Popular vintage Alaska tourist train to resume operation after derailment injures 23 people

Mark Thiessen / The Associated Press
July 24, 2014 01:33 AM

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - A vintage rail company that transports hundreds of thousands of tourists a year along the route of the historic Klondike Gold Rush intends to resume operations Friday, two days after a derailment left 23 people with minor injuries, officials said.

Two vintage locomotives and four passenger rail cars were involved in the derailment Wednesday during a run of the White Pass & Yukon Route tourist train from Skagway to Canada, the company said in a statement.

"We heard a bang, then another bang, then there was shaking and then it stopped," passenger Jerry Cable told The Skagway News.

He and his wife Judy were two cars behind one that left the tracks and partially went into a small lake. Two other passengers landed in the water.

The cars left the tracks in Alaska, just short of the U.S.-Canada border, as the train carrying about 360 passengers and crew reached the White Pass Summit, said railroad President John Finlayson.

Medical workers went to the scene, where they outnumbered the injured, said Jeremy Zidek, a spokesman for the state Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

Officials initially reported there were nine injuries, but Shelly Moss O'Boyle, Dall Memorial Clinic executive director, said in a Thursday email to The Associated Press that 19 passengers and four railroad employees were treated and released at the Skagway facility.

Finlayson said power was restored to the train, and it brought everyone back to Skagway, about 100 miles northwest of Juneau. The four passenger cars were removed from the site, Finlayson said Thursday.

The train is a popular tourist attraction, taking passengers on a three-hour, 40-mile roundtrip tour. It climbs to 2,865 feet at White Pass Summit before it turns around and heads back.

Joe Gilsinger and his wife Dana of Crown Point, Indiana, watched the car in front of them go off the tracks.

"Then the car we were in came off the ground, and I was thinking, where the hell are we going?" he told The Skagway News after the front part of their passenger car came off the rails.

Finlayson said the White Pass Summit trip offers passengers the type of view they expect on an Alaska vacation: mountains, glaciers, waterfalls and even glimpses of the trails used by miners hoping to make it rich in the 1898 gold rush.

Up to seven train trips were cancelled after the derailment. Finlayson said in an email to The Associated Press all regulatory reporting requirements have been met, and they intended to resume rail traffic Friday.

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Follow Mark Thiessen at https://twitter.com/mthiessen


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