White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad
Take a ride on the wild side on “the railway built of gold” as it weaves its way through steep ravines and cliff-hanging turns. The White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad, known as the WP&YR, is one of Alaska’s most popular shore excursions and is also an International Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, an honor it shares with modern marvels such as the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty, and the Panama Canal.
Born in the time of the Klondike Gold Rush, the WP&YR was considered an impossible project at the time, due to the unforgiving climate and terrain. Completed in just 26 months, the last spike was driven in on July 29, 1900. It went on to serve as an essential piece of infrastructure transporting passengers and freight for the Yukon’s population and the all-important mining industry.
Today, the WP&YR operates as a scenic railway for visitors, capitalizing on the modern gold rush of tourism. Its locomotives and cars carry almost a half million passengers a year between Skagway, Alaska, and Carcross, Yukon Territory. This fleet is composed of a combination of 70 fully restored and replica parlor cars pulled by both steam and diesel-electric locomotives. Each of the cars is named after a lake or river in the Yukon — the oldest car, Lake Emerald, dates to 1883.
The WP&YR’s operators are passionate about their railway, it’s equipment, and the role the railroad has played in the history and settlement of the Yukon. Tourists and rail fans alike will delight in the experience of riding in one of the railroad’s parlor cars as a panorama of glaciers, mountains, and waterfalls pass by outside.
The WP&YR rail line offers a variety of Alaska and Yukon excursions, including one-way and round-trip journeys, combination train and motorcoach excursions, as well as a service created specifically for hikers. Contact Holland-America to book an excursion or visit wpyr.com to find out more.
Five Facts on the WP&YR Railroad:
- The old steam-powered locomotives of the railway had notoriously voracious appetites for fuel and water due to the extremes of the terrain. Because of this, they were called “hogs” and their engineer’s were known as "hogheads".
- The WP&YR has grades as steep as 3.9 percent, and climbs 3,000 feet in just 20 miles!
- The railroad’s steel cantilever bridge was once the tallest of its kind in the world.
- The WP&YR was an early innovator in the field of inter-modal (ship-to-train-to-truck) transportation. Now a common method for delivering goods over long distances.
- Operation as a commercial railway ceased in 1982 when low mineral prices crippled the mining industry. The WP&YR reinvented itself in 1988 when it opened as a seasonal tourist railway.