In 1954, The White Pass and Yukon Route Company proposed a new eight million dollar container system. Plans were set in motion to stream line their freight business. They developed containers that could transfer easily from ship to train to truck. In 1955, the WP&YR Co. pioneered and placed into service the first 'container ship'. The four thousand ton 'Clifford J. Rogers' was specially designed and built for the WP&YR Co. in a Montreal shipyard for the purpose of transporting metal containers filled with cargo.
The containers could then be taken off the ship and transferred onto the train. Once arriving to Whitehorse, the cargo containers could be once again transferred to transport trucks to distribute the goods to communities throughout the Yukon. Through the use of cranes the cargo could be unloaded and reloaded with greatly improved efficiency. The economic impact of containerized cargo is so great that it is the main shipping method today.
Although an American gets credit for this technology, Canadians were actually the first to develop this innovative shipping method. Dickson Sladden, assistant manager of the White Pass & Yukon Route Ocean Division of Vancouver was on the docks that fateful night in November 1955 when the Clifford J. Rogers was loaded with containerized cargo for its maiden voyage. The American modified oil freighter that is honoured as the first containerized ship would not even leave the docks for another four months. Incidentally, the cargo containers on maiden voyage of the Clifford J. Rogers were filled with beer heading to the Yukon. The Yukoners received their beer but none of the credit for this truly revolutionary idea.
Yukon Transportation Museum, Whitehorse