Saturday, June 11, 2016

Most of us have seen movies about the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898 and the hoards of enthusiastic would be prospectors making their way to Dawson City. One's imagination of the hardships endured by those eager souls probably falls short until you see first hand the terrain and distance they had to cross to reach their destination. The shoreline of Alaska between the Gulf of Alaska and Canada consists of steep mountains and deep fjords. Skagway is located at the terminus of the deepest and longest fjord in North America. The following photo of "Long Falls" gives a sense of the terrain on either side of the fjord into Skagway. At the center of the fjord out from "Long Falls", the water is 2000 feet deep.
Long Falls

View of fjord toward the Gulf
Once a person reached Skagway there were only two trails leading over the mountains to the interior of Canada. The Chilkoot Trail and the White Pass. On either of these trails a would be gold seeker had a 45 mile hike to Lake Bennett climbing over 3000 feet in inhospitable terrain carrying heavy supply packs. A British investor sent three professional railroad men to Skagway in 1898 to survey the possibility of building a railroad from there to the head of the Yukon River. The three decided building a railroad through White Pass was not possible and were about to leave Skagway when they met Michael J. Heney. Mr Heney, an Irish Canadian railroad contractor, had just completed his own survey and convinced the other three that it was possible to build a railroad up and through White Pass. The rest is history and yesterday we rode a train on that railroad from Skagway to Fraser, B.C. The WP&YR railroad is one of the few operating narrow gauge railroads in the world. 

Since we were passing back into Canada and then back to the US on the return, it was imperative that we carry our passports. Canadian Customs Officials did board the train and checked everyone's passport. We were told before they boarded to have our cameras put away and not be in the bathroom. Anyone who took a photo of a Custom Official would have their camera confiscated. The train ride up was absolutely wonderful with many photo opportunities and the thrill of shear cliffs to the river below. When Pam and I boarded the train we thought we were being punished because the lady sent us to the last car. That turned out to be just the opposite as there were only four other people on that car and yours truly had the rear platform as a photo vantage point. Passengers were not allowed to cross over between cars giving those in the last car a monopoly on the rear platform. Here are a few photos taken from the train. The motion of the train made it difficult to take good photos with the early morning lighting conditions. That improved as the sun started to shine.
Looking back at the fjord

Looking to the rear of the train
The front of the train
Going into a tunnel
In the tunnel
Leaving the tunnel
The summit at White Pass

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