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White Pass rebuilds equipment, plans expansion NEWSWIRE

By David Lustig | December 17, 2018

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WPYR99
WPYR99
Previously rebuilt GE shovelnose diesels show off their fresh paint. Nos. 90, 93, and 98 will see rebuilds in 2019.
David Lustig
SKAGWAY, Alaska – As part of White Pass & Yukon Route Railway’s general expansion of tourist operations for the upcoming 2019 season, the railroad dispatched 10 coaches and three locomotives from its Skagway headquarters to Washington in November for retrofitting and upgrading. The equipment was barged from Skagway to Bellingham, Wash., and then trucked to Hamilton Construction in Sedro-Woolley, Wash.

According to White Pass Superintendent of Rail Operations Mark Taylor, the three-foot gauge rolling stock includes cars Nos. 300, 302, 312, 324, 326, 332, 340, 352, 356, and 380. All will receive new steel siding to replace the wood, conduct structural repairs, complete interior updating, and then paint and clear coat.

The locomotives, Nos. 90, 93, and 98, are part of a small fleet of General Electric-built shovel-nose diesel fleet dating back to 1954. The majority of the GE units on the roster had been previously rebuilt and re-engined with Cummins prime movers by contractors CEECO in Tacoma and Sygnet Rail in Tenino, Wash.

Nos. 90 and 98 will receive new high- and low-voltage wiring; installation of NRE N-Force microprocessor control systems; new electronic brake control; all new air plumbing; new control stand; complete truck rebuilding; Cummins engine upgrades; new battery charging system; and dynamic brake grid and blower improvements. Unit 93 will receive all new air brake plumbing.

All equipment is scheduled to return to Skagway ready for service by the end of April 2019.

As of Aug. 1, 2018, owner TWC Enterprises sold the railroad and its Skagway port operations to a consortium that includes Alaska-based Survey Point Holdings, and the cruise company Carnival Corp.

“We feel that maintaining the right of way between Carcross and Whitehorse is possibly a future opportunity for future tourist traffic for the White Pass & Yukon Route,” the railroad says in a statement to Trains News Wire. “Our tentative initial plans are to clear the brush and the communication wires over a several year period. The necessary costs of replacing bridges, culverts, roadbed and track are considerable. However, while we have no immediate plans to provide passenger service between Carcross and Whitehorse, we want to preserve that opportunity in the event traffic warrants restoring this service.”

–This story was updated Tuesday to reflect additional comments from the railroad

WPYRSkagway
White Pass & Yukon near Skagway in 2009.
David Lustig

11 thoughts on “White Pass rebuilds equipment, plans expansion NEWSWIRE

  1. If you want to ‘ride’ the line there is a YouTube video (as for many other rail lines) which is spectacular. We rode between Carcross and Skagway; the line along Lake Bennet is really beautiful. When I rode it the first time in 1992 (?) the train only went to Fraser; there was a speeder car with trailer that went down to Lake Bennet to pick up backpackers from Chilcoot Pass. On the other hand I was the only passenger at about 7:30 so I got to ride in the caboose, free coffee too !
    So many of the passengers are cruise ship tourists that I don’t see how the Whitehorse extension would work for them. It would be a very long day for them (train and then bus), probably three more hours; most now get off at Fraser. The rail line is separated a little from the highway but I don’t think the extra mileage would be very scenic. And I don’t think there is a lot of tour bus business beyond Whitehorse; Dawson Creek is a day away and there aren’t any real towns west of Whitehorse until you get to Fairbanks, Valdez or Anchorage, 2 days at least, Denali Park too.

  2. Whitehorse extension would be great. Might open freight opportunities as well. A few years back, an extension north of Whitehorse was proposed to serve mining interests.

  3. On the cruise line websites, there are a number of extended land tours that leave the ship at Skagway and go well into the interior and even into Alaska. As I recall you could go all the way to Fairbanks and then take the ARR train to Anchorage or Seward.

  4. Fantastic news! The line is in rough shape from Carcross to Macrae as it is full of weeds and some of the rural road crossings are covered with mud. But from Macrae into downtown Whitehorse, it will need a great deal of work. Much of the line is covered up in dirt or in downtown, was pulled up in places when it was redeveloped. Fortunately the station in Whitehorse is still there, but the freight yard is long gone.

    When I was in Skagway a few years ago I stopped in and asked them what it would take to get back to Whitehorse, the response was “lots and lots of money”. After a chuckle, I asked what else? And they said “if someone discovers diamonds in the Yukon”.

    Seems they found their “diamonds” in Carnival Cruise Lines.

    Hope they can get that rail fixed at Summit. Now I want to go back and go to Whitehorse!

  5. They have been trying since 2012 to restart service to Whitehorse to get magnetite ore from an old copper mine down to the port at Skagway. Environmentalists have been blocking the use of trucks on the Yukon Highway due to the sheer number needed to haul the ore.

    According to the Yukon News, the estimate to bring the route back up to operation would be $50 million from Carcross to Whitehorse. Another $10 million from Carcross to Skagway.

    The dock at Skagway would need to be redone, to allow ore freighters to dock at the same time the new “super” cruise ships make a port of call. According the the plans, all ore would be transported at night.

    Seems like a big win for Skagway and Whitehorse.

  6. I suspect the new management is looking to simplify and improve its bus/tour operations as much as to restore freight service if the northern part of the line is reopened. Carnival Corp operates the very extensive Holland America Alaska (Grayline) Tours (formerly Westours) and the affiliated Princess Cruises Tours coach tours as well. At present ships serving Skagway feed the overwhelming majority of the WP&Y’s riders to the trains, but most either go just on a round-trip to the summit or on a one-way trip a few miles further to a siding called Fraser, where they can swap off with HAL buses to return via the highway to the ship. This effectively lets the Fraser trains double their capacity, as those who go by train one way return by bus or visa-versa.

    Only a few trains go on north of Fraser to Bennett and Carcross. Most Carcross riders change there to HAL Alaska tour buses to go onward to Whitehorse, Dawson and Alaska. This market is limited by the lack of WP&Y train coaches and the heavy demand on the Skagway-based buses.

    But if more trains could be used on the thru service the very complex bus base at Skagway could be better organized to handle the shore tours, while the primary tour bus base would shift to Whitehorse. This is how it was before the WP&Y lost its freight business and cut-back to only the southern district–initially just to the White Pass Summit, later to Fraser and finally Carcross. A single Skagway to Whitehorse train could carry the riders from a dozen buses, with far less crew. The previous WP&Y management built new train coaches. Carnival could do the same.

    The complexity of WP&Y/HAL Tours bus rail service is worthy of comparison to the integration of Swiss Rail with the Postal Bus network. In addition to tour riders the WP&Y picks up Chilkoot Pass hikers at Bennett and a few passengers even ride locally between Skagway and Carcross. A train to Whitehorse might also meet some local ridership needs and might feed other companies buses as well. But 95%+ of WP&Y ridership is cruise and tour driven and being able to more efficiently serve the very popular interior Alaska/Yukon coach tour market I’m sure is a major factor for Carnival Corp. We can all hope the rebuilding succeeds.

  7. I had the opportunity to ride from Skagway to Fraser in 2002. Our tour transferred to a bus at Fraser to continue to Whitehorse. I recall the scenery from Skagway to Fraser being much more spectacular that that between Fraser and Whitehorse, assuming that the scenery along the highway is similar to that along the railroad. I suspect that the majority will continue to ride to the top of the pass and back as they do now.

    This is the first I had heard about the plans to move ore out of Skagway by rail. This makes sense as I don’t think passenger traffic alone would pay for reopening the line. However, if ore traffic pays most of the infrastructure cost. those of us who would like to ride the entire line may have that opportunity.

  8. Mister Scheider:

    It has to pay for itself. While I have solid reasons for wanting White Pass to return to Whitehorse (and beyond) it can and should be done only if there is a return on investment. On the other hand, the Canadian economy is largely an extractive economy (and not a manufacturing economy, although this is changing) so there might be interest, especially if mineral deposits are located in or beyond Whitehorse.

    It is a gas and a half when some grizzled coot straight out of a Jack London story flags down the train, greets the conductor by name, climbs aboard, and settles in for the ride down to Skagway. The tourists’ eyes bug out like those of a tromped on toad.

    The above comments are general in nature and do not form the basis for an attorney/client relationship. They do not constitute legal advice. I am not your attorney. Find your own damn lawyer.

  9. Good news to hear about potential restoration of service. I rode the WP&Y in 2014 and had a great time even though the ride ended just past the border.

    The upper picture caught my eye with he standard gauge length ties underneath the narrow gauge track.

  10. Erik:

    SVENSKA!!!

    The above comments are general in nature and do not form the basis for an attorney/client relationship. They do not constitute legal advice. I am not your attorney. Find your own damn lawyer.

  11. From the Yukon News in 2012:

    Chuck Eaton has pushed the issue to a head with his hopes of bringing the White Pass and Yukon Route freight cars back to Whitehorse, or at least Carcross.

    Eaton is the president of Eagle Industrial Minerals, which plans to run a magnet through the old Whitehorse Copper tailings for magnetite ore. Eaton wants to send the iron-rich ore to Skagway’s port and on to Asian markets.

    Preferably, part of this journey would be done by rail.

    The Californian investment banker has approached the Yukon government and White Pass to see how plausible the idea is. Both are warm to the idea.

    “It seems very interesting,” said Harvey Brooks, deputy minister of Economic Development. “But we have to do more homework.”

    The department has already done one study that shows Eaton’s rail plans could be a win for all involved.

    Eugene Hretzay, president of the White Pass, agrees that’s the case.

    “It’s a win for the shippers, I think it’s a win for the government, I think it’s a win for the environmentalists, I think it’s a win for the tourism industry,” said Hretzay. He’s already pitched the plan to the U.S. government.

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