Part 16: White Pass and Yukon Railroad, Skagway, AK


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The Trip

Kathleen is a railroad buff and we ride tour trains any time we can. She found out that there was a train from Skagway that went into the mountains.

The Photos

The photos below are what we saw.

The White Pass and Yukon Route runs three types of "motors", one of which is a narrow gauge steam loco. They claim it was the last steam loco built by Baldwin Locomotives. Here, the engine backs up to the cruise ship dock.

A view of the small boat harbor at Skagway. Note that there is a big cruise ship on the right of the photo. The guy that owns the RV park that we stay at told me that on some days there are 6 ships that dock in Skagway. That is a LOT of folks.

The second cruise ship in port is visible on the right above.

The sign says it all.

The photo above shows the other 2 kinds of motors that WPYR runs. The front loco is a GE and the second one is an ALCO.

You cannot run without an engineer.

The cruise ships booked the entire capacity of the steam train and left no seats for us commoners. So, we took one of the diesel trains instead. Above, the steam train heads out from the cruise ship terminal with a full bus.

Main Street, Skagway, AK.

An old steam powered snow blower that was used to keep the tracks clear in winter.

An interesting facade on this building.

One of the defunct steam locos in the WPYR yard.

We head up the grade toward the summit.

The grade out of town allowed us to see Skagway harbor. Note that you can see the cruise ships in the port.

A view of one of the other diesel tour trains in front of us having passed the "loop".

We had to cross a number of bridges that spanned everything from small creeks to large gorges.

Some of the glaciers had large faces.

Note the waterfall on the far cliff and the fireweed in bloom. The 3 locos were working hard going up the 4% grade from Skagway.

We had to go through 2 tunnels, this one was preceeded by a large bridge.

Above is a view of the old trestle that has been left to rot. This was a world-class engineering feat when it was built in the late 1800s. More on this later.

Our tour called for us to turn around at the Canadian Border, so we had the locos switch ends of the train.

The shack above housed the Northwest Mounted Police "in the day" as it sits right on the border.

While the locos were switching ends of the train, we were passed by the steam engine on it's downhill run. It turned around at the loop at Frasier, BC.

The border monument marks the actual location of the border.

This is the trail used by the miners in 1898 when they crossed this pass on foot. This was hard trek and they must have really wanted the gold to suffer the climb, the cold and the generally harsh conditions at the time.

Another view of the old bridge. The center of the structure is steel, but the approaches are built out of local timber.

Note how steep the mountain side is.

This is what happens when you loose your brakes on the downhill run.

The train in front of us crosses one of the many bridges. They are well over a 1,000 feet in elevation below us.

Returning to Skagway provided great views of the mountains despite looking into the sun.

One of the many wooden trestles on this run.

This is Bridal Veil Falls. I wonder how many waterfalls have that name in the US alone; it is heavily overloaded.

A monument to some track workers who will killed in the line of duty.

One of the named viewpoints.

One of the bigger rivers that we had to cross.

The bridge crossing provided a nice view up the canyon.

A gold dredge visible from the tracks. This dredge is just north of Skagway.

This steam engine was at the north end of the WPYR yard at appears to have been wrecked.

The train was good and well worth the time. Should you find yourself in Skaway, you really should do it. I suggest the steam engine, but it only runs 2 days a week. Be sure to check their web site for details before getting your hopes up. Also, given the cruise ship situation, I also suggest reservations if possible.

From Skagway, we headed north on the only road back into Canada and started our long trip back to San Diego.

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Photos and Text Copyright Bill Caid 2009, all rights reserved.
For your enjoyment only, not for commercial use.