Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Narrow-gauge adventure in gold country

Spectacular! Awesome! On the edge!

Those are just a few words that can describe the narrow gauge journey from sea level at Skagway, Alaska to the White Pass at some 2,865 feet.

The trip has been taken by thousands, most recently by tourists who arrive on large cruise ships. Travelers can get a glimpse of what it was like for prospectors long ago who had to make their way over the pass on foot on their way to the Yukon seeking gold.

Skagway at one time (back in 1897) was the largest city in Alaska averaging a population of 20,000 people.

The White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad serves up a horse of a different color these days for those who want to make the journey to the pass which is a 20.4 mile one-way trip. 

Plop down your cash, hop on one of their cars and you're off.

Memories still linger for my wife and I on a trip we took more than a decade ago.

The climb up to the pass was breathtaking, mainly because at times the train was running along the edge of steep cliffs or over seemingly rickety trestles. The sides of the mountain we were on were almost vertical.

As we climbed up to the pass, vistas opened to the sea. 

The main engines which pulled the cars we were on were diesel, a far cry from the early steam jobs.

The railway closed down in 1982 when metal prices dropped and mines closed. But in 1988 it opened again catering to the tourist trade. (History of the railway)

Next post: May 17, 2011

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