Photo Essay: Santa Train

First posted in December, 2006

Skagway has an annual Yuletide celebration with tons of activities - everything from cookie exchanges to a Yuletide Ball. I've been taking part in only some of the activites - I missed some of the events due to being weathered-out of town last weekend, and skipped the ball in lieu of a quiet evening at home with Sam (something we'd not had all week due to a variety of reasons), but I voted in the gingerbread house and home-crafted tree ornament competitions, and took advantage of the Santa train.

Originally, I'd written off the Santa train as one of the absolute last things I'd want to do on the list of events, but then I learned that it isn't just for children. The historic White Pass & Yukon Railroad opens their doors for the town (and any visitors... I noticed quite a few YT licence plates) so that children can see Santa... and then they fire up a train and take us all on a ride. For free.

If nothing else, I looked at it as a great way to see some of the pass in winter.

I arrived early, before Santa was done
with the children, so as to find the best seat.

I was the first in my car, the very first car, right behind the engine -
one of three cars reserved for adults only.

This is both the worst and the best car on the train.

First off all, you're right behind the engine.
The amount of exhaust you breath in the first car is exceeded only by
the amount of exhaust inhaled by the poor souls in car number two
(because most of the exhaust goes over our car and into theirs).

The engine tends to block your view of things, making photography difficult
(except for interesting shot like this one, looking down on the coupling
between my car and the engine as we speed along in the snow).

If you don't know why it's also the best car, I'll tell you in a moment.

Eventually, my car filled with other adults.
A few friends, but mostly folks I didn't really know.

This made for an interesting ride, particularly since it's a bit of a party.
The coffee, the orange juice, the tomato juice - none of it's pure.
(Even at noon... though it's 5 o'clock somewhere in the world.)

Katy, a girl I know only tangentially from the gym,
sat next to me and kept me full of coffee and Bailey's
(she noticed that I had neglected to bring any food or drink,
in a rush as I was for the best seat in the house).

I spent most of the ride up looking out my window... the scene rushing past
was just amazing. Snow, mountains, heaving ice along the Skagway River,
remnants of the Brackett Toll Road and other traces of gold rush history.

I'd made the trip a few times before, but never in the snow.

Eventually, we arrived at our destination,
just across the valley from the border station.

At this point, some of the holiday cheer had made its way to our car.
Santa kicked back and hung out with the adults for awhile.

And my friend Tori saw fit to rip the ear off of an elf...
...which wasn't really at all nice.

This is when the first car becomes the best car: they move the engine
to the other end of the cars via a side track, and suddenly you're in the last car.

This is the car with the completely unobstructed view.

It was at this point that I picked up my camera,
stepped out of the party, and out onto the platform.

I was able to get some great shots of the tracks... such as this one that
shows just how tight some of the tracks are to the mountain. When you
think of how they put these tracks down over a century ago, it's easy
to see why this is a International Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.

And this one of a snow-covered trestle.

And this one of the tracks running past a frozen waterfall.

But really, the best one of the day wasn't even taken from the train.
This is my favorite... an ice formation on the road by our house.