Everyone has been asking when the second Cat Train Newsletter will becoming out and I think, I can print one a month, that way my finger doesnít get worn out. Also I have asked other freighters for stories on the hardships of freighting, to the good times and there should be no problem in getting enough stories to do one newsletter a month.. Also Iím finding out that my computer is capable of putting pictures in with the words, so this should be interesting, I hope I donít have to order a magic mouse to do this.
THE FAMOUS BLACK CAT
The Black Cat started off as a1941 T-9 Trackson Swing Crane and I purchased it in 1990 in Portage La Prairie Mb from Bowes Trailer Sales. The crane cat was painted yellow over the military green and came with the name plates on it which told a story of the US Navy. (The name plates I removed from the cat so I would have a permanent record, but during my divorce, all the old history items were the first things to go missing, oh well) the rated lift capacity is only 1.5 tons but the little crane has lifted over 5 tons of scrap safely. I bought the crane cat to unload scrap steel that I was hauling in to my yard just outside of Brandon Mb because I was loading the scrap with another crane cat that was known as the red cat. I got the yellow crane cat home and the motor seized, so a little diesel fuel, and time, and I got it unseized and started to use it. Then I moved to Snow Lake Mb and used the yellow cat to load rail road ties which worked very well until the main crane pivot broke. I still used the yellow cat but not as a crane, over the next few years I used it less and less. In 1995 I loaded the yellow cat, less the crane body, on a low bed heading to Brandon Mb. This turn out to be a very big mistake, it went to Brandon Mb to have major work done on it to become a snow freighting cat. After the cat was in Brandon Mb for over a year, I stopped in to see how the work was coming, and was not, the cat was being stripped for parts and the exhaust pipe was not covered. Once again the motor was seized, I paid the bill of $14,000.00 ( red cat was there too and had work done on it and that is another story, I got 26 miles of use on the red cat and ended up with 300 hours in repair) and drove the red cat on the low bed, dragging the helpless yellow cat behind and headed north with my tail between my legs and vowed never to let any one work on my equipment. When you figure out what I paid and how much it cost in the end to do it right, Iím better off taking time off from the scrap metal and do it my self, which is cheaper and better quality of work.
In 1996 I took on the Fox Mine Scrap project in Lynn Lake Mb. This was the biggest project of my life. We moved lock, stock and barrel to Lynn Lake Mb and I thought I moved to the end of the world, close but you can almost see it. November 11/96 the temperature was -35C. Six employees and myself were trying to work outside torching scrap but the best part is when it went down to an exceptional -51C the week of Xmas. All the outside walls in the apartment I was renting in an old block frosted up like your deep freezer. Just after Xmas, I hired a semi to haul my collectables from Snow Lake to Lynn Lake and this, next to saying I DO, was another big mistake of my life. The trucking outfit decided to send a driver who was a little short on sleep to make the haul and on the return trip, the driver fell asleep at the wheel. South of Thompson Mb, the semi ended in the ditch laying on it right side so all my collectables were damaged on their right sides. My 1939 chevy 1 ton passenger side was all dented, my 1937 Dodge pickup, passenger side dented and the yellow cat, the rad, hood, firewall, seat and gas tank all dented and bent. Then the trucking outfit wouldnít do an insurance claim because one more and then they canít get insurance, so I refused to pay the freight bill and we called it even, and I got the short end of that stick for sure. So now I needed a parts cat to fix the yellow cat up into the best freighting cat ever, so I go and make another big mistake. I bought a parts cat over the phone and had it shipped to Lynn Lake via the Red Army (Gardewine) it cost a dollar a pound to get it to the end of the world. When the parts cat arrive on the deck of the semi trailer I asked the driver where is the rest of it, the fellow sold and shipped me a stripped down hulk of a cat. There was not enough scrap metal there to cover the cost of unloading it and I was a proud owner of the biggest boat anchor. On the bright side of things, the parts cat was stripped right down so the freight was not that bad, only $700.00, the way I look at it, my coffee cup is always half full but with what, I begin to wonder.
I still needed a parts cat to make the yellow cat into the freighting cat that it has become famous for and Iím not making any more mistake twice, Iíve only said I DO once. So Iím getting smarter I thought until the Xmas of 1998, when I went to Brandon MB to spend Xmas with my family and pick up the new parts cat. We arrive in Brandon and loaded up the parts cat which was paid for last summer, after spending almost 3 days trying to cash a rubber cheque from the people who I did a months work for before Xmas. I was forced to sell the grouser tracks off the parts cat for gas money home and once again I headed north with my tail between my legs and vowed never to take cheques from people I donít know. Now I have the parts cat in the shop and work began, I stripped every thing that could come off that was usable before dragging in the yellow cat to begin the transition. I took the yellow cat down to the bare hulk and began to make it in the famous Black Cat, after washing and cleaning the parts, I had no yellow paint or the real International red paint but I had lots of black paint. So that is how the cat became black.
Next problem I had was the track pads are from when it was a crane, they are street pads which are smooth as pie. Now this is not going to work very well for winter sleigh freighting, it would barely move around the yard, and I sold the grouser pads of the parts cat to get home. So I bought the weld on grouser steel in Wpg and paid the big bucks for the Red Army to deliver it to Lynn Lake. This is no problem to weld on to the track pads, for I just bought a $11 000.00 Diesel Millar welder which should make this job easier. The welder worked really well for the first 2 pads then the connecting rod in the welder motor decided to fly across the yard for the second time in 2 months (I donít own this lemon any more) The welding store will not give you a replacement welder while yours is getting fixed even if it is their fault. I ended up welding the grousers on with a little buzz box AC Current machine, at least 5 times a day the main breaker on the fuses panel would blow and we were in the dark. It was a proud day when I drove the shinny Black Cat out of the shop as the freighting cat it would become famous for. In our newsletters to come I will tell you of one of the 16 sinkings, lost for 9 days under the ice, road break to the lodge in 2 feet of water and best of all, the little cat that could.
A special thanks to Helen, who proof read this article, she is better with words then at welding.
KING OF OBSOLETE
Lynn Lake Mb
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