1905 Yukon Nuggets
The Klondike Mines Railway
Imagine a railway running from Dawson City , along the Klondike river and up the Bonanza Creek valley to Grand Forks and beyond. Sounds like a tourist train dream these days. Back in the early 1900s it was a reality. But not as a tourist train.
The Klondike Mines Railway was a narrow gauge train designed to carry passengers and freight to and from the gold fields near Dawson.
Thomas O’Brien, owner of the O’Brien Brewery, was granted a federal railway charter in 1899. A survey for the railway route was made that year, but the company didn’t try to find investors.
Then in 1902, Erastus Corning Hawkins, the former chief engineer for the White Pass and Yukon Route, was hired to promote the railway. In 1904, he arranged for two British shipping magnates to invest in the route. The first of three engines was bought secondhand from White Pass Railway for $12,000.
Construction began in 1905. The first railroad journey to the creeks was underway on September 4, 1905, and ran thirteen miles to Grand Forks . By October, the rail arrived in Sulphur Springs, about thirty miles from Dawson .
The train carried mail, wood, groceries, passengers, and heavy equipment from Dawson City, up Bonanza Creek , to the depot at Sulphur Springs near King Solomon Dome. Railroad stations were built in Dawson City, Grand Forks, and Sulphur Springs. In Klondike City, near Dawson, the maintenance yard had a roundhouse, inspection pits and coal bunkers.
It was a tough country for a railroad. Beyond Grand Forks the railway made the difficult climb from the valley bottom. In the winter, the wind blew so much snow on the tracks that it often blocked the train, and made travel unreliable. But horse-drawn sleighs were able to operate, so teamsters got most of the small business.
By 1907, the owners decided to shut down winter operations. After 1908, most of the Klondike mining railroad’s work was hauling cordwood and machinery for the dredges. Then, in 1911, passenger service ended.
In October 1913, the Klondike Mines Railway ran for the last time. The stock and rail lines were owned by the Yukon Consolidated Gold Corporation from 1925 until 1961. The company then donated the last of the three engines to the Dawson City Museum, where it can be seen today - a reminder of the days when rails ran the route from Dawson City to the gold fields.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin.