News & Reviews News Wire White Pass to buy new locomotives, retire most shovel nose and Alco diesels NEWSWIRE

White Pass to buy new locomotives, retire most shovel nose and Alco diesels NEWSWIRE

By Wayne Laepple | August 14, 2019

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White Pass & Yukon diesels like this shovel nose GE and Alco will be replaced with new units on a two for one basis.
Jeff Mast
SKAGWAY, Alaska — Officials at the three-foot gauge White Pass & Yukon Railway have hired National Railway Equipment, Mt. Vernon, Ill., to build two new diesel locomotives to be delivered in time for the 2020 operating season.

John Gray, president of Rail Management Services, which operates the WP&Y, says the the railroad will buy two units at a cost of $2.5 million each and lease of four additional units. They are similar to NRE 1100-class end-cab units built recently for use in Australia.

Gray says they are 3,300 h.p. units with EMD 710-series engines and six-axle trucks using GE 764 D.C. traction motors. The D.C. motors are necessary because modern A.C. motors will not fit inside the truck frames, Gray notes.

The expectation is the new units will replace existing GE and Alco units on a one for two basis. “They will be equipped with extended range dynamic brakes, electronic air brakes and engine silencers,” Gray says. Excursion trains will be operated with one NRE unit per train, instead of the two or three units required today.

Gray said at least a dozen of the current fleet of 19 units will be retired. Eventually, two iconic GE “shovel nose” units and two Alcos will be retained for heritage, work train, and switching, along with the railway’s two historic steam locomotives. Two of the GEs were recently rebuilt, including complete rewiring, truck rebuild and an NRE-supplied operating system at a cost of $1.5 million each, Gray says. Even as rebuilt, the 1,500 h.p. units have just half the capacity of the modern units.

At peak times, the railway operates 12 trains daily over its 67.5-mile line, which features grades approaching 4%, tunnels, and high bridges, climbing more than 3,000 feet from sea level through the mountains to the new Summit Loop, Fraser, and Carcross in Yukon Territory, Canada.

15 thoughts on “White Pass to buy new locomotives, retire most shovel nose and Alco diesels NEWSWIRE

  1. Expansion to Whitehorse seems unlikely. A round trip would take too long a cruise ship day trip. It would likely only happen if the cruise firms could develop trips beyond Whitehorse. I don,t think it would be all that scenic, especially after Lake Bennet.
    Every rail fan should go, it’s wonderful.

  2. While diesel locomotives offer greater efficiency and economy of operations, 4-4-0 steam locomotives simular to Eureka & Palisade’s Eureka would be perfect matches for the 19th century passenger cars of the White Pass & Yukon Railway.

  3. Mike
    The Rio Grande lines are 3 foot and 0 inches in gauge. Info from my collection of books on the lines and my
    years of modeling the lines and riding the lines.

  4. So Carnival now owns the WP&Y, huh? It must be doing very well, even with its limited tourist season, to justify upgrading on this scale. When we visited there about six years ago, Skagway harbor was packed with cruise ships. Ours, a Princess ship, was docked where we were able to step off the ship and walk right across to the train. During our excursion, the train crew announced that there were five(!) trains out on the pass, either coming or going. Ours made the loop track turnaround over in Canada (BC to be precise.) With all this money being spent, those of us who might have feared the WP&Y would shut down again can rest easy, at least for a good long while.

  5. The former Rio Grande narrow gauge lines (Durango and Silverton and Cumbres and Toltec) are 3’6″, not 3′ gauge.

  6. I was fortunate to visit Skagway on a cruise in June 2018 and ride the WP&Y from the current end of track (in service) at Carcross back to Skagway behind two Alco/MLW’s. At that time the railroad was already stockpiling rail to improve the physical plant between Skagway and White Pass summit, even before Carnival purchased the railroad. It was only a matter of time before Carnival invested more money and modernized the locomotive fleet. I think they will eventually open the line to Whitehorse and probably keep more than four heritage locomotives. The Alco’s are used on work trains and the GE’s were rebuilt within the last ten years.

  7. Is the Durango and Silverton the same gauge? If so, they could use a couple of Alcos and shovelnoses for their trains, so they don’t start forest fires.

  8. 21st century engines paired with 19th century looking passenger cars. I’m guessing the cruise ship passengers won’t notice. Glad I rode it when they at least had 20th century locos.

  9. Looks like that Carnival Cruise Line money is flowing quite well up north. After the new engines arrive, we will start to see some work on the line farther inland from Carcross? Whitehorse? Who knows?

    Does the WP&Y make money, absolutely.

    Excerpt from the Yukon-News:

    “In 2017, TWC financial statements show that White Pass generated $56 million in revenue and $30 million in net operating income. That’s a remarkable net operating margin of 55 per cent.”…”Even after $4 million of capital updates and $5 million of expansion investment in White Pass, that left a sizeable cash flow going from Skagway”

    “About 845,000 passengers visited Skagway in 2017 and more than half chose the train as one of their outings. And 12,504 tourists, or about 1.5 per cent of total passengers, rode the railroad’s “Bennett-Carcross product.”

    “If you’ve ever wondered about White Pass’s gift store in Skagway, the company’s “gift shop and other” category garnered US$2.4 million in revenue last year, up about five per cent.”

    Pairing Carnival’s knack for cruise excursion programming and a railroad that can take you into the Yukon and further seems like a large opportunity. I can see the new hotels and lodges being build in Whitehorse now.

    Summer travel season in Canada never looked so good.

  10. I hope these new narrow gauge locomotives don’t have an ugly look to them, like the Siemens Chargers.

  11. Hopefully they’ll come up with some sort of “retro” look for them. Be sad to see some ultra modern looking mini vans.

  12. i hope some of the ge shovel nose’s and alco diesel locomotives will find new homes on different tourist railroads in north america and i wonder what will the new locomotives will look like when they appear on the white pass and yukon

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