Out of all the ports of call on this Alaskan cruise, I enjoyed Skagway the most. I wouldn't mind coming back some day to spend more time. The area is rich in history and the residents seem to be ready to preserve it and share it.
While we didn't do the White Pass and Yukon Railway ride this time, we did sit for a bit and wait for the train to arrive at the station. They actually have two trains that run from Skagway to the White Pass Summit in the Yukon territory just over the border in Canada. One train leaves from the downtown station and another leaves from the cruise ship pier.
The cars of the narrow gauge railway are vintage passenger coaches and allow for great views along the way including parts of the old trail used by the gold miners before the railroad was built. The railroad dates back to 1898 and is an International Historic Civil Engineering Landmark. Amazingly the whole thing was built in 26 months at a cost of $10 million. It was a product of British financing, American engineering, and Canadian contracting. Tens of thousands of men and 450 tons of explosives were needed to complete the project.
A 3,000 foot climb over 20 miles with some steep grades, a few tunnels and a bridge makes for an exciting trip. Once gold and mineral prices slipped in the 1980s, the railroad became a tourist attraction taking mostly cruise passengers on the excursion (over 390,00 in 2012).
Back in town, the National Park Service offers talks and of course the reproduced Mascot Saloon with some museum pieces. The "Mascotte" Saloon was one of 80 in the little town of Skagway that sprang up in 1898. But by 1899 the local officials began to charge $1500 for a license for the saloons. Many were forced to close but the owners of the Mascot were able to come up with the money.
The Mascot offered a cigar stand, a club room, locally brewed pilsner beer and free lunches of spareribs and enchiladas. The saloon continued to prosper even after the gold rush but when prohibition and stiff laws kept them from selling liquor, the saloon eventually closed leaving behind a colorful history that was often documented in the Daily News.
Yes, there is much more to Skagway that I'm sure we didn't uncover. Guess we will have to put it on our list of to redo.