In Skagway, Alaska, Visitors Ride Into the Past

In Skagway, Alaska, Visitors Ride Into the Past

Hop onboard for a 90-minute tour of the historic highlights of Skagway, Alaska By: Chris Batin
History meets humor on Skagway Street Car tours. // © 2014 Skagway Street Car Company
History meets humor on Skagway Street Car tours. // © 2014 Skagway Street Car Company

The Details

Skagway Street Car Company

Many tourists who disembark from an Alaska cruise at the port of Skagway opt for a self-guided walking tour of the city’s historical highlights.

Advise your clients to hold off on the exercise and choose the 90-minute Skagway Street Car Company guided tour instead. They won’t regret it because the company offers entertainment that is second to none.

Located on the Alaska Panhandle, Skagway is famous for being an entry port to the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898. The city attracted thousands of gold seekers who attempted to climb the rugged St. Elias Coast Mountains to reach the Canadian and Alaskan goldfields.

“Skagway offers a rich gold mining history, the White Pass and Yukon Railroad and Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park,” said Steve Hites, who co-owns the Skagway Street Car business with his wife, Gayla. “We strive for historical accuracy, building our street cars exactly as they were built in the 1920s, down to the last bolt.”

Conductors dress in turn-of-the-century clothing while driving replica 1927 streetcar buses. The transportation and tours are based on a business started by the original owner and founder, Martin Itjen.

According to Hite, Itjen came looking for Klondike gold in 1898 and became the local undertaker, car dealer, coal delivery man and a celebrated storyteller. In 1923, he gave Alaska’s first motorized sightseeing tour for President Warren G. Harding in a brightly painted coal truck, jokingly calling it his “street car.”

“Itjen continued his street car tour for decades after, delighting summer visitors with his frontier style of humor,” Hite said.

Hite replicated Itjen’s original tour for today’s visitor with a sprinkling of his own creative material. The result is a tour that is entertaining, endearing and a winner with tourists. The narrative includes historical highlights, gossipy news, human-interest stories and regional humor.

“Our tours keep the best of the old and merge it with the technological new,” he said.

The company offers GPS-activated audio tours delivered simultaneously in French, German, Dutch, Spanish, Japanese, Mandarin, Portuguese and English using individual wireless receivers and headsets.

The 90-minute Skagway Street Car Tour offers multiple daily departures that make it easy to combine with other tours and activities during a day’s shore excursion. The tour price is $45 per person and the company provides commission to agents.

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