Cruise ship giant Carnival buys White Pass & Yukon Route

A Carnival Corporation subsidiary has agreed to buy the scenic tourist train and railway, which runs between Skagway, Alaska, and Carcross, Yukon, for $290 million US.

Scenic tourist train from Skagway, Alaska to Carcoss, Yukon sold for $290M US

The White Pass & Yukon Route railway, which sees thousands of tourists on board each day through the summer, has been sold for $290 million US. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

Carnival Corporation & plc — billed as the "world's largest leisure travel company" — is taking over the famous White Pass & Yukon Route railway in Alaska.

Carnival's subsidiary company, Holland America Princess Alaska Tours, has agreed to buy the scenic tourist train and railway, along with its port and retail operations in Skagway, Alaska, from TWC Enterprises Ltd. for $290 million US.

The White Pass & Yukon Route train runs every summer on the 110-kilometre historic railway between Skagway and Carcross, Yukon. Thousands of people ride the train each day. 

The scenic line connects Skagway, Alaska, with Carcross, Yukon. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

Many of those riders are cruise ship passengers on a day trip from Skagway.

According to a news release from Carnival Corp., a Ketchikan, Alaska-based company will manage the terminal operations and customer relations for the railway, in agreement with Holland America. 

Stein Kruse, CEO of the Holland America Group, states in the release that Skagway is "beloved by our guests and crew."

"We have a long and valued history in Alaska, and remain very committed to the continued development and success of the entire region as one our most popular destinations," he says.

Built during the gold rush

Construction on the historic railway began almost exactly 120 years ago — on May 28, 1898, at the height of the Klondike Gold Rush.

It was a massive feat of engineering, involving thousands of men, tons of imported timber (local timber splintered too easily), and plenty of dynamite. Two tunnels and several bridges and trestles had to be built through the steep mountains.

The railway — built during the Klondike Gold Rush — was a feat of engineering. Starting at sea level in Skagway, it climbs to an elevation of about 3,000 feet in the first 30 kilometres. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

The line to Carcross was complete in July 1900 — just over two years after work had begun. At least 35 workers had died during construction, according to the company.

For decades, the railway carried ore to Skagway to be loaded onto ships. It also supplied materials to the U.S. Army building the Alaska Highway during the Second World War.

By the early 1980s, the train suspended operations, but the route was revived in 1988 as a tourist train.

Since then, it's become a huge part of Skagway's tourism industry. Thousands of people pour off of cruise ships in Skagway each summer to explore the area. The railway has said 5,000 to 6,000 people ride the train on a typical day.

Carnival's purchase of the White Pass and Yukon Route will include three docks in Skagway, that provide berths for some cruise ships.   

The deal is scheduled to close on July 31.