Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Whitehorse Star

(Clockwise top) SHE'S NOT STOPPING. The Klondike creeps down First Avenue. The two "Cats" in front anchored themselves and took up the strain while the two behind used their winches to drag the boat along. A slow process but it worked. Bob Erlam photo/Whitehorse STAR. (left) JUST LIKE NEW. The S.S. Klondike, in all her old splendor, now graces the bank of the Yukon River. (bottom) Mayor Congratulates Captain Morgan. Mayor Howard Firth presented Chuck Morgan with a gold miniature of the S.S. Klondike at an informal ceremony on the deck of the sternwheeler July 16,1966, to mark the completion of the big move from the old White Pass shipyard to the Klondike's new and final resting place. Bud Fisher and members of the crew look on. A certificate of merit from the citizens of Whitehorse and some appropriate liquid tokens of esteem were part of the deal, as Chuck Morgan was named "CaptainMorgan, Royal Yukon Navy" and the old riverboat whistle blew once again, thanks to Bobby Jacob's efforts. Dave Judd of the Midnight Sun Pipe Band piped the captain and crew aboard for the occasion and Bud Fisher acted as M.C. Appreciation was expressed to the contractors, Kunze and Olson, the CNT, Yukon Electric, WHTV and particularly to Jack Hoyt of White Pass and Yukon Route, for their cooperation over the five week period of the move through downtown Whitehorse. Bob Erlam/Whitehorse Star Photos

Slip Slidin' Away

So you want to move a 210 foot paddle wheeler THROUGH the streets of Whitehorse to a location a quarter mile away, and you want it to arrive in one piece…who you gonna call? KUNZE and OLSON, that's who!

By Whitehorse Star on September 1, 1966

Whitehorse Star, September, 1966

SLIP SLIDIN' AWAY

So you want to move a 210 foot paddle wheeler THROUGH the streets of Whitehorse to a location a quarter mile away, and you want it to arrive in one piece...who you gonna call? KUNZE and OLSON, that's who!

In September, 1965, the Department of Northern Affairs and National Resources announced that the steamer "KLONDIKE" was to be preserved as a national historic site; renovated as a museum inside; and moved from its location in the shipyards, to a new location known locally as "South Whiskey Flats." The problem was, the thing weighed close to 1300 tons. Could it be done?

No problem! Chuck Morgan, colorful supervisor/foreman for Kunze & Olson Contractors, had it all figured out.

Four huge 210 foot long skids of steel were welded and placed under the boat, where cross beams were already fastened. The chunks of steel used in the skids had a colorful history of their own, dating back to the building of the Alaska Highway. They were once part of the beautiful but ill-fated Peace River suspension bridge which collapsed and fell into the Peace River in 1956.

The big move was slated for June 10, 1966. To get ready, electrical power and phone lines were rerouted and giant wooden pads prepared. The "last voyage" of the KLONDIKE was to be down First Avenue, across the Taylor and Drury Motors car lot, across the lawn in front of the old hospital residence (where the Y.T.G. building is now) to Second Avenue, and onto the site.

Four TD 24 Caterpillar tractors equipped with rubber treads were used to pull the boat on it's cradle, and slide it over the giant pads. A mechanical fork lifted the pads from behind the boat as it moved, and placed them in front along the route.

The crew working on moving the riverboat joked that their biggest concern was that there would be a rain storm. Eight tons of Palmolive Princess Snow Flakes, slightly dampened, was being used to grease the wooden pads as the giant steel runners were pulled over them. A rain storm would make enough soap suds to wash all of Whitehorse.

Luckily there was no storm, in fact the whole thing went like clock work. Aside from time spent fixing two broken tow cables "Morgan's Movers," as the crew was called, kept the KLONDIKE sliding slickly along.

It was a great time for sidewalk superintendents, and jokesters had a field day. "Why didn't Chuck Morgan just cut a bunch of holes in the bottom of this thing right at the start?" asked one comedian, "Then he and his boys could've got inside, stuck their feet through, and just walked her down to the flats."

As the boat came in view of the various drinking establishments at First and Main the barmaids would pick an unsuspecting customer and casually say; "That boat you asked me to get for you is here, where do you want it?"

Then, all jokes aside, the KLONDIKE was in place and intact on the bank of the river she used to run. Now, restored to her old grandeur thirty-five years later, she is our city's showpiece.

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