Rusted Caterpillar® tractor

Yellow paint intact in patches along the metal exterior. A tract-type tractor that became the standard form of heavy machinery for construction jobs. Metal maker's tag on the back but is illegible.

This caterpillar tractor was used in the construction of the Alaska Highway. Caterpillar Tractor Incorporated officially formed in 1925 after the merger of The Holt Manufacturing Company and C.L. Best Tractor Company. The Holt Manufacturing Company was already manufacturing track type tractors but in 1931 the new company developed tractors with a new efficient source of power. Caterpillar machinery also took on the 'highway yellow' colour that year. The Caterpillar track line expanded and by 1942 were producing machinery for the war effort. Track-type Caterpillar tractors were brought to the Yukon for the construction of the Alaska Highway.

The Alaska Highway was a priority for the United States Army to build. After the bombing of Pearl Harbour in December 1941, the United States had to quickly prove to the American people that they were protecting its outlying states. With increasing worries about the vulnerability of shipping lanes in the northwest, it was decided that a highway linking Alaska to other roadways in North America was absolutely imperative.

The route was chosen under a strategic military plan to link several civilian airports from Edmonton, Alberta to Fairbanks, Alaska known as the Northwest Staging Route. Troops were deployed to Canada to build what was touted as one of the great triumphs of the U.S. Army in 1942. In less than one year 1500 miles of road was laid in the wilderness of the remote sub-arctic. Approximately 10,000 men and 250,000 tons of equipment were sent to the Yukon to build the much needed land link to Alaska. The majority of the men sent to the Yukon and never seen heavy equipment let alone know how to operate bulldozers and tractors. The army provided the men with on the job training. The men worked 20 hour days in elements that ranged from freezing temperatures to unbearable heat made all the more uncomfortable by swarming mosquitoes. After commencing the highway project on April 11th, the road was officially opened for military use on November 20, 1942.


Yukon Transportation Museum, Whitehorse

Accession Number