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The White Pass and Yukon Railroad—by Chip Waterbury
The great Klondike Gold Rush of 1897 near Dawson City provided the catalyst for the construction of the White Pass and Yukon Railroad. The line is still considered an engineering marvel more than a hundred years after it was built.
Narrow gauge was the preferred construction since it called for blasting a smaller section of the solid rock of the Coast Range mountains. Narrow gauge could also make tighter turns—necessary when negociating the grades and valleys up to the summit at White Pass.
Once the summit is reached the rails continue along the lake network which makes up the source of the mighty Yukon River which rises about 25 miles from the Pacific Ocean at Skagway yet flows 1900 miles northwest across Yukon and Alaska to the Bering Sea.
Originally the line terminated at Whitehorse—where passengers and freight could link up with the river transportation on the Yukon. Now the terminus is at Carcross, Yukon at the end of Lake Bennett.
Today the White Pass offers several great rail excursions, some still pulled by steam engines.
The most popular by far is the Summit Excursion leaving several times a day from Skagway and taking 3 hours round trip.
For those with more time there are longer excursions into the Yukon Territory, Lake Bennett and Carcross. (Passport required.)
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