Two rail lines once existed to help supply the Dawson City and Klondike gold fields area with coal. The oldest, Cliff Creek, began developing lignite veins 1 3/4 miles up Cliff Creek in 1898. Coal mining, where a 400 foot tunnel had been run, proceeded ahead of the railroad which was waiting spikes so it could be completed. Instead the first loads of coal bound for Dawson were hauled to the Yukon River with horse-drawn wagons.
A Porter saddletank arrived in August or September of 1899 to service the North American Transportation and Trading Company which also operated its own steamboats and barges for hauling the coal back upriver. It was very similar to the four Porters that would later be brought to Bear Creek, except that this Porter had a straight stack. This NAT&TCo seven-ton locomotive is believed to be the first locomotive to enter into service in the Klondike district.
NAT&TCo also brought in six short wheel base coal wagons and a number of smaller gauge mining cars for underground tramming.
Fortunately for history, at least two pictures still exist which document the existence of the Cliff Creek historic short line--and this railroad was short at 1 3/4 miles, but with a five percent grade.
Obviously this was a very small, but also somewhat appealing operation from a modeling standpoint. (click).
When the coal mine played out, all the equipment was sold to the new Coal Creek mine that was just coming into operation immediately upriver.
UPDATE: The original Cliff Creek engine is back in service !
This is engine no. 1, sold to the North American Transportation & Trading Company after being built in 1899. It went to the adjacent Coal Creek mine in 1903 and was sold to the Tanana Mines Railroad as engine #1 in 1905. TMR became the Tanana Valley Railroad in 1907 where it continued to operate until 1929 when it was retired and put on display at the old Fairbanks railroad depot. It has since been picked up by the Friends of the Tanana Valley Railroad, restored and placed into service at Pioneer Park, formerly Alaskaland, in Fairbanks.
How many people who have seen this engine in Fairbanks would have any idea that this locomotive first made its appearance in this region as a coal hauler on a remote unnamed railroad line across the Canadian border in some forgotten place called Cliff Creek ?