1943 Yukon Nuggets
First Yukon Bus Service
When the Northwest Service Command Bus Line was opened all the way to Fairbanks in 1943, it became the most northerly bus service in the world.
The American military began their bus service from Edmonton to Fairbanks on November 13, 1943. It was designed to carry the thousands of military and civilian personnel working on construction of the Alaska Highway. No tourists need apply for travel, said Brigadier General James O'Connor. He was the American officer in charge of everything that had to do with the Alaska Highway. This was a military road.
The buses were leased from the Greyhound Bus company and were the largest vehicles the company had available. There were two drivers on every bus. Exchange stops were made at Fort Nelson, Watson Lake, Whitehorse and Northway, Alaska. Total time of the trip from Edmonton to Fairbanks was 44 hours. The trip from Whitehorse to Fairbanks was billed at 24 hours. The only stops were for gas and meals at the American-run depots along the way.
During the war, and for a few years after, the only way a civilian could travel the road was by obtaining a travel pass from the American commander at Dawson Creek. A civilian not involved in construction had to have a good reason to travel the road. In 1944, my father flew into Whitehorse, seeking work in this booming highway town. My mother applied for a travel pass for me, my three sisters and, of course, for herself. With passes in hand, we boarded one of these Greyhound American military buses and headed up the Alaska Highway. Then a lad of two, I remember nothing of the trip, but my mother insists that I provided suitable childlike entertainment for the drivers.
The Canadian army took over control of the highway in 1946. But it wasn't until April, 1948, that the pass system for civilian travel on the Alaska Highway was eliminated. But the Canadian military cautioned people to be prepared for long stretches of potholed gravel road with very few facilities along the route.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin.