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White Pass & Yukon Route Railway, Skagway, Alaska, July-August 2019

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 White Pass & Yukon Route Railway
"The Scenic Railway of the World, Skagway, Alaska"

With Rainbow Glacier Adventures Tours in Skagway and Haines, Alaska

July 29 - August 5, 2019

Report and Photos by Carl and Matthew Morrison,, and Paul Cunningham Photography.


Monday, July 29, 2019 - 7:45 a.m. Fly Alaska Airlines from Santa Ana, California (SNA) to Seattle (SEA), then Seattle to Juneau (JNU). Alaska Seaplanes Juneau to Skagway arriving 6:30 pm.

July 29 - August 2 - Stay AirBnB in Skagway  Aug. 2 move to Historic Skagway Inn for 2 nights departing Aug. 4.

Tuesday, July 30 - Skagway Tour at 8:30 - 11:30, with
Rainbow Glacier Adventures Photo Tour

Wednesday, July 31 - Rainbow Glacier Adventures Photo Tour to Yukon Swinging Bridge

Thursday, August 1 -
7:45 WP&YR Skagway to Carcross, bus back.

Friday, August 2 -
10:00 a.m. WP&YR Steam Excursion

Saturday, August 3 - 9:00 a.m. Rainbow Glacier Adventures Photo Tour Haines morning and afternoon.

August 4 Alaska Fjordlines Skagway to Juneau.  Juneau stay Super 8 by Wyndham Juneau.

August 5 5:30 a.m. Alaska Airlines JNU to SEA.  SEA to SNA arr. 12:55 pm


Built in 1898 during the Klondike Gold Rush, the White Pass & Yukon Route is a marvel of engineering despite the harsh weather and challenging geography faced by thousands of railroad construction workers.

121 years later you can still see splendid panorama of mountains, glaciers and gorges; waterfalls, tunnels and trestles. Along the way, you will climb nearly 3,000 feet in elevation in just 20 miles, sections at 3.9% grade, in the comfort of vintage passenger coaches on “The Scenic Railway of the World”.

--Skagway, Alaska

The Port of Skagway, Alaska is currently the number three cruise port in the State of Alaska. This ranking is by number of cruise ship passengers and Skagway is currently third behind the Alaskan ports of Juneau and Ketchikan.  During the 2017 summer season 842,000 cruise ship passengers arrived in Skagway.  White Pass presently owns and operates three deep-water docks capable of handling large vessel traffic: the Railroad Dock, the Broadway Dock, and the Ore Dock.

The Railroad Dock can accommodate two large cruise vessels and does so approximately five to six times a week during the summer season. Total berthing length at this pier is over 2000 feet. A floating component at the south end of the dock allows for berthing of longer vessels. The railroad dock has on dock rail service which greatly enhances the ease and efficiency for rail shore excursions.

The Broadway dock is centrally located within the Skagway waterfront and is great complement for passenger operations and shore excursion activities. Rail service to the Broadway dock begins at the immediate end of the dock where passengers can easily board the train.

The Ore dock was originally designed for bulk carriers in the ore concentrate trade. After the decline of the mineral trade in the early 1980s coupled with the expansion of the Alaska visitor market the Ore dock was modified to serve as a cruise ship dock.



South Map.  All tourist rail journeys leave from Skagway, either from cruise ships or downtown.


Middle of route including White Pass summit at 20.4 mile marker


Top of route with Carcross, Yukon Territory, Canada destination.

The Alaska Statehood Act was signed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on July 7, 1958, allowing Alaska to become the 49th U.S. state on January 3, 1959.

Table of Contents

1.  Top of this Report

2.  Introduction

3.  Bennett Scenic Journey Excursion on the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad

4.   Frasier Meadows Steam Train Excursion the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad (WP&YR)

5.  Arrival in Skagway, Alaska and first sight of town from street level.

6.  Rainbow Glacier Adventures Tour:  White Pass Summit and Yukon Suspension Bridge Tour

7.  Rainbow Glacier Adventures Tour:   Private Chilkat Photography Tour including Haines.

8.  Arriving in Skagway via Alaskan Seaplane from Juneau.

9.  Leaving Skagway via Fjord Express to Juneau.

(Click most photos for a larger size; Click BACK in your browser to return to this report.)

Our First WP&YR Excursion:
Escape into the heart of history!  Bennett Scenic Journey Excursion

Travel 67.5 miles by train between Skagway, AK, and Carcross, YT, along the same route that the Klondike stampeders traversed in 1898! Couple that with a motorcoach tour along the scenic Klondike Highway to/from Skagway for the perfect combination of your Yukon & Alaskan holiday adventures. Bennett, BC is only accessible via the White Pass train or by hiking the world famous Chilkoot Trail. Don’t miss a visit to the 1903 Bennett Station for a stroll through our historic museum. A hearty boxed lunch will be served on board as the train travels the length of Lake Bennett and arrives in Carcross, YT. Come join us on this exclusive and completely unique experience.

    Tour Overview

This 120 mile round trip excursion features a 45 minute layover at Bennett Station, where passengers enjoy a visit to our White Pass museum and a self-guided walking tour of the historic gold rush town-site. At the end of the layover, passengers will re-board the train and resume their railroading adventure.

    Tour Duration: 8 Hours
    A hearty lunch will be served on board between Bennett and Carcross: Turkey sandwich, chips, side and dessert included.
        Vegetarian and gluten free options upon advance request. Please indicate meal preference in reservation notes.
    Moderate level of activity
    Each rail car is equipped with a restroom
    Complimentary Bottled Water
    This train is not equipped with a wheelchair lift

    Cruise Ship Passengers

For passengers arriving via cruise ship, this tour is available from your ship’s Shore Excursion Department. By booking through the cruise line, you will be able to take advantage of the dockside service and board the train on the pier alongside your ship. Contact your cruise line’s Shore Excursion Department for more details.

My Photos from my Bennett Scenic Journey Excursion:


We recognized the locomotive colors of our train from seeing an excursion the previous day
as we took a Rainbow Glacier Adventures photo tour up the Klondike Highway.

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Smiling ticket agents seem
to always be on duty.  Note the large route maps you will receive for your journey.


The train backed in at the station making boarding an easy task.  The Station is at Centennial Park, within sight of all the cruise ship docks.  Having experienced "Platform Riding"  (the best seat in the house for photography), we arrived early and got permission to be in the last car.


The boarding steps were down so it was convenient to step off to take portraits without fear of being left.
Matthew said a WP&YR staff member said to him, "The difference between a passenger and
a pedestrian is one minute."

The bus driver who would bring us back from Carcross met us in Skagway so we would know who to look for as our bus driver back to Skagway at the end of this excursion.  Perhaps he would later this day take passengers to Carcross to take the train back to Skagway.


The interior of all WP&YR vintage rail cars are perfectly restored with a stove and bathroom on each car.


The Conductor soon took 1/2 of our ticket leaving us with a souvenir portion.


The cars on this trip all have tables and souvenir informative booklets were already laid out.  Bottled water is provided, thus the four cup holders.  Lunch is served as well.  The other train sets, since they do not serve food, do not have tables.


The obvious advantage of being on a platform on the last car.


Since the partial purchase of the WP&YR by Carnival, $12 million in improvements have been made.  This is a good example of those improvements.


Mile Markers help passengers follow the map in the center of the "All Aboard" magazine.  There is also an excellent narration throughout the train of the sights along the way.  This is Denver, a crossing of the east fork of the Skagway River, nearby Denver Glacier Trail, a favorite local hike, leads to the base of the glacier.  Near here is a caboose-cabin that can be rented through the U.S. Forest Service.


As mentioned elsewhere in this report, one reason the WP&YR is a 3-foot narrow gauge is the cost of right-of-way width being less for narrow gauge.  This is an example of why it would have cost much more for a wider right-of-way.


"Between a rock and a hard place."


"On to Alaska with Buchanan" has been a sightseeing attraction for over 70 years.  The sign on the far wall of the canyon was painted by the Buchanan Boys Tour Group, brought from Detroit each year to visit Skagway, circa 1920-30, so intercity youth could see what Alaska was like.




The consist of this train, which goes to Carcross and back to Skagway, is a bit different from the other train sets that make a turn around at Fraser.  One Locomotive, an ocean-going container made into a boxcar, and a multi-use car with a cupola!  In Skagway, I saw a caterer putting on bags of what I presume were lunches.


Glacier Station, once a stopping place for thirsty steam engines on the uphill grade.  Railroad section crew lived here and maintained the railbed.


Glacier melt below including tell-tale glacial silt that appeared light green in rivers downstream.


The gauntlet rails between the 3-foot rails are intended to keep a derailed train from going off the bridge into the drink, and to ride the ties instead.


Fireweed seemed to be in bloom at all elevations on this early August trip.



Tunnel Mountain, probably the most photographed spot on the route.


Inspiration Point, seventeen miles up the line from Skagway, gave a good view of Lynn Canal (perhaps a misreading of past handwriting for "Channel"), Mt. Harding and the Chilkat Range with the Yukon Highway on the far side of the gorge.  Another WP&YR train can be seen below us.
"Ghost Bridge"
Steel Bridge was constructed in 1901 and was the tallest cantilever bridge in the world.  Used until 1969.  Since, it has been replaced with a new bridge and tunnel a few feet farther.



A good thing about having two rides past this bridge in two days is that the next day there was not a cloud in the sky.  Matthew said he liked this view of the bridge best.


In 1969 this 675-foot tunnel was driven through the mountain and a new bridge was built to replace the steel bridge.


Having been blasted straight through, this 675-ft. tunnel allowed us to see all the way through.



As the train emerges from the tunnel, we see visible remains of the famous trail, a primary route from Skagway to the gold fields. They say the trail was 7 feet wide since gold seekers had to make many trips back down for more supplies to make a ton apiece of supplies before being allowed into Canada by the Mounted Police who did not want unknowing gold seekers to die of starvation.


White Pass Summit 2,868 feet.  Here at the US/Canadian border, mounted police waved on stampeders with a ton of supplies needed for one year in the north.



Now above the cloud level, a water tank for watering the steam engines still stands as does a wooden boxcar that might have been shelter for section hands.


Glacial water, fireweed, and above-treeline small trees near meadows.


Meandering river between glacial lakes.


Canadian Customs officials
leaving our train after checking our passports at Fraser.


Fraser, British Columbia, Canada, a transfer location for motorcoach connections to the Klondike Highway.
Notice the water spout for steam engines.  Water was heated in winter to keep it from freezing.


Matt spotted this moose with twin calves coming out of a lake.


Matt used his iPhone for videos from the platform of the miles and miles of beautiful scenery.


No evidence of man except the railroad and highway.  Here is  a railfan's dream home with lake view out the back and train view out the front.  The addition to the boxcar seems bigger than the boxcar itself.


The railroad crosses Klondike Hwy. 2 with its mileage to points north.


We cross Klondike Hwy. 2 at Log Cabin, Yukon Territory, Canada.


Maintenance-of-Way worker's weathered equipment shed with ramp for rolling in their speeder.


Meandering river, a good place to look for moose.


Rare sand dunes along the route.


Bennett Lake and replica of the boats built here in the winter of '88 and '89 for crossing in the spring thaw of May 29.  Bennett was the largest tent city in the world with 10,000 residents during that winter of boat building.   5,000 boats left and the city became a ghost town except for the church.   The train tracks reached Bennett July 6, 1899.


Enough time at the Bennett Station to visit the museum or walk to the church.




 Chilkoot Trail ended here at Bennett as did the Chilkat trail the RR followed.  We walked a few yards on the Chilkoot Trail to the St. Andrew's Church.



We were told not to pick up even tin cans because they were considered artifacts.



St. Andrew's Church at Bennett, Yukon, Canada


St. Andrew's Church and glacial green Lake Bennett.



Through a knot hole I got a shot inside the church, not what we expected.






St. Andrew's Church dwarfed by mountains and beautiful clouds.


A quick look inside the museum shows what I presume is an '89er and his ton of goods.



Looking back from the rear platform, or coming from the north, you can see both the Bennett Station and St. Andrew's Church and the south shore of Lake Bennett.


My favorite shot of the Bennett Station from the platform of the last car of the train as we headed to Carcross.


Pennington Station was for rail crews.  Also the sharpest curve in the railroad called Guardrail.



British Columbia/Yukon Territory Border


There is a safe walkway between the cars, but you are asked not to change cars. 


Each car has a platform in front and back, so I went to the front platform to take a photo of Matt on the back platform with Yukon scenery as a background.


Another boxcar crew shack at McDonald Creek on Lake Bennett


Twenty-seven miles north of Bennett, we enter Carcross, Yukon Territory, Canada, our train journey's end.


Carcross, Y.T., is an historic Yukon town with a gold rush general store, the steam engine Duchess, and a WP&YR train station visitors' center.




The little engine known as the DUCHESS was once part of a matched set. She and her partner, the DUKE, were built in September 1878 for the Dunsmuir and Diggle Company.

For a time the two little locos hauled coal for the Wellington Colliery Railway. The DUCHESS also burned coal at that time, although she was converted later to wood and later still to oil.

White Pass bought the little engine in 1899 and put her to work on the Taku Tramway the following year.

Appropriately enough the Taku Tram was a miniature version of a railway, only two miles long, which connected Tagish Lake with Atlin Lake.

Tourist excursions operated from Carcross to the town of Atlin, British Columbia, and the tram was a necessary link between the two rail systems. Tourists could travel south from Carcross on a sternwheeler as far as Taku City, where they would disembark and board the small car pulled by the DUCHESS. They would then be taken across the two-mile track east to Scotia Bay and board another steamer for the trip to Atlin, on the far side of Atlin Lake. ‘Taken’ may not be the most precise word, since passengers often had to get off and push. And since there was no turntable at the eastern end, the return trip was made going backwards.

The DUCHESS was taken out of service in 1919 and replaced with another engine. She was moved to Carcross in the 1950’s and is now a popular tourist attraction.


The train is turned and those who took the bus from Skagway to Carcross, boarded for their trip back to Skagway via this great train ride.
"Carcross" is derived from an Indian word for "great river".


Jacqueline Taylor-Rose, Manager of Marketing & Product Development, who set up these excellent excursions for us.  I asked if she had come up on the train, but she had driven and would go on to White Horse for supplies.

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The Carcross Station has an excellent museum and gift shop.  This restored speeder is part of the displays.







We boarded the bus with this driver we had met in Skagway.


We were taken a few miles north of Carcross before heading back to Skagway.  Some local businesses in Carcross.

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This sign on the north side of Carcross claims the name came from Caribou Crossing.


Carcross Tagish First Nation’s Learning Center.


A friend of mine, Katy Ramsey, challenged me to find the Carcross Desert.


Emerald Lake was the highlight of our short ride north of Carcross.


We passed the land-based Yukon sign like the one in Lake Bennett, as we went back into British Columbia.


Our bus from Carcross to Skagway after our train excursion to Carcross.


Crossing the WP&YR on Hwy. 2 at Log Cabin.


Fraser customs station and the insulated water tower for steam engine watering in the past years.


A closer look at the Fraser enclosed water tower.


We made a few stops at scenic spots, this one at a glacial lake above the tree line.



A view of the WP&YR tracks we had been on earlier in the day.


Back at the WP&YR Station, across the hallway was an excellent gift shop.



Between the ticket office and gift shop is this display, but I think it is missing a model train on the bridge.


The station waiting room has an excellent drawing of their 3 kinds of power.



You can see how close the trains get to the cruise ships.  This shot is from the Train Station.


Next door to the gift shop is this excellent Visitor Center of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park.
The Park has restored about 30 buildings in town, making it look good as new.


The Center has excellent displays, photographs, maps, and a video presentation.

Return to the

[ Table of Contents | Top of this Report | Introduction |


Our Second WP&YR Excursion:

Ride the Exciting and Authentic WP&YR Steam Train!  Frasier Meadows Steam Train Excursion

No other railroad is quite like the White Pass & Yukon Route. Against all odds, the iron trail was carved through some of the North’s most rugged terrain in 1898. This engineering wonder climbs nearly 3,000 feet in 27 miles of steep grades and cliff-hanging turns.

Relive the glory days of steam while traveling with one of our steam locomotives, Engine No. 73 or No. 69, to the Fraser Meadows Loop! Total of 54 miles round-trip and a duration of 4 hours.

    Tour Overview

This 54 mile round trip climbs from tidewater at Skagway to the Fraser Meadows Loop. The fully narrated tour passes through two tunnels, over sky-high trestles and cascading waterfalls, all while being pulled by one of our historic steam locomotives. 

    Tour Duration: 3.5 to 4 Hours
    This train is not equipped with a wheelchair lift
    Each rail car is equipped with a restroom
    Complimentary Bottled Water
    54 miles ROUND TRIP

    Cruise Ship Passengers

For passengers arriving via cruise ship, this tour is available from your ship’s Shore Excursion Department. By booking through the cruise line, you will be able to take advantage of the dockside service and board the train on the pier alongside your ship. Contact your cruise line’s Shore Excursion Department for more details.

My photos from the Frasier Meadows Steam Train Excursion:

(Click most photos for a larger size; Click BACK in your browser to return to this report.)


The highlight of this whole trip was to take place today...a ride on the WP&YR pulled by newly restored steam locomotive No. 73.  We arrived at the station about 2 hours before departure time, making sure we saw No. 73 pull in so we could get exterior photos and closeup photos for Jacqueline Taylor-Rose with whom we had made arrangements.

Even though we were 2 hours early, Mallory Jansen of Oregon, was on duty to help passengers get their reserved tickets and pick up a large map highlighting the day's route. (Sections of that map are at the top of this report.)

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Having been in Skagway about 4 days already, I knew the steam train would be coming from the shops north of town, so we walked out east of the downtown station
(about a block) to a nice shelter at Skagway Jct. to await the arrival of No. 73.


"Diamond in Gold Country"

While awaiting the arrival of No. 73, the sharp curves, switches, and a diamond of this 3-foot gauge railroad caught my eye.


As you know, you can hear a steam locomotive long before you see it, so with great excitement we were ready for our first photos of No. 73 backing down to the station from the yard, with a Conductor and Brakeman on the rear platform with train whistle in hand (see photo below).


For reverse moves, like backing from the yard to the station in Skagway, the conductor on the rear platform has access to a whistle (inside the circle on the air hose above) for safe crossing of streets and sidewalks.


The engineer of No. 73 kept watch during the reverse move as well.


The steam Engine No. 73, a 2-8-2 Mikado type Baldwin Locomotive built in 1947.


They like to bring No. 73 to the downtown station before the tour start time to showcase their shinny, newly restored, locomotive.




To our delight, they fired up and moved the train to a track closer to the station for loading, allowing for even more photos of No. 73 under steam.


Why the name, "Mikado"? 

"Mikado" is the name generally assigned to the steam locomotives of the 2-8-2 wheel arrangement. The general, and reasonable assumption, is that this appellation stems from the construction of locomotives of this wheel arrangement by Baldwin in 1893. These locomotives were of the three foot six inch gauge, and were constructed for Nihon Tetsudo (Japan Railways), a private railway at the time. The class of these first locomotives was "Bt4/6". "B" was for "Baldwin", "t" meant "with tender", "4" stood for drivers, and "6" was for total axles. In 1906, 17 private railways, including Nihon Tetsudo became part of the Imperial Japanese Government Railways. It should be pointed out that after Pearl Harbor, in an excess of patriotic zeal, some railroads (most prominently the B&O and Union Pacific) renamed their locomotives of this wheel arrangement as "MacArthurs".





After ample time to photograph No. 73 at the station, it was time to board.  Jacqui Taylor-Rose met us and got us on the last car as requested.  This train's cars have no tables since no food is provided on this excursion.


Each car has a stove and restroom, so there is no need to move from car to car during the journey.

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Ample booklets and comment cards and a promise of things to come.


From the platform of the last car on the steam train, you can see how close the cruise ships are and how easily passengers can get to the train.

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The last car of the steam train had the lanterns mounted about chest high, so we'd have to reach around them for photos of the locomotive going around curves and over trestles.  Tyler was our car attendant, and had knowledge of the route and history of the train.



Soon after departure, we passed the static, Skagway-owned 2-8-2 Mikado locomotive.


We passed another earlier excursion returning to town.


Having traveled this route the day before, and with the provided map, we knew the most photogenic spots to catch No. 73, but we could not predict when white steam would be coming out the locomotive.


Being on the last platform, we found a new place to take a photo of the cruise ships in town.


Another WP&YR train meet with their conductor and engineer out front.  You can also see that they use standard railroad ties with their 3-foot gauge track, thus the extra length outside the rails.


The diesel excursion passengers have a good photo op of the steam locomotive as we pass.


Tunnel Mountain.


"Steel Bridge" constructed in 1901, this was the tallest cantilever bridge in the world.  It was used until 1969.  What a difference a day makes, yesterday this area was clouded in.



The over 118 year old steel bridge looks better than its wooden approaches.



The reason this bridge was historic in 1901.


Canada - U.S. Border


In the past, steam engines took on water from the creek here at the meadows, but sediment indicated they should stop, so they take water up in the blue tank car now for use in the steam engine.


A new loop allows the steam excursion to turn and head back down.


Artifacts along the loop include this boxcar made into a section hand shed.


Because they now take water with them in the blue tank car, they no longer need this water tower.


Meadows, the turn around point for this excursion.  The telephone poles were put in during World War II for communication.  Insulators and wires have since been removed.


Gauntlet rails between the 3-foot running rails are to keep a train on the bridge if there is a derailment.


The brakeman switches us onto the loop, then turns the switch back to straight running, then sprints to the end of the loop to switch us back on the main line headed back south, and finally turns the switch after we pass and boards the last car with us.


Our train on the loop.


Rare steam makes for a nice photo, and note that it is not coming from the stack.


Kayaks probably enjoyed our steam engine pass.


Our Brakeman made it in time to put us back on the mainline. 


After turning the switch back to through traffic, the Brakeman prepares to board our last car.


The Brakeman had to gain access from outside the back car's platform, but he made it aboard and we continued back to Skagway.


Time for cider or champagne and a toast from Tyler.



In addition to champagne, we each received this nice ornament.  (Click the photo to read the information on the left.)


Northwest Mounted Police station near the border at the summit.


A closer look at the collapsed wooden approach to the steel bridge.


An advantage to narrow gauge is the shorter turns.


Lightened shadows shows the difficulty of pushing a tunnel through solid rock.


A trestle directly into a tunnel reminds me of the El Chepe route in Mexico.


Downhill from us was another 14-car WP&YR excursion train.


Fireweed and newly painted No. 73 make a nice photo on a curve.


Nice WP&YR work rigs along the way.


Late in the trip you will be offered this great $20 deal...hat, photo book, and DVD with historical footage and footage from each excursion.


Another advantage of a narrow gauge, curvy, roadbed means you can photograph a train meet when you are one of the trains!


The train we met has now approached the trestle before the tunnel far above our location.



Back at the station after a wonderful steam train excursion, we had more time for photos before No. 73 returned to the barn.



Return to the

[ Table of Contents | Top of this Report | Introduction | Skagway City next |


White Pass Summit Excursion on the White Pass & Yukon Route Railway

Experience this unique railroad that symbolizes accomplishment in adventure and pioneering – of triumph over challenge.

Relax in vintage passenger coaches as you retrace the original route to the White Pass Summit, passing Bridal Veil Falls, Inspiration Point and Dead Horse Gulch. Enjoy a breathtaking panorama of mountains, glaciers, gorges, waterfalls, tunnels, trestles and historic sites. See the original Klondike Trail of ‘98 worn into the rocks, a permanent tribute to the thousands of souls who passed this way in search of fortune.

    Tour Overview
This forty mile round trip excursion climbs from tidewater at Skagway to the Summit of the White Pass - a 2,888 foot elevation. The fully narrated tour passes through two tunnels, over sky-high trestles and cascading waterfalls. It’s our most popular rail trip!

    Tour Duration: 2.5 - 2.75 Hours
    No passport required
    All Summit Excursion trains are wheelchair accessible. However, space is limited in lift-equipped cars.
        Please let us know when reserving your seats if you or anyone in your party will require the lift to get onto the train.
    Complimentary Bottled Water
    Each rail car is equipped with a restroom
    40 miles ROUND TRIP

    Cruise Ship Passengers

For passengers arriving via cruise ship, this tour is available from your ship’s Shore Excursion Department. By booking through the cruise line, you will be able to take advantage of the dockside service and board the train on the pier alongside your ship. Contact your cruise line’s Shore Excursion Department for more details.


Since we had experienced this route with the steam train, we did not go on this excursion. However, if you happen to be in Skagway when the steam train is not running, definitely take this excursion.

The Port of Skagway has grown over the past three decades into one of the premier cruise destinations in Alaska. The summer cruise season covers May through September each year. The port is ice-free year round and capable of operating as a cargo facility. The White Pass Railroad has upland staging areas and is open to the prospect of cargo vessel operations. Vessel agent and stevedoring services are available through Southeast Stevedoring Corporation located in Ketchikan, Alaska.

The Klondike Gold Rush was in Canada though it was primarily Americans who joined the rush and who made many of the discoveries. The route to the Klondike went through Alaska primarily at Skagway or up the Yukon River. The lure of Klondike gold brought thousands of people to the north country. It was responsible for one of the largest voluntary mass movements of people in history and some of the argonauts went on to discover gold in Alaska.

After our arrival by Alaskan Seaplanes at the airport, we got our first street-level view of Skagway.


Before cruise ship passengers flood the town, the main street looks like Disneyland before opening, except for the extraordinary Alaskan scenery in the background.

The steam powered rotary snowplow and No. 52 are static displays in front of the train station.


The first building on Broadway is the excellent National Park Service Visitor Center next door to the train station.




We had a couple of meals on the second floor (with elevator) at the Skagway Brewing Company, 250 4th Ave, Skagway, AK 99840

On later days, we had more time to explore Skagway and its excellent restored downtown:



We found this excellent 21st Street AirBnB accommodations by Abby Jo.


Just a block away was a shuttle stop every :10 and :40 after the hour, starting at 10 a.m.  Look for the blue signs as pickup spots on State Street and Broadway as well as at all 3 cruise ship piers.


This small market opens at 10:00 a.m., but there is a larger IGA downtown.


Click twice on this map for a MUCH larger copy where you can read the points of interest.


Matt is pointing to the location of our AirBnB, just one block from the WP&YR train shops (under his hand).

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At the shops we found some equipment including speeders and maintenance-of-way equipment.


We confirmed what the locomotive colors for our next-day adventures would be.


Matt confirmed that the track gauge was 3 feet.

First sighting of these unique restored vintage buses.

Skagway character, Martin Itjen, came looking for Klondike gold in 1898 and became the local undertaker, Ford dealer, coal deliveryman, and the town's most celebrated storyteller. In 1923, he gave Alaska's first motorized sightseeing tour for US President Warren G. Harding in his brightly painted coal truck, jokingly calling it his "Street Car." Martin continued touring for decades, delighting summer visitors with his homespun style of humor.


Just west of our AirBnB was the Skagway River.


Harding Glacier and Harding Mountain named after his 3-hour stay in Skagway, viewed from near our AirBnB.

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[ Table of Contents | Top of this Report | Rainbow Glacier Adventures next ]

Other than trains in Alaska, we took a couple of tours with Rainbow Glacier Adventures, LLC


White Pass Summit and Yukon Suspension Bridge Tour

Tour Departs from Skagway, Alaska

This tour provides a wonderful opportunity to view the stunning scenery of the White Pass and experience the Yukon Suspension Bridge. Meet your guide, board the comfortable vehicle and enjoy a short tour of Skagway’s historic district before climbing steeply towards the Chilkoot Mountains.

The dramatic scenery of the White Pass summit soon surrounds you. This is a wonderland of impressive peaks, azure lakes and stunted forests. The pace is unhurried; you will have ample time to enjoy the view with stops at choice scenic locations.

Past the summit, visit the Yukon Suspension Bridge, where you can venture out onto the bridge to get stunning views of the turbulent waters of the Tutshi River below. Learn about Gold Rush history and the natural history of the area. Walk along the boardwalk and immerse yourself in the miniature world of alpine wildflowers.

Return to Skagway and your ship, having had an experience you won’t forget.

    3 hour tour
    $103 per person
    2 -person minimum
    **Passport Required**

Nephew, Paul, was our guide for this tour.  Several other guides work in Skagway and Haines:



Rainbow Glacier Adventures will pick you up at your cruise ship pier, at the train station, or other locations in Skagway.


Taking the Shuttle to meet our Rainbow Glacier Adventures tour at the cruise ship pier, Broadway looked a bit more crowded than our previous ride when there were no cruise ship passengers in town.  This also shows the juxtaposition of a 2019 cruise ship in an 1889 town.


The WP&YR trains can load right next to the cruise ships' 3 berths.  Cruise ship's docking in Skagway, as many as 6 per day, is called the "Second Gold Rush" for Skagway.  The WP&YR carries nearly 500,000 passengers a year.



Our tour takes us across the Skagway River and onto the Klondike Highway heading north.




The last of the falls is still as pristine as before the project.


The WP&YR train finishing its run to the summit looks like a model train across the river valley from our location on the highway.


A bicycle tour, after a rest, takes off downhill to Skagway.  Note the high poles along the road.  They mark the edge of the pavement for snowplows.  When the color changes on the horizontal portion from red to white, that marks the edge of the pavement below.


A portion of Bridal veil falls. 30-50 feet tall at this point.  Seen in its entirety from the train across the river valley.



At the border you again see the edge-of-pavement markers for snow plows.


The scenery is so vast in Alaska and Canada, that glaciers do not seem as massive far away.


When the glaciers melted, they left glacial lakes that have no outlet, but provide water for wildlife and vegetation.

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Paul pointing out the geological features and flora.
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It is hard to capture the vastness of the area in a photograph; perhaps a panorama of 3 photos will help.  Glacial silt, light green, is present in lakes and rivers which have melted glacier runoff.  This green silt can be seen out into the fjords and builds up making the clearance less each year for cruise ships at the end of rivers.

I didn't realize why we were in a different time zone by going north from Alaska's panhandle into British Columbia and Yukon, Canada.  In the illustration below, I realized that western U.S.  (California, Washington, and Oregon AND western Canada)  is -8 Greenwich  Mean Time.  However,  Alaska and the panhandle that reaches east enough to be in -8, is all -9  Greenwich Mean Time.



Since this was an auto trip, before our train rides to the same area, I didn't notice in this photo of the checkpoint that the Fraser building had a water spout for steam trains coming out of an insulated building to prevent freezing.  It is not used to water the steam train now, but rather the steam train brings water on the trip in the blue tank car immediately behind the locomotive tender.

Canadian Checkpoint with directions in both English and French.


The Klondike Highway crosses the WP&YR at the town of Log Cabin.


Our destination, the Yukon Suspension Bridge, which is actually in British Columbia, but sounds better as the Yukon Suspension Bridge.


Some very interesting signs at the entrance of the bridge property.






They also had some black and white photo setups of Canadian Mounted Police you could stand behind for a photo.  Paul quickly taught me how to set my camera for black and white.




Paul crossed first, but it was very steady and not scary at all, as you can see, it was very enclosed.


Matt crossed and I did as well.


Looking south down
the Tutshi River before I crossed.


Looking north at the visitor's center after I crossed.  Directly down is a high-numbered rapids.


Frames on the far side for a fun photo.


Paul had a nice place picked out for a group photo of his tours.



You could put a stamp in your traveling notebook of the bridge.


They had a gift shop that took U.S. Dollars.



Typical Alaskan and Canadian road signs.


First time to take a roadside Alaska sign.  I'll have to say it is one of the best designed and colorful ones of the 50.  This was Matt's 50th state to visit in his life's travels.


From the Alaska state border sign, looking down through the mountains toward Skagway.


Another view toward Skagway showing the railroad on the left and the Klondike Highway on the right.


Since Paul comes through here with tours almost every day, he is on a first-name-basis with the border officials.


Returning to Skagway on the Klondike Highway in the afternoon, the light is right for photos of WP&YR trains across the gorge.  You know you are in a vast landscape when you have to actually look for a 14-car train.



The distant train is a good opportunity to use your telephoto lens.



After a Rainbow Glacier Adventures Tour you can be dropped anywhere, we chose back at the front of the Train Station.

To book this tour, go to:

Because the days are so long this time of year, this far north, there is plenty of light to explore further around Skagway:



West of Skagway is the Taiya River which is a haven for wildlife.



You might see eagles feasting on salmon in the river or waiting in higher trees for dinner to pass them by.


Tour guides tell you to look for golf balls (heads of bald eagles) in the trees to locate mature eagles.  This juvenile eagle was overlooking the river as well.


Further up the valley we stopped to see salmon spawning.


A low pedestrian bridge is an excellent place to look down and see salmon, or walk along the banks.  Beware of bears who also like to feed on salmon in their quest for fat to last them through hibernation.


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Birds are also attracted to the spawning area in search of a salmon egg meal.






Back in Skagway, a Model A serves as a company car.


In the mood for fish, we went to the Skagway Fish Company near the piers.

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In the restaurant was a map showing the vast fishing area in the channel and the fish that could be caught there.

Another grand day in Skagway.

[ Table of Contents | Top of this Report | Private Chilkat Photography Tour (next) ]


Another Rainbow Glacier Adventures Tour you might enjoy is a

Private Chilkat Photography Tour

Departing from Skagway or Haines.

Escape the crowds of Skagway and focus on photographing the stunning scenery of the Chilkat Valley. Cradled at the base of the Chilkat Peninsula, flanked by the Lynn Fjord and Chilkat River, Haines is filled with natural wonders. Your expert photography guide will assist you in capturing the best of the Chilkat Valley’s unique attractions.

From Skagway, the trip begins with a 45-minute ferry ride along the steep-walled fjords connecting Skagway to Haines. Over a dozen unnamed waterfalls drop hundreds of feet from the cliff sides on both sides of the boat. Marvel at the scenery and look for humpback whales, harbor seals, and bald eagles.

Arrive in Haines, and meet your professional photography guide. Your guide will select his favorite locations and provide you with ample time to set up the best shots. Depending on the lighting and weather, different locations in the Chilkat Valley boast specific photographic highlights. May, June, and July feature wildflowers and eagles. Beginning in August, pink salmon—the smallest and most abundant of the Pacific salmon varieties—begin their run up the Chilkoot River to spawn. This is the best opportunity to see brown bear as they are often witnessed feeding along the banks of the river. When bears are present, every effort will be made to give you safe bear viewing and photography.

The theme is flexibility, fun and learning rather than adherence to a rigid schedule. Even a simple point-and-shoot camera will work. But by all means, bring all your photo gear. The tour includes a boxed lunch so that you can eat when you want to and focus on getting the shots that you desire. You’ll return to Skagway via shuttle catamaran.

    4 hours departing in Haines
        $199 per person
    6.5 hours departing from Skagway
        $269 per person
    2 person minimum

My photos from this tour:

(Click most photos for a larger copy; click BACK in your browser to return to this page.)


Ready to take the Haines/Skagway Fast Ferry to Haines, Alaska


Our ferry to Haines.


Another beautiful day in Skagway.  Harding Glacier and Harding Mountain.


Enough Canons to win the war, but still has the lens shade in travel mode.


Houses in Haines are former officers' housing at Ft. William H. Seward.


Local fishing boats.


Extremely low tide caused our ferry to dock a bit farther from town.




We saw some of Brian Staurseth's work in the cafe, but he was only open 3 days a week.



Fishermen pulling their nets.


Fishing boat family.

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Fishermen of another species.


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The advantage of a guide is his knowing where the eagles were, I would never have seen them, even though Matthew spotted many.

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Overseeing the scene and waiting for an opportunity to catch lunch.

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Making his selection, guarding the catch, and eventually flying far down river to dine, or take to a nest.


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Beautiful scenery at every turn.



Beautiful glacial lake north of town.





We head downtown for some lunch ourselves.


Lots of flowers in Haines downtown and at the pier.


I thought this lady exemplified the Alaskan way of life - walking stick, coffee, reading, walking shoes under the American flag.


These are excellent wildlife prints in the cafe by Brian Staurseth, Haines Photographer.





Next door to the cafe was the hammer museum.


Having lived on a farm along the B&O railroad in my youth, I was most interested in the railroad-related hammers.

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The Ringling Bros. circus mallet for driving stakes for the big top has significance for me because the circus moved by train and I reported on the circus for about 12 years when it came to Anaheim each August.






Unfortunately the museum was not open on this day because the staff members were at a once-a-year religious ceremonial dance keeping their heritage in tact.

(Click the images below for larger copies.)





Another advantage of a photo guide is their knowing the location of, and dangers of, bears who seemed to be where there was easy access to fish.





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The museum has a nice display about the Eldred Rock Lighthouse on the way to Juneau.



Fresnel Lens from Eldred Rock Lighthouse lit in 1906.


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Time to take the ferry back to Skagway.


North, back to Skagway.



I guess these giant cruise ships could be considered day markers for airplanes since they are taller than some lighthouses and can be seen for miles, but they move around almost daily.  This Coral Princess was in Skagway a couple of times while we were in town.

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[ Table of Contents | Top of this Report | Next, Historic Skagway Inn and No. 195 locomotive ]

In later days in the week, with no more nights available at Abby Jo's, we moved to the Historic Skagway Inn for two nights.


Historic Skagway Inn at 655 Broadway is the only business on Broadway with large trees on the property, so it is easy to find.  However, it was kind of hard to find the entrance because the lower level is a couple of restaurants, but we found the entrance around to the right side.


We found it easier to be dropped off and picked up on 7th St. and walk through the garden.


The Skagway Inn's trees were loaded with apples.


The Skagway Inn is a former brothel and is decorated in late 1800s decor.  Rooms were named after various ladies of the night.  Our room had the bathroom/showers down the hall.


The adjacent room had a bathroom/shower.


I cannot fault the
Historic Skagway Inn's 6:30 a.m. breakfast, even served earlier if your day's activities require.


While walking around town one day, we found this No. 195 behind the Skagway Museum on 7th St.  A trustee from the railroad museum in Boulder, Colorado was visiting at the same time and said No. 195 was owned by the city of Skagway.


Next to No. 195 was an invisible train.



The mainline from the shops to the depot ran past No. 195 so we could get some comparative shots of old and restored equipment in the same image.


There was a staircase to the cab, so we took advantage for some portraits.






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A highlight for me was the nice waterfalls behind the cemetery.  With a long exposure and a tripod provided by Rainbow Glacier Adventures, the moving water looks like clouds.



I thought the trolleys at the cemetery looked good as a monochrome with the neutral background.



Across the river west of Skagway we found new adventures.



Blackbirds or ravens

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Bald eagles can be seen from every location in the panhandle of Alaska.

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[ Table of Contents | Top of this Report | Next, Juneau to Skagway via Alaskan Seaplane.]

Arriving in Skagway via Alaskan Seaplane from Juneau.

Following Paul Cunningham's advice in going to Skagway from Southern California, we flew Alaskan Airlines from Santa Ana, California, to Juneau with a bit of a layover in Seattle.  Once at the Juneau airport, we took our carry-on-only luggage within the same terminal to the Alaskan Seaplanes desk.


At Juneau airport, an Alaskan Seaplane ready to load with freight, luggage, and passengers.


Alaskan Seaplane with compartments buttoned up, ready to go.


The co-pilot's seat, when available, was Paul's suggestion for the best photos.

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That red patch of vegetation is fireweed.


We headed south, then circled 180 degrees to head north to Skagway, allowing us to see the Juneau Airport we had just left.  The airport is some 10 miles north of downtown Juneau, but very close to Mendenhall Glacier.


Float planes land in Juneau as well, on the water landing strip adjacent to the paved strip.  They have small wheels under the floats, so they come up out of the water, onto the pavement, and on to the terminal.



Mendenhall glacier, with its unique waterfalls on the right, was immediately viewable from the right.



It seems a glacier is always in sight in Alaska.


Glacier-green silt is often seen in the waters until it settles and becomes clear water.


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Since I had never seen anything like this terrain before, I kept shooting first-ever-sights.






From glacier to the sea


Cruise ship coming south from Skagway down the Lynn Canal (Not a canal, but maybe a channel.)


First sight of Skagway with cruise ships leaving and docked.  Skagway is 4 blocks wide and 22 blocks long.


We came in west over the town, made a 180 degree turn and landed on that strip.


The WP&YR rail yard and shops.


Banking right, I could see Skagway perfectly, and the landing strap.


The young pilot that got us safely to Skagway from Juneau on Alaska Seaplane.


Welcome sign outside the small Skagway airport.

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[ Table of Contents | Top of this Report | Next, Fjord Express to Juneau and Mendenhall Glacier.

Leaving Skagway via Fjord Express to Juneau and Mendenhall Glacier.





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These fellows were carrying guitars and looked a bit different than other locals, or cruise passengers.  Later I asked if they had a gig in Juneau and they said, "Yes, Alaskan Hotel, 4 to 7."  Poster above was in the hotel bar's window.


Our last look at Skagway with its daily cruise visitors.

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We weren't more than 5 minutes underway that the captain was pointing out waterfalls on the left of the fjord, and Matt spotted another eagle.


Our first and only stop was Haines to pick up a full compliment of passengers.

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As advertised, we were provided a muffin, fruit, and coffee.

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Ready to harvest salmon.

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I was surprised to see the first mate (left) land our craft at Haines and the captain tied up.

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Two very common sights in Skagway - Glaciers and Bald Eagles.


Each day seems to present a different, beautiful vista.

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The captain passed this around as an example of how much glacial silt is in a 5-gallon bucket of water from a glacial river.


A highlight for me was passing Eldred Rock Lighthouse.


As we passed, the background kept changing, kept getting better photographically speaking.



The Alaskan ferries had been on strike the week we had been in Skagway, but the strike ended this day



The captain gave a meaningful presentation of sights along the way.


Coming into our dock north of Juneau, the first mate pointed out a boat that was being restored by an Innkeeper whose inn was at the small harbor.

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The first mate tied up the boat and we boarded a bus for the ride to the airport.

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The whale graphics were impressive on the bus.  Boat captain and bus driver.


Since we arrived back in Juneau about noon, and our flight home to Orange County, California, was not until 5:30 the next morning, we checked into our Super 8 by Wyndham Juneau hotel, which had our room ready that early, stored our luggage and headed for Mendenhall Glacier using Uber.


This was as close as we got to a bear on our Alaska trip.  The lobby of the Super 8 near the Juneau Airport.


Our Uber driver let us off at the "You are here" spot.  I walked out to the point following the bright red walk, Matt tool the black trail out to the falls.


View of Mendenhall Glacier from the visitor's center.  When I was here in the 70s, the glacier reached to the island you see this side of the lake.


My closest point was where the people are on the bottom left.




Can you see Matt at the base of the falls?




When the Uber driver dropped us off, she mentioned that there was no cell service except for about 2 miles outside the park.  So, we walked as far as you can see in this photo, then that much again and called Uber.


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We had the Uber driver (which happened to be the bus driver from earlier in the day) drive us downtown so we could eat at Tracy's King Crab Shack.

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We found the Alaskan Hotel, and sure enough the "Andy Koch's Badd Dog Blues Society" members we had seen on the ferry were playing.

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Juneau, Alaska, state capital yet no roads lead in nor out, everything and everybody has to come in by ship or plane.

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Winging our way home after a terrific trip to Skagway, Alaska, July 29 - August 5, 2019.

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[ Table of Contents | Top of this Report |  Next, important Links ]


Excellent history and photos of the Klondike Gold Rush and the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad: 

White Pass & Yukon Route Railway | Scenic Railway of the World

WP&YR does a great job of listing their rolling stock for the railfans:

Rainbow Glacier Adventures - Haines and Skagway, Alaska Tours -

Paul Cunningham Travel and Fine Art Photography (Our photo guide in Skagway and Haines) - 

Glen Brewer's 2012 report:

Expert help with railroad terminology from railfriends,  Gary Hess and Henry Kisor,

Timeline of gold rushes in Alaska:

"North to Alaska" (click to hear) was released by Johnny Horton in August, 1960, 3 months after I graduated from high school.

More than 100 rail travelogues and conference reports by Carl Morrison -

Super 8 by Wyndham Juneau - $194.88 1 room, 2 beds, 1 night. 4 blocks from Juneau Airport.

Skagway Historic Inn, "Ida" 2 twins, shared bathroom, $149/night.

Alaska Fjordlines, Skagway to Juneau one-way, $135 +6% tax.

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[ Table of Contents | Top of this | Comments welcomed: ]