The power behind the plow: White Pass #69. Upon viewing one of my photos of this locomotive, my colleague, Dennis Livesey once quipped: "Now there's a face only a mother could love." I am sure that Dennis would find a lot of support for his viewpoint. With a big, fat boiler, an elongated smoke box, an outside frame and a straight, shotgun stack, the White Pass #69 was definitely not built with aesthetics in mind. She was one of two engines purchased by the White Pass from the Baldwin Locomotive Works back in 1908 for the specific purpose of pushing heavy freight and passenger trains up the 20 mile hill from Skagway to White Pass. Originally superheated, this engine weighed 134,369 lbs and offered over 28,000 lbs of tractive effort....more than the superheated 70-class Mikados that would come much later. For her day, she was a big horse.
She served the railroad for 46 years before being retired. After bouncing around at several museums and tourist operations in the lower 48, she was repatriated to Skagway in the mid-2000s and has been restored for use in passenger service. Of the two steamers on the line, she is the least popular with the crews for a couple of reasons. With a deck-less cab, the engineer and fireman are on opposite sides of the massive boiler backhead, and cannot even see each other. Communication in the cab is difficult. In addition, the fireman cannot see his fire from his seat, and the superheaters have been removed, so she requires precautionary water support part way up the hill. All of that aside, she's still a big horse, and performed well as a pusher engine during the 2011 rotary plow operation.