Engine No. 69
In June 1908 the Baldwin Locomotive Works Co. of Philadelphia, delivered the second of two specially designed narrow gauge steam locomotives that had been ordered by the WP&YR. Designated as Engine No. 69, this mechanical workhorse would spend the next 46 years helping to push and pull freight and passengers over the White Pass.
At the time of completion, No. 69, at 134,369 pounds, was one of the heaviest narrow gauge, outside-frame locomotives built by Baldwin. It was capable of tackling grades of 3.9 percent and curves and radiuses of up to 20 degrees. The tractive power of No. 69 was equivalent to that of many standard-gauge engines and it was well-suited to running over rails weighing only 56 pounds per yard.
The most noticeable aspect of No. 69's use for mountain railroading were large counterbalances placed on its 42-inch diameter driving wheels to reduce wheel slippage. While these counterbalances were beneficial to the No. 69 as it muscled trains along during the short summer season, they limited its usefulness in winter. The low-slung counterbalances protruded enough to strike the ice ledge along the rails, which caused the engine to literally lift itself off the rails. Hence, No. 69 was not normally used over the White Pass during winter months.
The White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad, like other railroads across the United States and Canada, began to "dieselize" during the 1950s. The oldest of the steam engines still on the WP&YR roster then were replaced by more efficient diesel locomotives which began arriving in 1954. No. 69 had undergone extensive modification in 1951, which included converting it into an oil burner and replacing its wooden cab with a steel one. But even these changes were insufficient to save the then-over-40-years-old steamer from being considered mechanically outmoded as the new narrow gauge diesels proved equally capable of climbing mountains. It was without fanfare when No. 69 made its last runs through the White Pass during 1954.
Today, the restoration and return of steam locomotive No. 69 to the WP&YR is celebrated by the WP&YR and its railfans, simultaneously celebrating our history and our future!
For photos of Engine No. 69 click here