Linn Tractors and Winter Freight

The Churchill River Power Project

Beginning in the winter of 1928, material, machinery, and supplies had to be carried 72 miles (120 km) from the railhead in Flin Flon to Island Falls for the construction of the hydroelectric dam. A camp was built to accommodate 500 men. Twelve Linn tractors and 150 heavy freighting sleighs were purchased, and a contract let to transport material and equipment.

During the winter of 1928-29, 23,000 tons of freight, consisting of provisions, cement, reinforcing steel, steel rails, gasoline, lumber, derrick and trestle timber, structural steel, and machinery parts were carried over the ice. During the following winter, 210 men were involved in hauling fresh provisions and more steel, cement, and the rest of the power-house machinery.

The total weight of material necessary to complete the plant was 35,000 tons. This enormous amount of freight was handled by trains of six sleighs, drawn by 100 hp Linn tractors, serviced by a caboose for the two crews, who worked in shifts both day and night. One slept in the bunkhouse "caboose" while the other worked. Each train brought in a payload averaging about 78 tons, and the maximum recorded load was 124 tons. The average elapsed time for a return trip was 38 hours for the 72 miles.

Made by the Linn Manufacturing Company of Morris, NY, Linn Tractors were the workhorses for HBM&S. With 100 hp engines and a top speed of perhaps 10 mph., a Linn could haul more than 100 tons across frozen lakes and up over portages at an average speed of 5 kilometers per hour (3 mph).
Every train carried a well equipped caboose and 4 men, 2 on watch and 2 off.
Return trip took 38 hours and hauled an average of 78 tons - 1929.
Ice conditions permitted freight operations only between January and March each year.

This is the fleet of twelve Linn Tractors purchased by the HBM&S. The photo was taken inside the gate of the Morris (now Otsego County) fairgrounds in Morris, NY in 1928. The Linn factory buildings are in the background.  [Photo courtesy of Rene Elliott, ferrology@yahoo.com]
Linn tractor train leaving Flin Flon with lumber for camp buildings -- December 20, 1928. (F. Willis)

Linns were newsworthy when they had an accident. During the freighting period, when 24,000 tons of materials were delivered under contractor Charlie Morgan, only 2 loaded sleighs were tipped; these contained food supplies and damage was slight - 1928-1929. (Flin Flon Archives)

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Linn on Mari Lake

Linn Tractor No. 4

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During construction, some very large pieces of equipment were hauled by sleigh.
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The front pair of runners on each sleigh were cross-linked by chains to the rear pair, left heel to right toe, etc., so that the rear would follow in the same track as the front. This would allow the sleighs to follow one another around a corner like rail cars on a train track. Bunt poles made from tree-trunks kept the sleighs a set distance apart.
Linn tractors were capable of pushing a snow plow clearing a 12-½ ft. roadway for the train.
 
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Helen Davis with some Linn sleighs near A-Dam.
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Does anyone know what S.E. Co. stands for?

NEWSPAPER ARTICLES

Rene Elliot of Morris, New York (once home of the Linn Tractor factory) has sent us the following items about use of Linn Tractors for the Island Falls construction project:

MORE ON THE LINN

This unique vehicle was developed for heavy hauling. With its massive drive train and undercarriage, the Linn Tractor was capable of traveling over different types of terrain while carrying heavy payloads. The flexible link track was the cornerstone of Linn's design. Unlike the modern caterpillar track, it did not easily slip sideways on ice or snow.

In the late 1920's Linn tractors were involved in the building of the Flin Flon railway and the Hudson Bay line to Churchill. In the 1930's and 40's these machines were used to maintain the Panama Canal. The Grand Coulee Dam in Washington State and the Bridge River Project in British Columbia were built with the aid of Linn tractors.


Here are some links to other websites about Linn Tractors:

Want a ride on a Linn Tractor?

Here is a story from Route North Roots magazine about using Linn Tractors during construction in 1928/29

Please visit Route North Roots to read other interesting stories about "North of 53"