Steaming Back to Carcross

Kids build sand castles on the beach in Carcross, Yukon as Steam Engine 73 pulls a load of passengers along Lake Bennett. Skagway News Photos by Dimitra Lavrakas

WP&YR renews ties to Yukon

during Golden Spike ceremony

From remembrances of the past to plans for the future, everything about White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad’s July 29 centennial celebration was grand.
Under open blue skies, about 4,000 people celebrated 100 years of White Pass rails from Whitehorse to Skagway. A tent larger than a Skagway city block sheltered the main stage, vendors and hundreds of celebrators at a time.
Among the historical celebrations with dignitaries, Native dancers and dance hall girls, White Pass President Fred McCorriston brought future vision to the proceedings by announcing the company expects to open passenger service between Carcross and Bennett by next year.
The rails, which cost $2 million to repair, had lain unused since White Pass stopped freight service in 1982 – those continuing on to Whitehorse remain overgrown.
To inaugurate the renovated tracks, White Pass founder Michael J. Heney’s great-great nephew, Brenden Heney, drove a golden spike between steam Engines Number 40 and 73 in front of the visitors center as the crowd closed in on him.
McCorriston said they plan to use Engine 40, on a five-year lease from Colorado, for the run.
“Hopefully that will add a little sex and curb appeal,” McCorriston said to a packed tent that exploded into loud cheers.

“We’ll initially just be doing this on a limited basis here for the first year, so the employment opportunities will be just a handful,” McCorriston said.
Longtime Tagish resident Art Johns is pleased to see White Pass return to the area.
“White Pass has always been good about employing people from the area,” Johns said. “They don’t go out to Whitehorse and bring in people. They treat the people that work for them really good.”
Though not directly opening a lot of jobs, service to Carcross will bring immense tourism opportunities.
Carcross Tagish First Nation Chief Kaa Shaade Hani Carvill foresees the White Pass announcement as complimentary to First Nation plans for a destination resort in the area.
“I can’t wait,” Carvill said. “When you see what we’re trying to do with the resort, they’ll work well together. White Pass can bring them up and they’ll stay in our resort.”
White Pass works closely with the First Nation because most of its employees in Canada are from the area and White Pass is the largest employer there, McCorriston said.
Carvill looked forward to strengthening both long-term employment and environmental protection.
The speakers represented government, Native and White Pass officials’ reminiscence of the past and economic hopes for the future.

Judd Buchanan, Chairman of the Canadian Tourism Commission, said tourism is a $50 billion industry in Canada. And as a member of the board of directors of White Pass parent corporation Tri-White, Buchanan foresees White Pass’s commitment to quality as a vehicle to bring people to Carcross for a couple of days and then maybe send them up to White Pass to visit.
Continuing in the entrepreneurial spirit, Lord Charles Denman of Close Brothers Group, the bank that instigated, promoted and financed the original railroad, praised White Pass for providing access first to the Klondike gold fields and now to view the beauty of the Yukon.
“I hope you will be able to encourage them to stay longer and spend more money,” Denman told the people of Carcross to cheers.
In continued national support for tourism opportunities brought on the rails, Yukon Premier Pat Duncan presented a “Welcome to the Yukon” sign to White Pass from her government to be placed along the tracks at the Yukon-B.C. border on Lake Bennett. The sign, similar to the one on the Klondike Highway, boasts the Yukon’s new slogan, “Canada’s True North.”
As minister of economic development she intoned the importance of the White Pass to Yukon development.
“I was so pleased to hear you say that,” she said, referring to McCorriston’s announcement of rail service returning to the Yukon community.
Yukon Senator Ione Christensen, who first rode the railroad when she was three months old, expressed her sadness at watching railways give way to road development. She said the reopening of the Carcross route heralds a revival of train transportation.
The railroad has been as important as the gold rush in shaping the Yukon, said Judy Gingell, Commissioner of the Yukon and great-great niece of Skookum Jim, one of the original discoverers of gold in the Klondike.

White Pass Vice President Gary Danielson illustrated rail contractor Michael J. Heney’s important legacy to White Pass and the area.
“We were invited to come up here (from Ottawa) about two years ago, for the 100th anniversary,” Jane F. Heney said. “It’s been a huge honor for us and (White Pass) has made us feel so welcome.
“It means a lot to the family that M.J. is still honored for his contribution to White Pass.”

Railroad family mourns tragic

loss of Don Barry, 1944-2000

While the White Pass and Yukon Route family celebrated the centennial of its Golden Spike over the July 29 weekend, it also mourned the tragic death of one of its favorite sons.
Beloved railroad conductor and former Skagway mayor Donald E. Barry, 55, died July 24 in an accident in the Skagway rail yard.
Don Barry was born into a railroad family on Nov. 14, 1944 at the old White Pass hospital in Skagway. His father was roadmaster for the railway on the Canadian side, working at Pennington, Carcross and Whitehorse stations during its heyday as a freight line.
Don was a graduate of Skagway High School, but began work on the WP&YR as a commissary clerk when he was 14. He moved on to waiting tables at the Bennett eating house, and joined train service in 1963, eventually being promoted to conductor when he was just 20 years old.
Except for a two-year draft stint in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War era, he remained with the railway, eventually joining management as a roadmaster. In 1976 he was promoted to assistant superintendent for the rail division, but he was laid off during cutbacks in 1979, when the railway began losing valuable freight business from Yukon mines.
Don and his family moved to Missouri, where they operated the Scottish Inn in Osage Beach.
The railway which he loved, eventually shut down for six years in the 1980s, but was revived in 1988 as a summer-only tourist railroad. As business from cruise ships grew in the 1990s, the railway called back many of its former workers, including Don.
With his new wife, Glendia, Don came back to Skagway to work in 1995. They met while working at the Dogwood Hills Resort and were married on Feb. 14, 1993. They still wintered in Missouri.

Don Barry, WP&YR photo

Don went back into train service, and was known as one of the safest workers on the railway. His tragic death was a shock to everyone who came to know Don along the historic 110-mile narrow gauge line.

His favorite pastime was fishing. He had a camp on Windy Arm along the Yukon-British Columbia border. Don even passed up a chance to be honored as a former mayor of Skagway at the city centennial in June so he could spend his day off fishing. At the time of his death he was looking into buying property in Carcross.
During the Golden Spike celebration in Carcross on July 29, Don was remembered by several speakers during the official ceremony.
Chief Andy Carvill said Don was part of the railroad family and called the untimely death a mutual loss. “Don many times worked six days a week at the yards in Skagway and spent his seventh day relaxing in the Carcross area,” Carvill said. “He was well-liked and Carcross citizens will miss him greatly.”
“It is appropriate that we honor Don here today,” added WP&YR Vice President Gary Danielson, as a steam whistle blew nearby. “I know that many of you knew him as a friend, so let’s enjoy the rest of the day in his memory and have fun as he would have wished.”
And after making the popular announcement that the railway would base steam engine No. 40 in Carcross in 2001, an emotional Fred McCorriston, president of WP&YR, said he wanted to personally “recognize Don Barry for all the moral support he gave me, and the encouragement to return to the Carcross area.”
A memorial service was held the following evening in the Skagway Rail Depot. More than 400 people attended and heard stories about Don from fellow rail workers.
The railroad is planning to erect a gazebo in Barry’s honor at its employee camp outside of Skagway, where Don and Glendia resided in the summer. A Don Barry Memorial Fund also has been set up at the National Bank of Alaska, Skagway branch, Box 516, Skagway, AK 99840.
Don was a member of American Legion Post No. 7, and Fraternal Order of Eagles Aerie No. 25 in Skagway. He served one term as mayor of Skagway in 1972-73, and also was a former member of the city council.
He was preceded in death by his parents, George and Dorothy, and is survived by his wife Glendia of Skagway and Kaiser, Mo.; a son Steve Barry of Pueblo, Colo.; daughters Lynda Dailey of Camdenton, Mo. and Donnina Ulrich of Macks Creek, Mo. - all children with his former wife Billie Belle Barry of Camdenton; a step-daughter Raiena Weeks of Lake of the Ozarks, Mo.; a brother Kurt Barry of Seattle, Wash.; sisters Joanne Hamme of Shelter Bay, Wash., Judy Fairbanks of Skagway, and Karyn Mieloszyk of Klamath Falls, Ore.; six grandchildren and one step-grandchild.

Investigation ongoing into rail yard accident


Donald Barry, 55, a conductor for the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad, was pronounced dead at the scene after being hit by a locomotive on July 24.
The train was doing routine switching in the rail yards north of Skagway, according to a White Pass press release.
Mr. Barry was a long-time employee of the railroad.
“If there was one person that was safety conscious it was Don Barry,” said Gary Danielson, WP&YR vice president.
Danielson said counseling is available from the company for any railway employees who want it.
Carl Green, an investigator with the Federal Rail Road Association came to Skagway following the accident and conducted interviews with the locomotive engineer and others.
An FRRA spokesman last week said he expects the investigation could be concluded in as little as two months, but could take up to a year. All employee death investigations are processed through Washington, D.C.
“It appears to be an accident,” Skagway Police Chief Dennis Spurrier said. “It was definitely an accident-type scenario.”
An official incident report cannot be completed until the autopsy report is returned, possibly within the next week, Spurrier said.

School Board recall on Aug. 22 ballot
Fall election set for school board and council


For the recall election on Aug. 22, Skagway School Board members were required to submit a statement in their defense to be placed on the ballot.
The polls will be open 7 a.m.- 8 p.m., Aug. 22 at the McCabe Building.
Board member Glenda Choate was called out of town for the death of her father and was not able to file a statement. Lynne Cameron and Veronica Bush did submit statements.
Lynne Cameron: “It is not required by law that the truth be told by the people who began this petition to remove me from the Skagway District School Board. At no time have I failed to perform any duty of my office or engaged in any misconduct in office, including the specific charges against me in this petition. All of my actions are a matter of public record. That record is available upon request.
“A representative owes the people not only his industry, but his judgment, and he betrays them if he sacrifices it to their opinion. – Edmund Burke, member of Parliament, England, 1765-1797.”
Veronica Bush: “The charges on which this recall election are based are groundless. The actions of this board have largely been unanimous. The only vote of any importance that was not unanimous was the vote to retain the superintendent. Reasonable people may differ as to whether the superintendent should or should not be retained, but a vote to retain the superintendent should not be subject to recall. With regard to the specific matters contained in the recall petition, the position of the board members up for recall is identical to the board members not up for recall.
“I felt it was my responsibility to discern real from unreal. Every decision I’ve made on the board has had only one driving criteria: ‘Is this decision going to help or hinder this student or students in the pursuit of education?’ I see that recycling superintendents every year as creating chaos in the students’ lives and I do not think chaos is a good thing for children. I see this recall election as an opportunity for the people of Skagway to tell me just that – ‘Do you want to continue chaos of continually changing the leadership at that school?’”
The recall petition was mounted by the Concerned Parents of Skagway (see Letters to the Editor), that formed after a school board meeting in which many asked that Superintendent Richard Lee not be offered a contract.
The petitions were submitted to the City of Skagway and certified by City Clerk Marge Harris on June 12. The city council decided to have the recall election coincide with the state primary election on Aug. 22 for cost and convenience.
The school board had consulted with its lawyer about possibly going to court on the recall, but decided against it, said School Board President Bruce Weber.
“It would have cost too much money and the process could have been repeated again,” he said. “The lawyer and the board decided against it. In Alaska, you can get recalled for misconduct for a multitude of reasons.”
Weber, whose term is up this year, said he will not run again. Instead he wants to concentrate on finding out what happens in the Skagway City School when the fourth-grade class is number one in the state in reading, as it is this year, and then those same students fall behind in the upper grades.
Don Hather said he would run again this fall.
“My health has a lot to do with it, but I am planning on running,” he said. “I would like to finish some of the things we started. I think it’s important for someone to be there to listen to the community and respond to their concerns.”
The fall election date has been set for Oct. 3. Filing deadline is 5 p.m. on Aug. 28 for school board or city council candidates. Both Vice Mayor J. Frey and Councilmember Dave Hunz are up for re-election in their three-year terms.

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