Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Aug 13 – White Pass

It was a nice calm night last evening so I went for a walk around the harbour in front of us.


I am not sure where this tour boat goes but it must get there fast. Those are 3 250 horsepower outboards on the back.



This morning we walked into town to see what the crowds from three large cruise ships, that arrived this morning, looked like.



All the ships seem to have decorated the rock wall next to the dock with their insignia. I couldn’t get closer because it was past the security checkpoint.


It actually wasn’t too bad in town. I guess they run so many tours here that everyone gets spread out.

This morning I when I woke up we were completely fogged in. Not a good day for a train trip but the fog quickly burned off. I am glad we took the afternoon trip because it still looked cloudy up in the pass in the morning.

Unfortunately the pictures are not great today. There seemed to be a haze that caused the cameras to overexpose everything. 

The White Pass and Yukon Railroad is entirely a sightseeing line. They run many tours everyday of varying lengths between here and Whitehorse. It must be a complicated schedule with only the single track and a few sidings. We took the 12:45 trip that goes up to the top of White Pass (22 miles one way) and back in about 3 1/2 hours.

The cruise passengers have it easy. The trains tracks go out to each of the docks so they can just get off the ship and immediately on the train. Our train had about 11 cars, 8 of which were from the ships. The train then pulled into town and the rest of us got on the three remaining cars.

Each of the cars is named after a water feature. This is for one of our daughters.


We first went by the rail yard with one of their older engines.


And then an even older one in a gully beside the tracks.





The two diesel engines maintains a slow but steady pace up the steep tracks.



Since the trains climbs up the right side of the valley, the seats on the left side of the train are the only ones with a view. The cars don’t actually turn around at the top so to give everyone a chance we all had to switch sides. They move the engine to the downhill side and all the seat backs flip over so you still face forward. They said you could also stand on the platforms between the cars, which we did for most of the way.

It was a bit hazy but we could see back down to Skagway.


High above, we saw the train ahead of us crossing a wooden trestle.



For most of the lower section the highway was immediately across the valley.


Then we went down and back up this valley to the side. You can see the slash of the highway at the end. Higher up we diverged into another valley and didn’t see the highway again.


Here we are crossing that trestle and going into a long tunnel.


Our highest view down to Skagway.


As we neared the top we could all see another trestle. Since you couldn’t see ahead very well, we all thought, “Are we going over that!”


Thankfully no.




When we were just about at the top and the valley had narrowed to almost nothing we could see the trail that the miners had to take. It is the thin line at the bottom.




The Canadian border is at the top of the pass. During the gold rush the Canadian police would not let anyone go on unless they had one years worth of supplies, to prevent them from starving once they got to the gold fields. This meant they had to carry about one ton of supplies up the pass on their backs. It usually took about 30 or 40 trips up and down the pass. The line of men was solid from top to bottom on the trail. I can’t even imagine climbing it once, without a pack.


At the top we waited at a siding while two other trains passes us on their way back down. They said the lake beside us is 9 1/2 miles long. It was so narrow that it looked like a pond.


They have one operational steam locomotive. I am not sure what tour they use it on. We got nothing but bottled water on our tour but we saw them sipping something from champagne glasses as they passes us.


They used the siding to switch the engine to the other end for the trip back down and we all switched to the seats on the other side so everyone got a view out the “good” side”. The backs of the seats also flip over so you always face forward.


Back down we go.



All in all I am not sure it was worth it since we had already driven down the pass and are going to drive back up. We were in the trees a lot, especially in the lower section. When we did get to a viewpoint they couldn’t stop, with all the other trains on the line, so you had to be fast. On the highway there are lots of turnouts and you can stay as long as you want. Also on the train the only really good place to see everything is on the platforms between the cars and they got pretty crowded as people jostled to get their pictures.

It was still a good day with lots of great views but if another Rver asked I would probably say don’t bother.

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