Yukon Gold

Mining for Old Iron in the Yukon Territory


| June/July 2002



Horizontal steam engine

To run the Erie Iron Works horizontal steam engine he's refurbishing. There's no tag on the Sullivan to date it, while the Erie, serial number 16690, is thought to be a 36 HP unit. Its date is also unknown, and Jerry would like to know more about this equipment.

My biggest regret in life is that I didn't start collecting old iron 30 years ago instead of a few years ago. I'm going through 'mid-collecting crisis.' I keep asking myself, will I get enough gold to eat AND afford to fix my stuff up? Will I live long enough to get every thing running? Who will look after all of my neat stuff when I'm gone?

Mining was pretty lean last season. It was very cool (I had a fire going in the wood cook stove in the cabin every night), the ground did not thaw out as quickly as I'd hoped (permafrost) and with ongoing breakdowns (D73T, Insley dragline) I managed to get in 30 days sluicing, enough to make it through the winter. Just.

I live on my claims about 20 miles southeast of Dawson City in the hills. The road is not plowed in the winter, so I snow machine into Dawson about once a month for supplies and mail, weather permitting. I stay home when it's -35 degrees F or colder. The only things that keep me sane up here during the winter months are my little shop, being able to work on projects and GEM. I love all aspects of old iron - from the mining of the metals to casting, fabrication, technology changes, history, search and recovery, fixing things up, and fellow collectors - and just being able to putter. If this old iron was left to the elements, it would all eventually end up as it started, part of the ground.

I learn a few new things every time I go into my shop, and I even try to pass on what little I know to people who visit me. My mentor, Newt Webster, has steered me in the right direction when it comes to babbiting, etc., and all my silly questions. There aren't any other knowledgeable guys like him around here, and I can't thank him enough. And he might even sell me one of his 'keep sakes' if I catch him in the right mood.

I still haven't had a start up party for my 18 HP Mietz & Weiss hot bulb oil engine. My machinist friend, Winston, moved to Washington state before he could make me an injector, so now I'm trying to match one up from some other kind of engine, somehow. I'm also working on making a steam dome out of a large sheet of copper I have. I have installed a fuel pump off of an International TD series crawler, and think it may work.