Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Posts Tagged ‘Yukon

Alaska Trip: Part 6

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Motorcoach Industries (MCI) 45'

The trip from Dawson City to Whitehorse was by bus: this was the vehicle and driver that had collected us from Dawson’s airport and would stay with us to Skagway. It was a long haul, scheduled at nine hours with a lunch stop at Minto and comfort breaks at Pelly Crossing and Five Finger Rapids, a distance of 536km, mostly through wilderness.

Yukon panorama

And of course, at the stops were the usual collections

At one – heavily promoted by our tour guide – were the largest cinnamon buns I have ever seen. Four of us shared one and I have to say the centre of it was far better than the outside. I asked one lady to lend a hand to gave a sense of scale.


Of more scenic interest



At Five Finger Rapids there was a steep flight of stairs – and the bus driver issued a challenge to see who could be faster down and up 150 steps – or whatever it was


Someone asked me why I had not taken the challenge: I answered, perfectly truthfully, “It would kill me.”

The steps lead to a path which eventually gets to the rapids. We did not have time to see these close up, but the extraordinary thing is that at one time the sternwheelers had to winch themselves over the riverbed to get through.


We arrived in Whitehorse, and were met by my partner’s niece who is resident there. She had already booked us a table at the best restaurant in town (there is usually a long line up even when there isn’t a bus load of tourists just arrived) and has a small car. After supper she took us out to see Miles Canyon and the Klondike sternwheeler. The bus driver was holding a small competition (the prize being a coupon for a coffee shop in Skagway) – the question being how did the Klondike get to its present location, The construction of the Schwatka dam formed a lake and made navigation impossible, so it was moved in a steel cradle over wooden skids lubricated with soap flakes. Even though we were the only people to actually go out that evening, in the rain, we did not win the prize. But one of the nice things about the North is that you can go out exploring after dinner in daylight.

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The other disappointment was that the trolley was not running – we were too early in the season. So another trip to Whitehorse will have to be arranged.






Written by Stephen Rees

June 13, 2018 at 10:17 am

Alaska Trip: Part 4

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We left Fairbanks by chartered AirNorth plane to Dawson – where the airport still has a gravel runway. Apparently, funds have now been found to blacktop it soon.

Air North Boeing 737-200

Dawson City was created by the gold rush in 1898. Quite a lot of the city has been preserved and restored by Parks Canada, but the entire red light light district, on the other side of the Klondike river known as Klondike City has vanished.

Confluence Yukon Klondike panorama

I spent quite a bit of time wandering around photographing the old buildings, so I am going to try something a bit different in this post. I going to put each of my pictures next to one from Parks archives.

The Bank of North America was the first to open in Dawson in 1898 – originally in a tent. It became the Bank of Montreal in 1918 and closed in 1968 when the last gold dredge closed.

The Palace Grand Theatre (top) opened in 1899 and was hugely successful.  It was originally restored in the 1960s with Bert Lahr (the cowardly lion in the “Wizard of Oz”) as the headliner. It has recently undergone two years of careful restoration using original pictures and drawings. It was not open when I got there but a power cut the previous and triggered the fire curtain, and someone had to come and fix it. A very nice Parks employee allowed me to get access and wander around on my own.

On the bottom row is the imposing Post Office – you will note that buildings next door have all gone. There is considerable loss due to the severe winters weather, and melting permafrost under the buildings causing unstable foundations. The post office is still operating, but from another more prosaic structure around the corner.


Next door to the new Post Office is the office of the Dawson Daily News. Once again we got lucky as that weekend a art show was being installed in the building, and we were shown around by the organizer (another slide show opportunity). My late brother was a printer and would have greatly enjoyed seeing the collection of old presses.

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Some of the buildings on the edge of town have become tourist attractions in their own right. The cabins of Robert Service and Jack London (with his cache for storing food out of the way of bears), as well as the former home of media personality Pierre Berton.

Jack London did not spend very long in Dawson City but he turned his experience into a series of very successful short stories, many of which became movies which are memorialized in a bar bearing his name in the Downtown Hotel.


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The Commissioner’s Residence has been considerably improved over the years, but those below show signs of dereliction


St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church and manse were built in 1901 after the first one burned down. The presbyterians joined with the methodists to form the United Church in 1925, and this church closed in 1932. The manse is still in use as staff housing for Parks Canada – who own both buildings, so perhaps there is some hope for their rehabilitation.

Yukon Hotel

The Yukon Hotel is one of the oldest remaining buildings in Dawson City. This two storey log building was constructed in 1898 by J.E.Binet and was known as the Binet Block. Originally offices, it became a hotel in 1909 and operated [under different names] until 1957. It is now rented out as bachelor suites.


Written by Stephen Rees

June 11, 2018 at 12:40 pm