Friday, July 02, 2010

Road Trip 2010: Day 20: Skagway
On the White Pass & Yukon Railroad

Tuesday, June 29

White Pass & Yukon Railroad Ride

We got to sleep in this morning since we had nowhere to travel to and no activity planned until early afternoon. It didn’t matter. The early morning trains were tooting around 8 AM and the four new cruise ships were doing the same as they came into the harbor to dock.

Terry and I had breakfast and then walked over to look at the docks and see if we could determine which cruise ships were here today. It felt like we were spawning salmon attempting to swim upstream against a rather strong flow as the two ships on our side of the harbor disgorged passengers who were flowing toward town.

Our group met again at the railway depot at 12 noon for a 46 mile excursion on the White Pass and Yukon Railroad. The station was a madhouse! Five trains of 10-12 cars each were preparing to board and the place resembled a stirred up ant hill with people all over the place. We got our own car in the third train (the first two were heading way up north on all day trips) and settled in for a great ride up along the path following the White Pass into Canada. The scenery and views were incredible!

All aboard!!

The Skagway River parallels the track near town.

Having gained distance and altitude, we can look back to
the harbor at some of the cruise ships docked there.

US Customs on the Klondike Highway.
Buchanan was the Alaskan governor responsible for bringing
many young people into the state through a sponsorship program.

This small black cross atop one very huge boulder marks the final
resting place of two railroad workers and their mule.
They are under the boulder and, rather than try to extract them....

As we made our way up the side of the canyon,
we got a peek at the train that left the station ahead of us.
It's on its way to Carcross.

Did I mention that the scenery was spectacular?

View from the train.

View from the train.

Another view from the train.

The White Pass and Yukon Railroad has been operating for neigh unto 100 years. Parts of it wear out from time to time. Including bridges. That's okay as long as we're not passing over one of them when it goes.

An old trestle on the line.

There were two routes over the mountains in ’98 when the gold rush was in full swing. Both ended in the gold fields of the Klondike but that was the end of the similarities. The original route was through the Chilkoot Pass which was an old Tlingit trade route. It was well known to the locals but incredibly rugged and steep. The second, billed as a gentler although slightly longer route, was the White Pass which was later adopted by the railroad. The White Pass trail, was indeed more gentle, but it was also subject to severe storms (more so than the Chilkoot) and was, in its lower reaches often a morass into which a carelessly set aside packs and even horses could sink out of sight.

The Trail of '98.

Not much wider than one broad-shouldered man, this little track was what miners headed to the Klondike would have had to carry 2000 pounds of supplies--enough for one man for one year--along to get through Canadian customs.

So crowded were these two trails, that if a man stepped out of line to take a rest, it might take him an hour or more to get back in the flow of humanity and pack animals heading to the border.

White Pass and the actual border.

An old Northwest Mounted Police custom shack in the White Pass.

Here, the Mounties would assure that each individual at least brought enough to get him through one year. If not, he (or she) got turned back. The fortune seeker would now build a raft or a boat to begin the third part of his journey to the Klondike. (The first part would have been to get to Skagway. Part two would be to get to the border over the White Pass Trail or the Chilkoot.)

The scenery was still spectacular.

Atop the White Pass.

Lake at the summit of White Pass.

Summit Lake atop White Pass.

This was as far as we were to go. They switched the engines from the uphill side of the passenger cars to the downhill side and we headed on back to town.


JDP said...

Looking forward to seeing some pictures. A little jealous you are riding on the Alaskan Railroad and I'm not.


Rev. Paul said...

Spectacular scenery, no? That's one trip I've not made.

JihadGene said...

What breath taking views!