Monday, August 31, 2015

Alaska's White Pass and Yukon Route

The narrow gauge White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad climbs nearly 3000 feet from sea level to White Pass Summit in 20 miles with grades up to 3.9%. It was built from 1898 to 1900 to serve the Klondike Gold Rush and was the northernmost railroad in the Western Hemishere. Thirty thousand men worked on the route and used 450 tons of explosives (black powder) to construct the 110 miles of track, 2 tunnels, and numerous trestles and bridges. It suspended operations in 1982 when the Yukon's mining industry collapsed but reopened in 1988 as a scenic tourist operation. In 2012 it carried 370,000 passengers, predominantly from cruise ship excursions.

Here's a brief video I made of the train ride. It begins with a few shots of Skagway and around the 1:30 mark shows the trail station and then the trip up the mountain, including the voice of the train employee explaining what we were seeing.

Below is our train...

Notice how the train was heated in the winter...

The Steel Cantilever Bridge, the tallest in the world when built, is no longer used but is often photographed. The White Pass and Yukon Rail was designated one of only 36 world civil engineering marvels in 1994 due to the many hazardous obstacles that construction had to overcome. During World War II, the railroad was the chief supplier for construction of the Alaska Highway. In 1954 they changed to diesel electric motive power. 1955, the route pioneered the inter-modal "Container Route" and in 1988 began service as a tourist attraction.

This photo from the train's brochure shows the perspective of the train on the ledge as it approaches a trestle and then Tunnel Mountain.

Below are some photos I shot as our train rolled through the train yard...

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