Canadian History Homepage

Operation

Although the railroad was built to serve during the gold rush, it wasn't completed until after the gold rush was over. The railroad remained, and contributed greatly to the economic development of the Yukon through the hauling of ore.

The railroad had a profitable year in 1900, then business slacked off despite the demand for hauling heavy equipment. Discoveries of a large copper deposit near Whitehorse, and lead, zinc, and silver deposits in Mayo kept the railroad operating for the early part of the century. In 1910, a twelve mile addition to the track was constructed to the Whitehorse copper mine. This brought additional freight revenue to the company. During the 1920's, tourists and ore shipments were just enough to keep the railroad in business. When the Depression came in the 1930's the tourist business came to a halt and freight shipments dropped to 12,000 tons per year (compared to 30,000 tons per year before WWI). After WWII, the development of natural resources in the Yukon kept business at a reasonable level.

The White Pass expanded business into many sectors such as railway steamers, air transportation, mail services, and roadhouses along the route. The White Pass sternwheelers transported people down the river to Dawson, and brought cargo and passengers back. They built airstrips at Carmacks, Minto, and Selkirk, and carried passengers between them. The White Pass also took over mail services in Canada and the U.S.. They originally used dogs to transport the mail, but changed to horse drawn sleds which also carried passengers. This service remained until 1921. Roadhouses were built along the trail to store supplies. When storms hit, people could stay for $1 a night, and eat for $1.50. The White Pass also entered into the petroleum business by building a small pipeline, from Whitehorse to Skagway.

In 1982, poor metal prices caused a major shut down of the mines in the Yukon. Since hauling ore was now the main business of the railroad, the White Pass was forced to shut down.