Home > Traveling > Alaska: Skagway

Alaska: Skagway


In 1896 gold was discovered in the Canadian Yukon, causing a major prospector rush. One of the more popular ways to get there was to take a boat from Seattle to Skagway, then hike the 550 miles to the gold fields. The first 40 miles were treacherous, going over White Pass, followed by a long and dangerous hike. So many prospectors didn’t make it that the North West Mounted Police manned a border crossing and demanded every prospector carry one ton (!) of supplies. This required many prospectors to hike the Pass 30 or 40 times carrying goods just to be allowed into Canada!

The city of Skagway was a booming place with bars, parlors, businesses, con men (such as “Soapy” Smith), and loose women. Some very fantastic schemes were sold to unsuspecting prospectors (like the guy who sold “specially trained gophers that would gather gold for you”)! Eventually a narrow gauge railroad was built, requiring some 450 tons of dynamite just to make the roadway. But by the time it was finished the gold rush had dwindled to almost nothing. Skagway declined and was pretty well dormant for decades.

During World War II the US leased the railroad in its effort to protect against Japanese attacks. As a result, many improvements were made. Narrow gauge locomotives and rolling stock arrived from around the country. After WWII, the railroad again was dormant, parts going into receivership.

Then tourists arrived, coming in huge cruise ships. The town has been rebuilt and still has many original buildings. The White Pass and Yukon Railway also was purchased and rebuilt into a major tourist destination.

Early morning arrival in Skagway

Early morning arrival in Skagway

Red Onion Saloon

Red Onion Saloon

Golden North Hotel

Golden North Hotel

Skagway Rail Station

Skagway Rail Station

Now a museum

Now a museum

The WP&YR Depot

The WP&YR Depot

One of the early steam locomotives

One of the early steam locomotives

Getting ready to board the train

Getting ready to board the train

A look down from the train

A look down from the train

Engine, crossing a trestle bridge

Engine, crossing a trestle bridge

A ghostly view of the Cantilever Steel bridge (no longer used)

A ghostly view of the Cantilever Steel bridge (no longer used)

The NWMP station at the top of the pass

The NWMP station at the top of the pass

  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: