Skagway Choo-Choo; Alaska shore excursion

One of the more interesting shore excursions on an Alaska cruise is at the port of Skagway, where Gold Rush history is alive and well. I decided to let the photos do the talking on this one.

Probably the most popular activity in Skagway is a ride on the White Pass & Yukon Railway, and with good reason. This railroad, circa 1898, climbs from sea level to an elevation of almost 3,000 feet within 20 miles, taking on some serious uphill (and later, downhill!) grades of up-to 3.8%.

 

The White Pass & Yukon Railway seems to cling to the mountainside. Photo: © Randall Shirley

The White Pass & Yukon Railway seems to cling to the mountainside. Photo: © Randall Shirley

The train cars are comfortable, and along the way narrators on the train give in-depth history about the rush of would-be gold mining millionaires into the Yukon, and how this amazing railway changed the face of that exciting time.

 

The train cars are enjoyable on the WP&Y Railway. Photo: © Randall Shirley

The train cars are enjoyable on the WP&Y Railway. Photo: © Randall Shirley

Most cruise passengers will book this via the ship’s shore excursions desk, and that’s not a bad idea as trains for cruise passengers pull right along the pier. Those who book directly through the train company will have to walk about 20 minutes from the ship to the train station (that’s what we did—no problem).

In addition to the main sightseeing trip which takes you up into the mountains and briefly into Canada, the WP&Y Railway offers the possibility of a (much cheaper) trip where you can get off the train part way along and go hiking, and catch a later train back down. That’s what we intend to do on our upcoming 2013 visit.

On most trips, The White Pass & Yukon Railway passes briefly into British Columbia, Canada and a Northwest Mounted Police Cabin before returning to Skagway. Photo: © Randall Shirley

On most trips, The White Pass & Yukon Railway passes briefly into British Columbia, Canada and a Northwest Mounted Police Cabin before returning to Skagway. Photo: © Randall Shirley

The WP&Y Railway turnaround point in Canada is a somewhat complex (but interesting) affair, requiring a manual changing of the tracks and the engine moving from the front to the original back of the train. Photo: © Randall Shirley

The WP&Y Railway turnaround point in Canada is a somewhat complex (but interesting) affair, requiring a manual changing of the tracks and the engine moving from the front to the original back of the train. Photo: © Randall Shirley

Back in Skagway, it’s fun to just wander. There’s also a very silly and fun Gold Rush-themed musical show that’s worth $20, especially if the weather’s not great outside.

Perfomers in the Days of '98 Show, Skagway. Photo: © Randall Shirley

Perfomers in the Days of ’98 Show, Skagway. Photo: © Randall Shirley

Among the most unusual architecture you'll ever see, the Arctic Brotherhood Hall building now houses the visitor's bureau behind its driftwood-decorated facade. Photo: © Randall Shirley

Among the most unusual architecture you’ll ever see, the Arctic Brotherhood Hall building now houses the visitor’s bureau behind its driftwood-decorated facade. Photo: © Randall Shirley

Skagway has no shortage of visual charm as a cruise ship day port. Photo: © Randall Shirley

Skagway has no shortage of visual charm as a cruise ship day port. Photo: © Randall Shirley