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The White Pass and Yukon Railroad 8/27/2004

by Chris Guenzler

Skagway 8/27/2004

Up early as usual, I ate yet another good buffet breakfast then went to the Promenade Deck to watch the fork lift move the boarding ramps into place. Twenty minutes later, I led the way off the Sun Princess and into Skagway.

The White Pass and Yukon Railroad 8/27/2004

I arrived just as three units were delivering a train set to the depot. I purchased some goodies in the station before picking up my ticket to Lake Bennet and back.

I walked down to the depot for a few more pictures.

At the other end of the station, the 1899 Rotary Snow-plow built by the Cooke locomotive Works in Patterson, New Jersey was on display. I walked over to my train to Lake Bennet. My train consisted of Dl535's 100 and 92, flat car 479, Combo 211, Coaches 286 Lake Kusawa, 280 Lake Dease, 207 Lake Morrow and 282 Lake Kukshu. I rode in the Lake Morrow. Now for a little history of this fantastic railroad.

White Pass and Yukon Railroad History

The White Pass and Yukon Railroad was built between 1898 and 1900 during the Klondike Gold Rush. It was operated between Skagway, Alaska and Whitehorse, Yukon Territory until the railroad closed on October 8, 1982. The tracks then remained unused for six years. With the coming of the Alaska cruise industry, the line was reopened between Skagway and White Pass for passenger only service on May 12, 1988. The line was reopened to Fraser by 1992 and then on into to Bennet in 1997. The tracks were restored further to Carcross. A special run was made to Whitehorse on October 10, 1997, the first train since 1982. There are plans to operate entire Skagway to Whitehorse route in the future. The route runs from Skagway at sea level up to White Pass Summit 2,865 feet then down to Fraser 2767 feet and on to Bennet Station 2156 feet.

My White Pass and Yukon Railroad Trip 8/27/2004

Right at 8:00 AM we pulled away from the station to start our narrow gauge train trip to Lake Bennet.

The train turned north at Skagway Junction where a line goes down to the dock where the Sun Princess is docked.

The train passed the railroad shops followed by the Gold Rush Cemetery.

Our train headed north out of Skagway following the Skagway River.

A few miles later we turned east following the east fork of the Skagway River which we crossed at Denver.

The train really started to climb after it had reversed directions west as it headed to Rocky Point.

The views from Rocky Point.

The train was now high above the Skagway River with the Highway on the opposite canyon wall.

The train rode high above the gorge. At MP 9 the train crossed a bridge over Pitchfork Falls. Next was a monument called Black Cross Rock in honor of the town railroad builders who were buried under a 100 ton granite rock on August 3, 1898

Our train passed Buchanan Rock across the canyon with "On to Alaska with Buchanan" painted on it.

Further up the canyon Bridal Veil Falls could be seen off to the west. Our route then took us to Henry.

The tracks turned east and high above the canyon was our future route.

Our train passed the siding at Glacier.

Another horseshoe curve took the train over the Skagway River.

The train continued to climb, now to the west, on a ledge over many trestles. It is absolutely spectacular.

Down below where we were minutes ago was the train to Fraser that was following us.

The train crossed the high trestle before plunging into the 300 foot tunnel through Tunnel Mountain with us now 1000 feet above the gulch.

From Inspiration Point you can see all the way down to Lynn Canal as the train continued to climb.

The train turned north high above Dead Horse Gulch.

As we continued to climb the train entered the clouds. The train passed in the fog the Steel Bridge constructed in 1901 as the tallest cantilever bridge in the world at that time and was used up to 1964. It was impossible for me to get a picture of this bridge going north.

The train crossed the New Bridge and entered the 675 foot 1969 built tunnel. Exiting the tunnel across the stream was the Old Trail of '98.

A mile later the train crossed White Pass Summit at 2865 feet, the Continental Divide and the USA/Canada Border as we entered British Columbia.

Our train followed Summit Lake across the rocky terrain as we were above tree line.

The train descending, twisting and turning.

At Gateway, an old section house.

Lakes and rocks continued along our route.

The train reached the highest point on our route at Meadows at 2924 feet.

From there the train dropped two hundred feet as the trees returned before we reached Fraser and Canadian Customs.

The Custom Office is on the highway and would have to close to do inspection on the train. Our conductor got a count of everyone's nationalities and that would suffice for the Canadian Custom Officer.

We had to pull forward to let the Fraser Train into the station. Here the Fraser Train engines had to cut off their train in order to run around it to go back to Skagway.

Fraser Lake was a beautiful sight.

Our pair of diesels really smoked it up leaving Fraser.

We followed the shore of Fraser Lake curving along the water's edge.

The train next rolled along Portage Lake.

The train crossed the North Klondike Highway where there were people taking pictures of our train.

This bought our train to Log Cabin where there were track inspection speeders. Our route then crossed a beautiful meadow but there were no animals seen. The train then passed Bear Lake.

Our train curved down the grade high above Lake Linderman {1890} or Lake Lindeman {Today}.

The train then dropped down to Lake Bennet.

The train went around the Balloon Track at Lake Bennet before the train backed in front of the Lake Bennet Station. The conductor opened the lunch room and then lunches were passed out from the last car of the train. I sat down and wrote about most of this trip as I snacked.

Several pictures of our train were taken next.

I hiked to the west for another view of Lake Bennet.

During our 2 hour layover at Lake Bennet more train pictures were taken before our passengers returned for the trip back to Skagway.

Another view of Lake Bennet.

One last view of our train at Lake Bennet.

The coaches have large windows along with smaller windows at one end of the car. The restroom is at the other end of the car. Free tea and coffee are set up and a stove warms the car. Outside platforms are located at both ends of the car.

At 12:53 PM the train started its journey back to Skagway.

The train made its way back to Fraser with no US Customs here before we took the siding.

We were allowed off the train at Fraser and I took more pictures.

I shot a picture of the Railbus as our train waited for the afternoon Fraser Train to arrive.

On the Fraser Balloon Track there was a work train.

The US/Canada Border.

Starting the long grade back to Skagway at sea level.

Dead Horse Gulch.

The cantilever bridge.

Down the grade we go!

Great views as we head down.

The view all the way back down to the water.

Descending nicely.

Where we would be in a few minutes.

Curving off the great wooden trestle.

Running along the cliff.

A look back at the fantastic wooden trestle.

The Skagway River crossing at Glacier.

A look back to where we were a few minutes ago.

The last crossing of the Skagway River.

The Gold Rush Cemetery.

Steam engine 73 getting ready for its run tomorrow.

We arrived back into Skagway twenty five minutes early. Before detraining, a US Custom Agent walked through the train quickly checking our passports. That ended a great trip on the White Pass and Yukon Railroad. A special thank you to Michael Brandt of Ticketing, Phil Bruehler our Onboard Guide, Jeff Ruff our engineer, David Dobbs our conductor and Elizabeth Ruff, Jeff's daughter, as our brakeman. Without all of their help, my trip would not have been a fantastic success.

After one last picture of our train.

Please Note: Some of the shorter train trips start and end at the Cruise Docks.

I walked to the post office before I walked back towards the Sun Princess. I stopped at Dewey Creek to watch the salmon attempting with no results to climb a little waterfall. Back on the ship, I watched the end of Starsky and Hutch and after a walk the end of the Haunted Mansion.

When I was up on deck between the movies, I spotted a pair of orcas off in the channel to the west. For one male passenger, this was the first time he had ever seen a whale in his life. I took another walk before I changed for dinner having my usual steak. One of the great things about dining each night with these same great people is hearing how each of them had spent their day on and off the ship. The ship left Skagway while we were eating and after dinner I took an evening walk up on the Lido Deck and had to be really careful not to be blown off of the deck. Sport Center was watched before I called it a night.

The Sun Princess left Skagway by heading south down the Lynn Channel to where we met the Icy Strait which we turned northwest up towards Glacier Bay.

Click here for Part 5 of the story.