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Two men killed in a landslide on the WP&YR line, 1917

The White Pass & Yukon Route

Highlights of History from The Whitehorse Star

The Pioneer Cemetery at Skagway, Alaska

The Weekly Star - Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. Friday, August 31, 1917

    Tuesday morning at 11:25 as the regular northbound White Pass passenger train, hauled by three engines, was making its way slowly up the grade about sixteen miles from Skagway and a mile and a half north of Glacier station, an avalanche of rock descended from the high cliffs to the right of the track and, striking the train just back of the two forward engines, brought total destruction to the third engine and three box cars and instant death to Engineer W. C. McKenzie and his son Bert, who was firing.

    From T. Tyler, baggageman on the ill- fated train, we learned the following particulars of the lamentable occurrence: The train, a mixed one of passengers, baggage, freight and express cars, was drawn by three engines, the forward one being manned by Frank Webster, engineer and W. Flynn, fireman; the second by Eddy Barry, engineer and Sam Hanson, fireman; and the third by W. C. McKenzie, engineer, and his son Bert as fireman. Conductor Albert McCann was in charge, while Brakeman Gillespie was on the forward part of the train and Brakeman Rousseau on the rear. The first two engines were coupled together, followed by two box cars; then came the third engine, followed by a box car filled with mail, baggage car and the rest of the train, including coach and chair car. There were 12 passengers on board.

    As the train was forging ahead between steel bridges 15A and 15B the calamity happened so unexpectedly and instantaneously that had it not been for the rough, jolting stoppage of the train, the survivors would have not been aware that anything out of the ordinary had taken place. The immense slide, in which there were pieces of rock weighing hundreds of tons, struck the train with irresistable force, passed through it and continued down the hill, carrying with it and splintering into kindling the woodwork and twisting out of shape the iron work of the two forward box cars, the engine on which were McKenzie and his son, the box car filled with mail and the front platform of the baggage car, leaving the two forward engines and the remainder of the train uninjured on the track.

    The body of Engineer McKenzie was found shortly after the accident occurred 50 feet below the track under twelve inches of wreckage. The body of Bert was found early Wednesday morning, twenty feet from where his father's body had been recovered.

    News of the wreck was Immediately sent to Skagway and within an hour several White Pass officials, Dr. Gable and Miss Patterson, matron of the White Pass hospital, were at Glacier station looking after the passengers, who had returned to that point on foot.

    On the arrival on the scene of the southbound train at 3 o'clock in the afternoon of Tuesday the passengers and a portion of the mail that had escaped the wreck, were transferred across the slide to the southbound train and it returned to Whitehorse, reaching here about 2 a. m. Wednesday.

    In years of service on the White Pass railway Mr. MeKenzie was one of the oldest engineers on the road, and Bert McKenzie one of the oldest firemen, and at the head of the list for promotion to the position of engineer. Bert McKenzie was a young man who had passed the greater part of his life in Skagway, and was probably the best all-round athlete in the whole of this northern country. Both father and son were among the most upright, highly respected and patriotic citizens of Skagway and their taking off so unexpectedly in the midst of their usefulness is a cause of deep regret to their hundreds of friends and admirers in this and other sections of the Great Northland.

    They are survived at the family home in Skagway by a heart-broken wife and mother, to whom, in her anguish, we offer our sincerest condolence and sympathy, with a hope that she may be given strength to bear with fortitude her heavy burden of sorrow.

    The funeral services of the two victims of the wreck will be held in Skagway at 10 o'clock this morning, the funeral train leaving for the cemetery at 11 o'clock.

*     *     *

    While the White Pass, since construction work was completed, has not been entirely free from wrecks and minor accidents this is the first time in its history where there has been a loss of human life, outside of a few mushers who had heen caught by trains and killed while walking the track.

    News of the tragedy was carried by many newspapers Outside - the AP wire below is typical.