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Traffic on the KMR.

The Klondike Mines Railway is an attractive prototype for modeling, with a gold-mining theme and an interesting northern location. However, it has a problem common to many short-lines. Most of the time, there was only one train on the line. So, while an exact model of the KMR might satisfy a lone-wolf modeler, it would not suit an operating group of 8 to 10. The solution was to conjure a busier traffic pattern from developments that might have taken place, had the KMR had better luck.

Typical KMR freight train.
(Library and Archives of Canada/Credit E.O. Ellingson/Katherine Maclennan collection/ C-0014551).

The bulk of the freight traffic that developed during the lifetime of the KMR consisted of hauling cordwood to the dredges (which used it in generating steam for thawing ice from cables and sheaves). A typical KMR mixed train is shown above, hauling three flat cars of cordwood, with a fourth flat and a box car of general freight.

Original KMR Traffic Pattern

The freight mostly arrived from the Yukon River at the north end of the line, which supported a considerable fleet of stern-wheelers. It originated either upriver via Skagway and the White Pass and Yukon Railway, or else downriver at St. Michael, Alaska, where ocean-going freighters docked at the river's mouth. So the traffic scheme of the prototype KMR was as diagrammed here.

The traffic problem for the layout was solved in two ways:

  • Fulfill the charter of the Vancouver, Westminster and Yukon Railway, as described earlier.
  • Shift the time frame to 1949, assuming that the KMR hung on through the 20s and 30s, and then received a shot in the arm from the war-time demand for gold
. By 1949, gold dredging was in full swing, and the Yukon's rough roads were carrying an increasing volume of automobile and truck traffic. So the traffic pattern is now as diagrammed here.

layout traffic pattern
Typical model KMR mixed way freight.

A typical way freight on the modeled KMR is shown at left. While the railway still expends the minimum on the maintenance of the rolling stock, there is evidence of an increasing prosperity and variety of freight.

The commodities handled now are:

Cordwood.

In 1949, the dredges still need substantial quantities of cordwood. This is harvested upstream along the Yukon River and rafted down to the KMR yards at Klondike City, where it cut to length for loading on to flat cars. This photo shows a delivery to Dredge #5 on Bonanza Creek.

Delivering cordwood to Dredge #5.
Loading coal in Dawson City.

Coal, Gasoline and Diesel.

There were good deposits of coal in the Yukon. One was near the river upstream of Dawson City, near the Five Fingers Rapids. Historically, coal was barged downstream to Dawson, and stored in a bunker at the north end of town for local domestic use. On the layout, coal is also loaded into KMR gondolas for transport south to customers on both the KMR and the VW&YR. This photo shows the coal company's gondola loading facilities.

By 1949, it is logical that the coal company would have expanded into gasoline and diesel, given the increasing car and truck traffic in the Territory. These commodities arrive in railway tank cars from the south, via the interchanges at Sicamous and Sulphur Springs.

A substantial customer for coal is also the railway itself. This photo shows the coaling plant at Klondike City, scratch-built from photos and Bob Mitchell's plans of the prototype. (It is evident, that the KMR's promoters were anticipating a much larger traffic volume!)The KMR coaling plant.
The White Pass Dock.

General and Perishable Freight, Mining and Dredge Machinery and Supplies.

These are dictated by the increased pace of dredging and a significant population serving the gold mining operations.

This freight originates at both ends of the system, with the larger and heavier items mostly arriving by way of the Yukon River.

Several trading companies maintain docks and warehouses on the river bank at Dawson City, each now served by railway spurs. This photo shows the White Pass dock with a KMR spur, which historically ran through the building to a stiff-leg derrick on the river bank.

Perishables are carried in refrigerators, cooled by ice cut in winter from the Yukon River or Shuswap Lake and dispensed from icing facilities at Dawson City and Sicamous respectively. This photo shows a reefer being delivered to the ice house at Dawson. After cooling, the same reefer will be delivered to one of the dock companies for loading.The Dawson City icehouse.

Gold.

Since the railway now delivers machinery and consumable supplies to the dredges, it is also able to compete on favourable terms for transporting placer gold from the dredges to the dredge company's facilities at Bear Creek. Here it is manually picked over to remove buckshot and other heavy materials that are recovered along with the gold, after which it is melted and made into gold bricks. These are periodically shipped to the outside world under high security, via the KMR and VW&YR connections.

Conclusion.

The modeled KMR now operates on a busy schedule. Including the local and long distance passenger trains, the traffic density exceeds the capacity of the line as originally built, and the modeled KMR has considerably expanded facilities, particularly in the yards at Klondike City and Sulphur Springs. For sure, Thomas O'Brien and his collaborators must be looking down on us, with a broad smile of satisfaction that even their grandiose plans for the prototype KMR have been exceeded so substantially.