Yukon Dreams

A 1941 Case LA Surfaces Deep in the Yukon Territory -Compared to Getting to it, Getting it Running Should be Easy


| October/November 2002



Snowmobile

The Yukon River in winter; Jerry's snowmobile is just visible left of center.

In the fall of 2000 I was having a quick one with Ed Kerklywich at Sourdough Saloon in downtown Dawson City, Yukon, Canada. It was the end of our mining season, and Ed was telling me about his homesteading experience on Krikman Creek about 100 miles up the Yukon River from Dawson City.

Ed had purchased a 1941 Case LA, serial number 4510451, to use on his homestead. Of course, that meant he had to get the Case there, so at one point he started building a raft out of 45-gallon drums to float the tractor to his homestead. As luck would have it, Ed was just about to finish his raft when a professional barge happened along, so the tractor was loaded onto the barge and delivered to Ed's place. Not too long after, but long enough to make it through a cold Yukon winter, Ed woke up to find the engine block on the Case had cracked. Combined with the other hardships of homesteading this was kind of the last straw for Ed, and he decided to move down to Dawson City. My first thought, of course, was whether the tractor was for sale. Fifty dollars and another quick one later and I had myself a tractor - at least in theory. As time passed I spent many a winter night wondering if the engine on the Case was stuck after sitting for over 10 years out in the bush. Ed said he'd put a rain cap on the exhaust to keep out water, but what if it had been vandalized? I had to know, so last April I borrowed a snow machine and bathtub sleds from my friend Earl, gas from John and $100 from Robert for grub. I loaded up and left Dawson on April 10 on a beautiful -10 degree F Yukon morning.

Heading Upstream

The trip up the river was great. I stopped in to visit friends Robin, Qigi and Lisa at Stewart Island, and it was a great evening as Claus and Darren stopped by. Robin showed us his old Beaver chainsaw, a real gem of a machine, complete with its original manual, and the next morning Robin got his shovel out and dug out a Gray Marine engine - I've always wanted a marine engine that was used up here. Nearby was a Wisconsin two-cylinder, complete with decal. Nice. Gigi filled my thermos with coffee and I was off to Kirkman Creek. It was another 30 miles before I got to Ed's cabin, and when I got there I started looking for the Case before I even started a fire. It wasn't where it was supposed to be and I couldn't find it, so I started a fire and unloaded my gear and looked again. This time I found it, hiding in the bush. It was gorgeous - what a sweetheart! But was it stuck? I lined up the crank and turned it gently. The engine rotated. Yes! I had to kiss it. My mouth didn't even stick to the cast iron radiator cowling.

Success! The Case LA spins over for the first time in over 10 years. Although it still needs a great deal of work, the engine is salvagable.

Thank you J.I. Case. Jerry kisses the Case emblem after getting the engine on the LA to turn over. You might get this excited, too, had you driven 100 miles on a snowmobile to rescue an old tractor.

Once I had confirmed the engine turned I cleaned the snow off it and checked it over. Amazingly the tires were still up, and it had 'new' rubber up front. Not only that, everything was still there, including the mag, the generator, the toolbox with ID tag, everything. All the operating levers were free, the seat swung (the decals on the rear fenders were faded) and the gauges were okay. It has a two-compartment fuel tank, so I assume it's a gas/kerosene engine.