Sunday, August 28, 2016

White Pass Scenic Journey ~ Skagway, Alaska

Skagway, Alaska was our destination, mainly for the train ride of the White Pass-Yukon Route that we had heard wonderful things about.  We’d booked in before our arrival and were ready for this amazing train ride.

Rainy morning in Skagway, AK
The one thing we did not want to see was a rainy overcast day.  Our travels would take us through a high elevation and we’d hoped to see all the sights.  Mother Nature may have had other plans as we travel through the Coast Mountains.

Tunnel Mountain at Glacier Gorge
We were booked into the morning ride and we will be taking that no matter what the weather does.  There are other choices for trips through the White Pass but we chose to take the return trip from Skagway to White Pass Summit, which reaches an elevation of 2815’.

Scenic fog
Our 40 mile trip of just over 3 hours has a narration but we were happy to be able to buy a DVD of the same trip, one which would not be shrouded in fog as we were on our train ride.  

The fog was so thick that we could not see much of this trestle, but we were able to see it on the return.  The railcars have a small ‘porch’ like area between them so I did spend some time out there to take photos.  So small that we would take turns for photo opps, not room for more than two people out there.  

Conductor waits for our arrival
We have now reached the summit and are slowing down to make the return trip.  There is no turnabout for the train.  Once the train stops, we are instructed to get out of our seats and tip them so the back is now the new seat, which makes them face the other way.  Genius!  And we change sides of the aisle so we can see the other side of the valley.

Summit Lake at White Pass summit
We sit while the train returning from the other route passes by us.  This train has done the Bennett Scenic Journey, which covers from Skagway to Carcross, YT along the same route taken in 1898 by the Klondike stampeders.  This also includes a visit to the Bennett Station, which is only accessible by train.

View of trestle
Our travel back to Skagway gave us some better views with some of the clouds lifting.  This trestle was part of the project that took tens of thousands of men and over 450 ton of explosives to build in very severe conditions.

Narrow and cliffside
The train climbs almost 915 metres (3,000’) in 20 miles on this route and we pass through two tunnels.  There are turns of 16 degrees and steep drops alongside the narrow rails.  In 1901 they could claim that their steel cantilever bridge was the tallest of its kind in the world; the whole project was completed in 26 months by Canadian contractors. 

Foggy views
As disappointing as it was that we could not see all the sites due to the conditions, we do not have any regrets for taking the White Pass train ride.  We did experience “the railway built of gold”.

Moving on we shall soon be in BC.


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