August 7-17, 2004
The standard car is about a 40 foot car with 10 rows of seats. These seats are walkover so there is no need to turn the cars or train. The cars have an open vestibule at each end. Also the windows are extra large. There are several combo cars with a baggage compartment on one end and seats on the other. The baggage end of these cars is equipped with a wheelchair lift which stores inside the car when not in use. Each vestibule is equipped with pull out steps, like are in mobile homes, so there is no need to carry step boxes. These come in handy when stops are made en-route to let hikers on or off. Each car is equipped with an oil stove which burns Diesel fuel.
The WP&Y has a total of 69 restored and replica cars the oldest dating back to 1883. Power is provided by 10 shovel nosed General Electric engines from the 1950's, 10 Alco units from the 1960's and engine #73 a fully restored 1947 Baldwin 2-8-2 Mikado class steam locomotive.
White Pass & Yukon, Thursday, August 12
I am up at about 0700 this morning. We have a 0815 departure time for the WP&Y. This morning we will be riding over the historic White Pass to Fraser B.C. This is the same route that was taken by the gold hunters headed for the Klondike in 1896. It is a 20.4 mile trip climbing from sea level to 2865 feet. Ruling grade is 3.9% and the whole route to the top of White Pass is better than 2%. Of course the railroad was not here then and the stampeders had to climb to the top. Also they had to have a ton of supplies with them before the Mounties would let them into Canada. This meant that most of them made 30-40 trips carrying supplies on their back. A few of the lucky ones were able to find pack horses to help. I get to the station at about 0730 and boarding starts at 0745. I want and get a seat in the rear car. This is the best car for pictures because it has an un-obstructed rear vestibule. I get 3 seats and Betty and Don arrived about 0800. Our destination today was Fraser B.C. 27.7 miles away where we would change to a bus to continue with the rest of our trip. On each seat was a copy of the WP&Y on board Magazine ALL ABOARD.
Passengers were allowed to ride the open vestibules. The vestibules had chains around them. The only restriction was that you could not stand on the junction of the cars. Each car was equipped with a good PA system. Announcements and commentary were informative. The only gripe I had is that you could not hear the PA on the vestibules.
Our train this morning is made up of 15 passenger cars and 1 boxcar (I never did find out what was in the boxcar. Power this morning is 4 G.E. Shovelnose diesels.
At 0815 we pull and pass through the edge of town. At the 2 mile post we pass the WP&Y shops and join the Skagway River. We will climb out the east side of the river canyon. Since the 1970's there has been a highway up the west side of the canyon. This highway joins the Alcan Highway at Whitehorse. Before the highway was completed the only method of getting a vehicle to Skagway by land was to ship it in on a flatcar on the WP&Y. Also all supplies came in by ship or by rail. The Rails are still in place for the full 110.4 miles into Whitehorse. They are in service only as far as Carcross at the 67.5 mile marker. Special trips go to Carcross several times a year. The station at Whitehorse is still there but not used as a station.
During WW II the WP&Y was taken over by the Army and used to ship road building material and equipment to Whitehorse for the Alcan Highway. During the early 1970's supplies and material for the Alaska pipeline came in over the WP&Y.
As we began to climb we soon leave the river behind and climb the side of the canyon. There are some low clouds this morning which we see as fog as we climb. The River drops away as we climb the canyon wall. At the Denver (5.8 mile mark) we stop to let hikers off and then cross the East fork of the Skagway River on a high steel trestle. The river that we are following and all of the side rivers are formed by melt from the Glacier field. A mile later we round Rocky Point where the shelf for the railroad was blasted out of solid granite.Continued in next section