The White Pass is billed as Scenic Railway of the World. I can imagine with the play of clouds as we climb the almost 3000 feet to the summit of White Pass each trip is different. With steam power the whole trip is filtered through the fine mist created by the locomotive, we were in the car directly behind old 73, giving the whole landscape a “soft” look. As we climbed the clouds were low and we passed into them long before reaching the White Pass Summit. By the time we get to the summit we are shrouded but just beyond the summit it begins to break up. On the way down the clouds are considerably higher than they were on the way up.
One of the spookiest visages along the route is the ole cantilever bridge over dead horse gulch. The gulch was named for all of the pack animals that died in this stretch before the railroad was built. When the bridge went up it was the longest steel cantilever bridge in the world. In the 1950s when the line started hauling ore someone determined that the bridge could not handle the weight of the ore cars so the train was rerouted through a new tunnel, abandoning the bridge up. On the way up the bridge leads right into the clouds. It a mystical image of a bridge suspended on mist, leading into more mist. On the way down the fog had lifted from the cantilever bridge and we could see the crumbling foundations in the gorge below.
While the railroad’s climb and descent are spectacular on this day I preferred the area on the other side of the summit including Summit Lake, alpine tundra and white caribou lichen. Some fall colors are beginning to tint the tundra. Above the tundra mountains with fresh dustings of termination rise into the clouds. It is beautiful up here.
On the way up I spent my time looking at into the valleys and across to the highway on the other side of the gorge. On the way back I looked mostly up at the mountainside with water falls coming down next to the track and colorful autumn bushed sprouting from the rock along the mountain wall. We were fortunate to have a slow day. There were 8 passengers in our rail car so we had plenty of choices of window seats on both sides. I preferred riding outside on the platform between cars despite getting caught out in a tunnel with the black smoke from the locomotive.