Snow and Steam Trains!

I needed to go to Skagway again yesterday for a few reasons. I was going to take the motorcycle, but most of the things that needed to be done would be easier with a car.

The first stop was at Emerald Lake to get a “record” photo of the progress of the melt. The first people in by cruise ship will certainly not be seeing “Emerald” Lake, as there’s just the slightest hint of ice rot so far.

This view across the old beaver pond at Km 114 would be so beautiful if those wires weren’t there. That’s Montana Mountain in the distance.

Seeing a motorhome parked at the Bove Island viewpoint necessitated a stop and a climb to the rock bluff above it. You just never know when a photo like that may come in handy.

The ice is solid on Tutshi Lake, too, and there’s a deep layer of fresh snow on the highest peaks.

This small lake at Km 45.7 is very pretty when the light is right. It only appears for a split-second through the trees as you drive by southbound (and not at all northbound), but was worth a stop yesterday.

This was Day 3 of the rotary snow plow show that the White Pass & Yukon Route railway (WP&YR) was putting on, and when I went by the Thompson River view at 12:15, a few guys were already waiting for the trains. I didn’t see the rotary until almost Summit Creek, though. Actually I just saw the smoke and steam , as the train was hidden in a gully.

The first column of smoke is the rotary snow plow, pushed by 2 steam locomotives, #73 and #69. Judging by the speed they were moving, I figured that I could get to Skagway, pick up my motorcycle parts at the post office, have a quick lunch and get back before they reached the Thompson River.

My quick trip to Skagway wasn’t quick enough, and the train was already at Fraser when I headed north again. Here the locomotives are being re-filled with water, at 2:25.

Here the train is backing up to plow out the Fraser loop, which only took a few minutes.

A broad view of Fraser while waiting. Train “chasing” takes a whole lot of patience 🙂

At 3:50, things started happening as the unit headed north towards Log Cabin.

There were about 40 people playing this game on the highway – wait, wait, wait, then take a few shots and race to the next viewpoint.

Waiting at Ptarmigan Point. There was certainly no guessing as to where the train was – it wasn’t going to sneak up on us!

Coming around Ptarmigan Point, one of my favourite spots along the highway.

Switching from still photos to video on my little Fuji is luckily a simple process.

The business end of the plow. I’ve read one report from about 100 years ago of someone getting chewed up by the plow when he got caught hiking along the tracks.

A couple more shots and off to the next view!

This was the last place I stopped – this photo was shot at 4:45. Most of the railfans moved on to Log Cabin, but I just didn’t have enough patience to wait another half hour, so headed home for dinner.

All in all, it was a superb day – I got my bike parts, noted the updates I need for the 2011 edition of Murray’s Guide, and got my steam-train fix as a bonus 🙂


Snow and Steam Trains! — 11 Comments

  1. This post is going to drive me nuts…. I made the mistake to show our little boys and now they keep screaming for the train movie!! eheheheh

    Thanks for sharing!!

  2. Hi Murray,

    WOW, thanks for some really neat shots, video & stills !!!

    I know I don’t comment much , but I really DO appreciate you blogging.
    It helps me to feel connected to the far north.


  3. THAT was AWESOME!!!! My brother Mike and cousin Alvin were both invited to participate in this multi-day event. I’m in Juneau packing up for the move to Sgy, so I missed it……until now. A thousand thanks!! Next time you’re in Sgy, drop by our new house on Third Ave between State & Main. It’s the only one with a rock wall around it. Thanks again for all of the wonderful pics.

  4. Terrific, Awesome, Wonderful, Loved the videos & photos. I have seen the plow in parked in Skagway but never in action. Thanks!

  5. Thanks so much for sharing the pictures and especially the videos. I’ve taken pictures of one of the snow throwers and always wanted to see one in action.

  6. I worked and lived in Skagway for two summers and rode this train several times. Fantastic to see it chug-a-lug in the snow.

  7. Very exciting!!
    I am a Japanese.
    If possible, I want to see it at 2013.
    Would you show me how to get more information?

  8. Dear Mr. Murray Lundberg
    Thank you for your quick response!
    >It doesn’t happen every year as the equipment is very old and difficult to maintain.
    I understood it.
    The dose not say the next “rotary snow plow with steam locomotive”.
    I will refer to them for it.

  9. Pretty awesome! It is good to see these old steam locomotives still being used! Goes to show the quality of workmanship that you just do not see any more. Please, keep these videos and pics coming!! Thank you!