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Ride the White Pass & Yukon Railway

Updated on February 27, 2011
The White Pass and Yukon Railway waiting for passengers in Skagway Alaska.
The White Pass and Yukon Railway waiting for passengers in Skagway Alaska.
The engineer and conductors having a discussion.
The engineer and conductors having a discussion.
The White Pass railway in Skagway Alaska.
The White Pass railway in Skagway Alaska.
The front engines as we begin our climb up the mountain to the White Pass summit.
The front engines as we begin our climb up the mountain to the White Pass summit.
The rear of the train.
The rear of the train.
Taking pictures outside at the end of our railway car.
Taking pictures outside at the end of our railway car.
Steep drop-offs as we climb the mountain.
Steep drop-offs as we climb the mountain.
Not much room on the mountain side.
Not much room on the mountain side.
This is the White Pass Trail of 1898 that people had to walk before the railway was built.
This is the White Pass Trail of 1898 that people had to walk before the railway was built.
Some people choose to get off the train and hike back down to Skagway. Not us.
Some people choose to get off the train and hike back down to Skagway. Not us.
Going over a metal and a wooden trestle bridge.
Going over a metal and a wooden trestle bridge.
Going over another wooden trestle bridge and through one of two tunnels.
Going over another wooden trestle bridge and through one of two tunnels.
We made it to the top of the mountain!
We made it to the top of the mountain!
Warming our hands after being outside at the ends of the rail car.
Warming our hands after being outside at the ends of the rail car.
The White Pass summit is on the border of Alaska, USA and British Columbia, Canada.
The White Pass summit is on the border of Alaska, USA and British Columbia, Canada.
This is the North-West Mounted Police station where the Klondike people had to pass through (customs) on entering Canada a century ago.
This is the North-West Mounted Police station where the Klondike people had to pass through (customs) on entering Canada a century ago.
Stunning scenery in northern British Columbia.
Stunning scenery in northern British Columbia.
The train follows the water to Fraser.
The train follows the water to Fraser.
Fraser BC where we got off the train.
Fraser BC where we got off the train.

One of the world’s great train rides is the White Pass and Yukon Railway which operates out of SkagwayAlaska and travels into Canada terminating in Canada at either Fraser in northern British Columbia or Carcross in the Yukon Territory.

What is so amazing about this railway is that it was constructed over a century ago, starting in Skagway in 1898 and completed to Bennett BC in 1899 and then to Carcross Yukon in 1900. It was built to facilitate the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897 and Skagway was the best port available to reach the Yukon.

A narrow 3 ft. (914 mm) gauge was chosen for this railway as it was cheaper and it allowed for a tighter radius to be used on curves which could follow the landscape more as it climbed to the White Pass summit.

We journeyed to Alaska on the cruise ship Holland America Ryndam. In Skagway our shore excursion was to take the White Pass and Yukon Railway from Skagway to Fraser British Columbia (BC), then get on a small bus to continue to Carcross in the Yukon, then return to Skagway on this bus.

The trains are all original dating back over a century and they still work and will thrill you as the train climbs the White Pass through two tunnels, over several trestle bridges and beside deep gorges on one side and rising mountain walls on the other side. The train follows the route that prospectors had to take on foot (before the train was built) and markers are posted along the route which you can see from the train.

We took this train in September and it was on the cool side thus the heater was on inside our rail car and we used it to warm up our hands when we came inside. You are allowed outside at the ends of each car to take pictures and this is the best opportunity to get amazing photos. It can get crowded outside as people jostle for the best viewing spots or you can sit inside and relax from your seat as the train climbs the mountain to the White Pass Summit.

As you climb the mountain you are treated to deep gorges, waterfalls, creeks and stunning mountain scenery! Some people chose to get off the train about half way up and hike down the old trail to Skagway however we were not that adventuresome and we also wanted to continue into the Yukon.

The White Pass summit is on the border of Alaska and BC and the North-West Mounted Police (forerunner to the Canadian Mounties) customs station is located nearby where the Klondike gold seekers a century ago had to pass through.

Once in Canada the scenery was equally amazing with beautiful lakes, streams and gorgeous vistas.

Our next portion of the trip included a bus trip to Carcross in the Yukon (see this Hub: http://hubpages.com/hub/Carcross-in-the-Yukon-Territory )

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    • Joseph Hollick profile image
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      Joseph Hollick 7 years ago from Hamilton, ON Canada

      Hi Charlinex,

      Glad to hear that you enjoyed the Hub!

      When we were in Carcross, we saw the rail line, however we did not see the train there.

      Yes the train ride and subsequent bus trip to the Carcross area of the Yukon was a highlight of the Alaskan cruise!

    • profile image

      Charlinex 7 years ago

      Joseph, I photographed the train in Carcross but never rode the train myself. Sounds like a fun experience! Thanks for sharing this, now I feel I took the train myself. I am a bit surprised that the foliage didn't change colors in September. Because if I go to Yukon again, I would like to photograph the fall colors.

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