Nothing like an amazing 2-hour ride along miles and miles of rugged mountain terrain and through years and years of history to encourage respect for the renowned “Irish Prince of Alaska.”
As they say, ‘the rest was history.’
It was along these rails a little more than 100 years ago that “Big Mike” and thirty-five thousand men worked their way up the glacier valley to the summit of White Mountain (elevation 2,865 feet) with 450 tons of explosives and equal parts determination and danger. Twenty-six months later all 110 miles of rails between Skagway, Alaska and Whitehorse, Yukon Territory had been laid.
By all accounts, WP&YR is Alaska’s grand dame of railroads. Except for a six year period from 1982 to 1988, the WP&YR has been fully operational in one capacity or another.
Business being what it is, White Pass matured into a fully-integrated transportation company with the narrow gauge railroad just a small piece of an empire that included stage coaches, sleighs, buses, paddle wheelers, trucks, ships, airplanes, hotels and pipelines. For a six year period, the entire conglomerate suspended operations when metal prices plummeted in 1982 and the mines closed.
When WP&YR reopened in 1988, the narrow gauge workhorse-of-a-railroad morphed exclusively into excursion mode and began catering to the throngs of tourists arriving each week throughout the summer via cruise ships.
We became a piece of history while riding the rails of ‘Big Mike’s’ narrow gauge WP&YR two months ago. It goes without saying our journey was one hell of an historic ride.
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