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Mar 16

It All Started With a Train

I was reading this great article at https://www.thrillist.com/travel/nation/best-scenic-train-rides-us?wpsrc=thrillist and saw that the header image was a train we were on in 2007, the White Pass & Yukon Route out of Skagway, Alaska.

The Thrillist folks said “As you cruise along the side of frighteningly sheer cliff-drops on this narrow-gauge railway, you can’t help but wonder who in their right mind actually built this thing during the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898. The train departs from Skagway on three different excursions, all of which take you up 3,000ft in 20 miles, past glaciers, mountain lakes, and thunderous waterfalls. The signature trip travels the original miners’ supply route to Carcross, Yukon, and stops at a restored station house in Lake Bennett. Or you can take the train past Bridal Veil Falls and Dead Horse Gulch to White Pass Summit, a 40-mile round trip that traverses massive trusses that are not for those with a fear of heights.

 

My DH is a major train person.  Even in Grad School at the University of Wisconsin/Milwaukee, he worked for the now-defunct Milwaukee Road.  They even gave him a company car!

Our time in Milwaukee might be the starter of another post but it was how I got my interest in trains.

Somehow, along the way, I learned about the Soo Line and I’d take a picture whenever I saw one.  The very last one I saw, I was on a Cushing’s trip to Chicago.  When we went by a railroad yard, I got a glimpse of a Soo and whipped around to get a picture.  This isn’t that one but another example.

 

After Milwaukee, there has always been an involvement with trains – including taking vacations looking at spikes and tie plates.

Fun times!

So, when we found ourselves at Skagway, we just had to go on this train.

I wanted to post some about this trip, so I searched my travel blog.  When nothing came up, I thought all my notes were gone.  I looked at the one measly post about Alaska and found a link to more info.  I had completely forgotten that I had saved all my travel memories on a website in the days before blogs.  Most of my info is here, except for some images I had stored on the now-defunct Posterous.

So, from http://www.cushingsonline.com/alaska/alaska.htm (I’ll have to check around and see what else is here!

Monday June 25, 2007, Sunrise 3:45 AM

Skagway Official Skagway info from http://www.alaskainfo.org:

A place exists in Alaska where the past lives on, where the cries of “gold in the Yukon” still echo from steep canyon walls, where the sounds of barroom pianos and boomtown crowds ring out in the night. A place where the romance and excitement of yesteryear linger around every street corner, every bend in the trail.

Skagway! The wide Pacific lying at it’s door, the historic little community, known as the “Gateway to the Klondike,” occupies a lovely site with snow-capped and glaciated peaks as a backdrop. A port of call on south east Alaska’s Inside Passage route , this waterfront town, with it’s pervasive frontier flavour, attracts thousands of visitors annually via road, rail and seaway.

Designated a historic district by the US National Park Service, the area along Broadway from First to Seventh Avenues contains forty to fifty turn-of-the-century wooden structures, housing hotels, saloons and shops restored to evoke the days of the Gold Rush. The former railroad depot, a handsome 1898 building, serves as the Park Service visitor centre and departure point for walking tours conducted by park rangers.

So, join us in celebrating our Gold Rush past as we begin our second century being the gateway to the Klondike. Spend some time in our historical city, visit the surrounding wilderness areas or take in some of our events!

I woke up again sometime around 3AM when it was light again but managed to sleep a bit more. The plan had been to get up at 6 so we could have breakfast before we set out for the day. We missed breakfast. We were to meet our tour at 7:15 AM. Amazingly, we were first on the bus. I don’t think we’ve ever been first for anything!

Our bus driver was a very good driver who told us all about the history of Skagway and the surrounding areas. Our first stop was Liarsville (http://www.klondiketours.com/goldcampshow.html), a tent village for gold miners. It was called Liarsville because many newspaper reporters were there publishing tales of how “easy” it was to find gold and become rich. No Way! The locals did a show for us and let us pan for gold. Of course, most everyone found some little gold flakes. A very hard way to make a living!

White PassWe made our way up the White Pass on the Klondike Highway to a 3,000 ft waterfall, Dead Horse Gulch (a lot of pack horses couldn’t make it the whole way), the Moore Bridge, Yukon Suspension Bridge at Tutshi Canyon and up over the West White Pass into Fraser British Columbia Canda, the same way that the miners had to walk or go with pack animal and 2,000 pounds of supplies. Much easier by heated bus! It was very scenic and we took lots of pictures.

White PassAt the summit of that, in Fraser, British Columbia, we got on the White Pass & Yukon Route (WP&YR) Railroad train.

White PassThe WP&YR was originally built to help those miners who were hauling the ton of supplies up the pass but they finished building the railroad a year after the gold rush had ended. There’s more info about this railroad at www.wpyr.com We went over trestle bridges, through tunnels, over glaciers. Definitely a worthwhile trip.

WP&YR webcam: http://www.whitepassrailroad.com/multimedia/webcam.html

Here’s a bit of our train trip. Tom took this from the platform between the cars:

 

Back in Skagway we stopped in the train shop but all I got was coffee, my first of the day. Another Alaskan T-Shirt Company for yet more fleece and stuff and hiked back to the ship.

Tom took a little nap and I read for a while. Then buffet lunch time.

Tom went out to a meeting and I napped for a while. He came back and I started typing this again – and he napped. What old fuddy-duddies!

Time to get dressed for tonight’s show – dual acrobatics, Jean-Claude and Gaby – followed by “casual” dinner. Any dinner that requires anything more than jeans is hardly casual to me!

Sunset 10:23. Hubbard Glacier is 300 nautical miles.

 

That Thrillist had a couple other trains of interest – 1 that we took and one that we always wanted to take.  I’ll save those for another post.

 

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