WHITE PASS AND YUKON ROUTE
During our Alaska Cruise on board the Island Princess, which started in Whittier
(AK) on 9 June 2008 and ended in Vancouver (CA) on 16 June 2008, we had three
ports of call - Skagway, Juneau, and Ketchikan which are three small cities in
the State of Alaska. Our cruise ship went through what they refer to as the
inside passage. And by the way, I also want you to know that Juneau is the
capital of Alaska.
It was in Skagway, Alaska that Nena and I selected the White Pass & Yukon Route
(WP&YR) train ride as one of our shore excursions. We boarded the train at about
noontime and made it back to the cruise ship some four hours later. And I must
say that our train ride turned out to be quite an experience as we saw the
breathtaking panorama of mountains, glaciers, gorges, waterfalls, tunnels,
trestles and historic sites which continued to unfold before us along the way.
Aside from these, there were also a number of wild animal sightings. There was
even an instance when our train had to slow down just to allow a grizzly bear to
get of the railroad tracts.
The White Pass and Yukon Route is a Canadian and U.S. Class II narrow gauge
railroad linking the port of Skagway, Alaska with Whitehorse, the capital of
Canada's Yukon Territory. It is located at the border between Alaska and Canada,
in the southeast Alaska panhandle. Since it has no direct connection to any
other railroad, it is an isolated system.
Built in 1898 during the Klondike Gold Rush, this narrow gauge railroad is an
International Historic Civil Engineering Landmark - a designation shared with
the Panama Canal, the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty.
The discovery of gold in the Klondike started one of the most remarkable
stampedes of people in history. Getting to the goldfields, though, was very
difficult, and hundreds of companies were formed to get people there by ship,
wagon, horse, dogsled, railroad and even by balloon! The White Pass & Yukon
Route is the only one of those companies which still survives today.
Tens of thousands of men and 450 tons of explosives overcame harsh climate and
challenging geography to create “the railway built of gold.” Many people
said that a railroad could never be built through the granite of the Coastal
Mountains. They were almost right - it was an incredible challenge to engineers
and laborers alike.
Construction on the 112-mile line to Whitehorse, Yukon began on May 27, 1898 in
Skagway, Alaska. Just over 2 years later, on July 29, 1900, the final spike was
driven at Carcross. The WP&YR climbs nearly 3000 feet in just 20 miles and
features steep grades of up to 3.9%, cliff-hanging turns of 16 degrees, two
tunnels and numerous bridges and trestles. The railroad gets over the coastal
range through White Pass, marking the Canadian border. The line crosses the
northwest tip of British Columbia in a tundra-like landscape, in the middle of
lakes and mountains, and then reaches the Yukon Territory.
The White Pass & Yukon Route is now a tourist railroad. And it is Alaska’s
most popular shore excursion and North America’s busiest tourist railroad,
carrying 461,388 passengers in 2007. Until 1982, it was one of the last narrow
gauge (3-ft between the rails) railroads still in operation in North America,
providing a 110 miles long rail-link between the port of Skagway, Alaska, and
the city of Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory (Canada).
During that scenic train ride, I did manage to take a number of photographs and
you can access these by clicking on the link shown below:
White Pass and Yukon Route
It is my hope that the pictures will better portray the beautiful scenery along
the White Pass & Yukon Route. Enjoy your cyberspace train ride.