Jonathan Lee

Worldly Images

White Pass & Yukon Route (WP&YR) May 2011

The White Pass & Yukon Route has to be one of the most scenic railway lines in the world. Opened in 1898 during the Klondike gold rush, the railway survived “normal” service until 1982, when its operations closed completely. In 1988 though the railway was revived as a tourist operation. Operations only ran from Skagway, AK to White Pass Summit, an operation that was later extended to Bennett, BC, Canada and then on to Carcross, YK, Canada, as recently as 2007. The remaining section of line from Carcross to Whitehorse remains closed but most of the line is still in place.

This was my third and most probably final trip to the WP&YR. On my first & second trips the railway was an Alco haven with nothing but Alco derivatives from Alco, MLW & GE. Unfortunately, from a cranking perspective, the railway has had to modernise its fleet, which has resulted in the GE fleet being completely overhauled and their Alco power units being replaced with Cummins ones instead. A very, very sad time indeed for the Alco follower. Not all the GE’s had been done when we visited though and the WP&YR fleet looked like this during our trip:

GE 90 Class (GEX3341)

90 – CERES140

91 – CERES140

92 – Alco

93 – Alco (stored out of service, next to go for overhaul)

94 – Undergoing overhaul (not on site)

95 – Alco

96 – Alco

97 – CERES140 (worked its first train since overhaul the day we arrived)

98 – CERES140

99 – CERES140

100 – Alco

Alco/MLW 101 Class (DL535E)

All were in service during our visit

Bombardier (DL535E(W))

114 – allocated to works train duties during our visit

We arrived at the WP&YR at their Whitehorse base, where although they don’t run any trains they do retain a depot there and connect into trains at Carcross & Fraser by bus. We’d stayed in the Westmark Whitehorse (beware as there are two Westmark Hotels in Whitehorse), which is ideally situated in the middle of town and in easy walking distance to the WP&YR depot.

Our bus journey connected at Fraser, British Columbia, as the Carcross service wasn’t running southbound on that particular day. Once into Skagway, Alaska, we met up with some WP&YR staff for a quick briefing on proceedings, had to sign a declaration, confirming we’d abide by certain rules and carry certain equipment with us during our stay on the railway. We were also introduced to our guide for the day (which wouldn’t be the same person every day) who would make all the arrangements we needed for our photographing purposes throughout the stay. Then we were off back up the hill to White Pass Summit again before heading to the Westmark Skagway, which was only 2 minutes walk from the depot……

The next 6 days were nothing short of fantastic. The weather was brilliant, the most sunshine the place had seen in years apparently. We spent some days trudging over 10ft snow deposits, 3000ft above sea level, in glorious sunshine with just t-shirts and others freezing on the front veranda of a train climbing through thick fog. We saw bears, bald eagles, porcupines, mountain goats and a whole host of other wildlife throughout the week, making it even more interesting.

By the end of the week we’d covered the whole of the WP&YR network, including Carcross (which hadn’t been open on my first trip and closed due to a washout on my second). I’d also got my last GE #95, which was thankfully still correctly powered, and my last two 101’s were put together in a triple set for us. The best thrash of the trip by far was with the 101 triple sets going up the hill to White Pass Summit, music to the ears. So all in all an excellent trip, it was a shame i probably wouldn’t return.

Loco Workings were as follows:

26th May 2012

Fraser – 95, 101, 100

1st Summit – 91, 99, 97 (97’s first run since overhaul – considered a test run)

2nd Summit – 90, 98

Carcross – 92

27th May 2012

Fraser – 95, 101, 100 (101 replaced by 110 for the second trip)

1st Summit – 99, 91

2nd Summit – 90, 98

Carcross – 96

28th May 2012

Fraser – 95, 110, 100

1st Summit – 97, 91

3rd Summit – 90, 98

29th May 2012

1st Summit – 90, 98

Carcross – 96

30th May 2012

Fraser – 95, 110, 100

1st Summit – 97, 91

2nd Summit – 90, 98

Carcross – 92

31st May 2012

Fraser – 95, 110, 100

1st Summit – 97, 91 (plus pm Summit)

2nd Summit – 90, 98

3rd Summit – 103, 107, 109

4th Summit – 101, 104, 106

Carcross – 96

Yard Power – 108

1st June 2012

Fraser – 95, 110, 100

1st Summit – 97, 91

2nd Summit – 90, 98 (plus pm Summit)

3rd Summit – 103, 107, 109

4th Summit – 101, 104, 108

Carcross – 96

Yard Power – 99


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