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 Route, known as the WP&YR, is one of the most popular Alaska 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.
White Pass Railway Beginnings
If you take this Alaska shore excursion, you’ll travel on the path of prospectors who were on the hunt for the gold discovered in 1897. Many travelers went insane as they trekked dangerous trails and waterways to the Klondike. Thousands of horses died, earning White Pass the moniker "Dead Horse Trail". They quickly began to look for easier ways to traverse the area and two men joined forces on the railway with London investors onboard.
At first considered an impossible project, the White Pass and Yukon Route was completed in just 26 months, the last spike 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.
The White Pass and Yukon Route Today
Today the White Pass railway serves as an Alaska shore excursion, a scenic railway for visitors that offers a mix of stunning scenery and history.
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.
Five Facts on the White Pass and Yukon Route:
- 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 engineers 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 and is now a popular Alaska shore excursion.
The WP&YR rail line offers a variety of Yukon and Alaska shore excursions, including one-way and round-trip journeys, combination train and motorcoach excursions, as well as a service created specifically for hikers. Ready to ride the rails? Book Alaska shore excursions or visit wpyr.com to find out more.