Railroading through History in Skagway

Today, my adventures in Skagway took me up the White Pass & Yukon Route railroad aboard a vintage steam train. It's one of six excursions Silversea offers that include this historic transportation network. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Today, my adventures in Skagway took me up the White Pass & Yukon Route railroad aboard a vintage steam train. It’s one of several excursions Silversea offers that include this historic transportation network. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Silversea’s Silver Shadow came alongside in Skagway, Alaska early this morning, tying up at the Ore Dock on the western edge of town. After another delicious room service breakfast delivered by my butler, Muhammad, I set out to explore Skagway before embarking on my Silversea shore excursion this afternoon: a chance to ride the rails up from Skagway to Fraser, British Columbia.

The elegant Silver Shadow at Skagway's Ore Dock on June 23, 2014. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

The elegant Silver Shadow at Skagway’s Ore Dock on June 23, 2014. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Before my tour, I took the opportunity to explore the historic Gold Rush town of Skagway. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Before my tour, I took the opportunity to explore the historic Gold Rush town of Skagway. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Silversea offers six different excursions here in Skagway that include the historic White Pass & Yukon Route Railway (WP&YR). These range from the standard White Pass Scenic Railway (SGY-Y) excursion to the massive White Pass Railway & Alaska Sled Dogs and Musher’s Camp option that spans seven hours in duration.

However, the one that truly interested me – and the one I ended up taking – was the four hour, All Aboard Steam Train – White Pass & Yukon Route (SGY-I).

All Aboard! Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

All Aboard! Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Priced at $199 per person, this tour offers several notable advantages over the standard, 3.5-hour run that comes in at $135. Where the other excursions are pulled by diesel-electric locomotives, the All Aboard Steam Train excursion is pulled by a Baldwin 2-8-2 Mikado constructed in 1947 and delivered to WP&YR that year. The numbers 2-8-2 designate the number of wheels the engine has; in this case, two in front, eight main drive wheels, and two trailing wheels. Designated as No. 73, she was the last steam locomotive purchased by the WP&YR before diesel locomotives were introduced in the 1950’s.

It’s also noteworthy for the fact that it goes completely past the White Pass Summit to Fraser, British Columbia, letting guests see more of the rugged terrain that would-be prospectors were greeted with on their long journey to the Klondike.

Inside of car No. 248, awaiting departure. Two cars were set aside exclusively for Silversea guests. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Inside of car No. 248, awaiting departure. Two cars were set aside exclusively for Silversea guests. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

The train backed up onto the siding right next to Silver Shadow at her berth at the Ore Dock on the western side of the town. The two last cars – in my opinion, the best cars – were reserved exclusively for guests on the Silver Shadow, while the foremost cars seemed to be utilised by guests from other cruise lines, who had to be bussed over to our dock.

I took the last seat on the last car, numbered 248. It was originally built in the late 1890’s, but as you can imagine, it has been substantially refurbished over time. Once everyone was onboard, the train gave a great lurch and began its journey up to the White Pass summit and Fraser.

On our way up the historic White Pass & Yukon Route, which would take us from sea level to the summit, some 2,865 feet higher. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

On our way up the historic White Pass & Yukon Route, which would take us from sea level to the summit, some 2,865 feet higher. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Seeing actual smoke emanating from the smokestack of the 1947 Baldwin locomotive was actually rather romantic. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Seeing actual smoke emanating from the smokestack of the 1947 Baldwin locomotive was actually rather romantic. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

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Our Live Voyage Report onboard Silversea’s luxurious Silver Shadow continues tomorrow with our arrival in Sitka, Alaska! Be sure to follow along on twitter by following @deckchairblog or the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport.

 

6 Responses to Silver Shadow Live Voyage Report – Day 5

  1. […] post Silver Shadow Live Voyage Report – Day 5 appeared first on From The Deck […]

  2. Kalle Id says:

    What an utterly fantastic excursion you have been on, and what a joy to read about it! I’m normally not that keen on the excursions offered by cruise lines, much preferring to explore by myself… but I’d whip out 199 bucks in a heartbeat if it got me a ride on a preserved narrow-gauge steam train through the Alaskan wilderness.

    Speaking of preserved old goodies, the shipspotter in me has to ask: have you crossed paths with any of the delicious 1960s-built Alaska Marine Highway ferries that ply the waters of the region alongside the cruise ships?

    • Aaron Saunders says:

      I’m the same way, Kalle – I am quite happy just wandering around on my own. But this was really worth the price of admission. I don’t know if I’d do the standard run pulled by the diesels again, but I WOULD do the steam train again in a heartbeat!

      As for the Alaska Ferries – surprisingly, I haven’t seen a single one yet. But I have my eyes peeled…!

      • Kalle Id says:

        There is something very appealing about steam locomotives, isn’t there? Thinking about it logically, since you don’t really even see that locomotive from the train it shouldn’t really matter whether it’s a steam, diesel or an electric loco hauling the train… but there’s just something special about a steam locomotive.

        It could certainly be that the ferry timetables for the summer are arranged so that they don’t “disturb” the cruise ships (or vice versa). Still, the older ones are superbly attractive things, at least externally.

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