came across a letter from Mr. Erlandson with a number of questions. Mrs. Casady had penciled in some of the answers before her stroke. He passed them along.
Mr. Casady was a graduate mechanical engineer, who had been attempting to grow and market a new type of berry called the Olympic Berry. His frustration with the constant necessary repair of his Cletrac tractor caused him to attempt to build a better one. He started building the Westrak in a barn on his 40 acre ranch near Seattle.
Apparently, the main problem was Mr. Casady's marketing ability, which led to the poor success of his company. He had accepted the lure of inexpensive rent in a new building at Ephrata for a while, but had to give the building up when sales did not develop. The tractors were sold mainly around the Northwest and it is suspected a couple were sold in South America. The family has not heard of any other Westraks surfacing.
Mr. Erlandson's Westrak has a bulldozer blade that is hydraulically operated with a very cleanly designed control system. The final drive was effected with a heavy duty worm, and planetary type steering was used.
Since the Westrak's roots are now known, Mr. Sam Erlandson brought the crawler out to the 20th Annual Antique Tractor and Steam Show at Lynden, Washington. Presented by Puget Sound Antique Tractor and Machinery Association, the show featured crawler tractors this year on July 31, August 1, 2,3,1991.
The Lynden Show is a fitting show for the Westrak. It will be returning at long last to its origin-Washington State. The little crawler will be for sale, hopefully to a Northwest buyer. The Westrak tractor is like new, having been used very little, and now has a brand new coat of yellow paint on its 5,000 pound frame.