The third port on our Inside Passage cruise was Skagway, famous as the lawless entry point to the Yukon Gold Rush. Skagway grew from a handful of settlers in 1896 to over 30,000 in 1898, when thousands of prospectors started up the Chilkoot Trail and White Pass on their way to the Yukon. Today the downtown area of Skagway is a National Historic Landmark District managed by the National Park Service. Among the restored buildings in the historic district are the Arctic Brotherhood, one of the most photographed buildings in the country and famous for its facade of over 8,000 pieces of driftwood, and the Red Onion Saloon.
There are other things to see in Skagway as well. Opposite the dock is a granite cliff known as the Ship Signature Wall. Starting in 1928 ship crews began scaling the wall and leaving a painting to commemorate their visit to Skagway. Although the practice was curtailed in 2001 there are still a lot of signatures with dates later than 2001.
The ship crews were not the only entities to make use of the granite cliffs. High above the town an advertisement can be seen for Kirmse’s Curios, a local business established in 1897 and still in operation today.
Behind the Railroad Building there are two really cool old train engines. The first is an antique N-scale steam locomotive. The second is a huge snow plow engine that dwarfs the N-scale locomotive. It’s an amazing piece of equipment, with a rotary plow that literally eats the snow as it moves along the track. There’s also a coal car and a caboose attached to the snow plow. Great stuff if you’re a train buff.
There were other things to see, not the least being Soapy Smith’s grave, but we had booked an excursion into the Yukon, so we had to cut our Skagway tour short.