Of all the world’s rail journeys those of the Rocky Mountaineer which operate mainly between Vancouver and Calgary are among the worlds’ most famous. Canada also has a number of other interesting railways too, one of which is the services operated by the White Pass and Yukon Route Railway, a narrow gauge service in Canada’s north.
The railway was built in 1898 during the Klondike gold rush. A brilliant engineering feat, the White Pass and Yukon Route Railway climbs almost 3000 feet (915 metres) in just 20 miles 32 kilometres) and features steep grades of up to 3.9%, cliff-hanging turns of 16 degrees, two tunnels and numerous bridges and trestles. In fact, the steel cantilever bridge was the tallest of its kind in the world when it was constructed in 1901.
These the railway runs passenger services, most of which service the busy cruise port of Skagway with routes that are designed to fit in with cruise line itineraries. One of these tours is the White Pass Summit Excursion which is a 3 to 3.5 hour, forty mile round trip. The train climbs from tidewater at Skagway to the summit of the White Pass – a 2,865 foot elevation. Along the way you pass Bridal Veil Falls, Inspiration Point and Dead Horse Gulch. Enjoy a breathtaking panorama of mountains, glaciers, gorges, waterfalls, tunnels, trestles and historic sites. The fully narrated tour passes through two tunnels, over sky-high trestles and cascading waterfalls.
A longer trip is the Bennett Scenic Journey which traverses a route of 67.5 miles by train between Skagway and Carcross in the Yukon Territory. Travel one way by train and return by coach to Skagway, or vice versa, along the Klondike Highway, this journey includes photo stops at Emerald Lake and a lunch stop at restored 1910 Bennett Station House. There are normally only two ways to access Bennett, British Columbia, via the White Pass train or by hiking the Chilkoot Trail.
Most of the trains are nowadays hauled by diesel locomotives, but the railway does also run some steam-hauled trips as well. Using either Engine No. 73 or No. 69, the sight and sound of the loco slowly working its way up the steep gradients illustrates just how spectacular the line really is, and provides a timely reminder as to why steam locos are so humanlike when they are tasked to work very hard.