Klondike Mining Railway locomotive No.1 was brought to Klondike City in September 1902, where it remained idle waiting for track until 1905. The narrow gauge locomotive was bought from the White Pass and Yukon Route to serve as the K.M.R's first train locomotive.
K.M.R. No.1 was built by the Brooks Locomotive Works of Dunkirk, New York for the Kansas Central Railroad in March 1881. The 'Sidney Dillion' was the name of the K.C.R No. 7, C/n 522, favorably named for the president of the Union Pacific, the parent company of the Kansas Central Railroad. After service on other western railways, Brooks locomotive C/n 522 arrived in Skagway in 1900. When the locomotive was sold to the White Pass it became engine No. 63 in its transportation fleet. With a little refurbishing and a new coat of paint, it was resold to the Klondike Mining Railway, which arrived in Klondike City on September 27, 1902.
K.M.R. No. 1 was a light machine intended only for construction and maintenance. After the railways completion in 1906 locomotive No. 1 was not used often. After KMR was dissolved into the Yukon Consolidated Gold Corporation, KMR No.1 went back to Skagway for use as a WP&YR yard goat. In 1961, YCGC donated the locomotive to the Dawson City Museum. It remained in Minto Park in Dawson City until a locomotive shed was built in 1987 on museum grounds.
Where the Klondike Mines Railway is concerned, the old adage 'too little too late' comes to mind. This short lived railway, commonly called the K. M. R was a narrow gauge carrier chartered to bring passengers and freight to and from the gold fields near Dawson. The endeavor was troubled from the start and it took about six years from its conception before the KMR sent a train down its tracks. The Klondike posed a special problem for maneuverability, with very little infrastructure, the main modes of transportation was either by feet or by boat, which proved to be a major difficulty in getting people and freight to the goldfields.
A number of appeals and bids were sent to the Canadian Government to build a railway to service the area. Subsequently, the Canadian Government chartered K.M.R to build a railway leading from Dawson close to the mining camps. A survey for the railway route was made in 1899; however very little effort was made to solicit the necessary investors. It was not until 1902 when Erastus Corning Hawkins, the former chief engineer for the construction of the White Pass and Yukon Route, took the job of promoting the K.M.R that steps were finally made to see that the railway would come to fruition. Through his close relations with the White Pass and Yukon Route, Hawkin's first order of business was to buy some rail and an engine for the K.M.R. At the time narrow gauge rail was cheap, abundant and easily available through the WP&YR Co. They had plenty of left over rail and many old but useable cars and engines to sell. Not to mention, if for some reason WP&YR could not supply K.M.R's needs, western United States had standardized the gauge of all train routes in the 1890s, leaving a large surplus of narrow gauge equipment which could be purchased inexpensively.
Aside from being economical, narrow gauge tracks turned out to be advantageous to K.M.R construction. With a smaller track surface, the work to cut rock was greatly reduced and the narrow gauge track could be laid in tight curves and up steep grades. The Klondike Mines Railway company needed a million dollars to begin construction. In 1902, Hawkins took on the challenge to promote the railway but it was two more years before he found the backing. During this time, roads were built to all the larger camps which unfortunately significantly reduced the need for a railway. Hawkins had trouble attracting backers largely due to the name of the railway. Most potential investors were weary of business with Klondike mining enterprises, due to the numerous scams operating at the time. By mid-1904 Hawkins found two British shipping magnates, Robert Lawther and John Latta to invest in the route.
The inaugural run of the K.M.R occurred on September 4, 1905 with a few select guests including Charles Granville Kekewich, Lawther and Latta's solicitor from England. By March 1906 Tom O'Brien and partner John Mackenzie had been awarded the contract to complete the railway. By early July, rail was complete to Grand Forks which was located 13 miles from Dawson. By October, the rail ran until Sulphur Springs, some 31miles from Dawson. Unfortunately, the railway failed to make much profit. In the winter, there were few passengers and not much freight. Beyond Grand Forks the railway climbed away from the valley bottom and was of little use to the small businesses along the mining camps.
In the winter 1906-1907 wind blew so much snow on the tracks that it blocked the train's passage, making travel sporadic and unreliable. Of course, horses and sleighs continued to get through, so most small business went to teamsters. At least for the passengers the trains had a reputation for comfort. The passenger coach had been equipped with storm windows and stoves while the waiting rooms and storage rooms for perishables at Sulphur Springs and Grand Fork were heated. The troublesome winter weather proved to be too costly for the K.M.R. By 1907, Lawther and Latta decided to shut down operations over the winter months altogether. After 1908, the majority of operations consisted of hauling cordwood and steam generating plants for thawing ground ahead of the dredges. Finally, in 1911, Lather and Latta had to eliminate passenger service altogether. The last three years of the K.M.R was marked with a nominal profit.
In October 1913, the K.M.R ran the last time. The K.M.R was held by Lawther and Latta until 1925 when several Klondike properties were swallowed by the newly chartered Yukon Consolidated Gold Corporation. Both men served as executives of YCGC until it shut down in 1966.
Dawson City Museum, Dawson City