Dateline: June 6, 2001
Click on each photo to greatly enlarge it
This is Transportation Week in the Yukon, and as always, there are some great events to attend. Yukoners as a whole are very interested in both transportation and history - combine the two and good attendance is guaranteed.
Last night I made the 50-mile drive into Whitehorse for the opening of the greatly-expanded model railway layout at the Yukon Transportation Museum. As with all the exhibits at this museum, the railway is wonderful, and about 100 people enjoyed the museum's hospitality.
The new section of the layout is a very detailed model of the Whitehorse waterfront as it looked in the 1920s, with lots of trains and cars and a couple of beautiful sternwheelers. I overheard several people make the comment that the waterfront should look like that now, rather than the sterilized strip that the government has created. The city has almost totally severed its connection with the Yukon River, and this model clearly shows what we've lost.
Almost 10 years ago, the Yukon Transportation Museum hired Gunter Glaeser of
Glaeser Design to develop an exhibit concept and plan for the Museum, and implement the first part of this plan.
A flat car, donated by White Pass, was brought inside and the Lake Annie
railcar, a reproduction of a passenger coach, was built using the flat car as a base - see the photo to the right. White Pass also donated seating, a stove, luggage racks, and other original hardware to outfit the interior. At that time, the first model train set was purchased from a German manufacturer. The setup was rather simple, but it was a start.
A "Casey" motorcar, built by Fairmont, is among the other WP&YR pieces on display. For lots of information on these motorcars, see the motorcar page at RailsNorth.com.
In 1997 the model train exhibit began with a grant from the Yukon Lotteries, which built the Carcross portion of the White Pass and a smaller exhibit of the Copper Belt railway that ran from McCrae to the Pueblo Mine (Fish Lake Rd). The exhibit plan was to eventually build a model White Pass that ran from Skagway through the summit to Bennett, Carcross, and Whitehorse.
In 1999 the Yukon Transportation Museum began Phase I of it's Exhibit
Development, with generous funding from the Yukon Government's Heritage Branch. This funding included expanded the model train to include the Whitehorse waterfront and the White Pass train station circa 1920s - 1930s. In 2000 the Yukon Transportation Museum again received Heritage Branch funding to continue the model train exhibit development and other museum exhibit development. Which brings us to today and completion of the Whitehorse portion of our White Pass model train exhibit and a "slice of life" on the Whitehorse Waterfront circa 1920s - 1930s.
Mr. Doug Whittington was originally hired by the Yukon Transportation Museum to start work on the model of Carcross in 1997 with the Yukon Lotteries Grant. In 1999 the museum's exhibit designer, Gunter Glaeser with Glaeser Design, developed the concept and design of the Whitehorse waterfront. Working with Mr. Whittington, they continued to put the model together.
Gunter Glaeser is an Industrial Designer by trade, and moved to the Yukon in 1983. He owned and operated a woodworking shop in the early years. In 1988 he started exhibit design and production for museums, and is now well known for his exhibit work around the Yukon. His many exhibits can be seen at the Kluane Natural History Museum, Teslin's George Johnson Museum, MacBride Museum, Beringia Centre, Old Log Church, Yukon Transportation Museum, and many others.
Doug Whittington is a long-time Yukoner and has been working on the exhibit
since 1997. Doug has been working with model trains for 50 years and credits his passion for trains to his grandfather, who took him to train stations when he was young. While his
grandfather would rest on a bench, Doug would climb aboard and ride with the crews. Doug has done other models, many of which are housed at the Yukon Transportation Museum. Others include the paddle wheeler located in the Westmark Whitehorse lobby, and many in his own personal collection.
The model trains are made in Germany by Leihman Toys, at a scale of 1:22.5 or about 1/2" to the foot. Known as "G" scale, this is a very popular size to build garden railways, and there is a lot of WP&YR equipment available from several manufacturers.
The buildings are all reproduced by Doug Whittington and Glaeser Designs based on photos of the waterfront circa 1920s - 1930s.
The exhibits as you see them today are the result of teamwork involving many trades. Midnight Arts, a well-known Yukon research and writing firm, has produced the texts and research for the Alaska Highway and Dogs exhibits. AV Action's Cal Waddington who produced the waterfront sounds grew up in Whitehorse and has first hand memories of the sights and sounds of the waterfront. He mentioned that fond memories came back to him while working on that project. Marc Berube of Dovetail Woodwork has been partnered with Glaeser Design and Yukon Museum exhibit development for a long time.
The mural was designed and created produced by artist Lillian Loponen. This
well-known artist has lived in the Yukon since 1979 and in 1993, Keno City became home base.
Since 1976, Lillian's passion has been watercolours. In 1988, she branched out and merged her talent and artistic skills into museum exhibit development in museums and large diorama acrylic paintings.
In 1985, her career was highlighted with a watercolour chosen to be in a
60-piece collection, The Diamond Jubilee Collection, donated by the Canadian Society of Painters in Watercolour, and accepted into the Royal Collection of Drawing and Watercolours, Windsor Castle, England. Prince Phillip is a patron of this Canadian Society.
In the Fall of 2000, a Loponen watercolour was chosen in A Brush With History, an Exhibition in Toronto chronicling the history of watercolours in Canada since 1925. Lillian has created over 450 artworks since 1976, represented in collections across Canada and Overseas.
The mural that serves as a background for this exhibit is based on a
panoramic photo of Whitehorse circa 1924, the original of which is displayed in the MacBride Museum. From research to the finishing touches took about 3 months, all in her Keno "garage" during the winter, just her and a little wood stove. The canvas was then brought to Whitehorse where it was mounted on wood panelling and installed. The final touches to the mural were done on site.
This 2-piece acrylic spans 30 X 7 feet. Other large acrylic murals can be
seen in Keno on the outside of the new machine shed shelter, Beringia Centre (short faced bear exhibit), on the 2nd floor of the Yukon Visitors Reception Centre, and a few in the Museum of Natural History in Burwash. Her smaller creations are represented locally in collections such as WCB Permanent Collection (1992), Andrew Philipsen Law Centre(1987), City of Whitehorse Collection (1985) and the YTG Permanent Art Collection (1982).
Her 27 X 30 foot "garage" in Keno is presently being converted into a studio rental and gallery.
Future development calls for the creation of a scale model of the Skagway docks and an upgrade of the model of Carcross and connect it with Whitehorse (the Carcross station is seen to the right). The intention is to keep the past alive and use the model as a fun educational tool. School groups, among others, could experience and re-enact the shipping and transfer of materials and products in an interactive way, and learn about the transportation system and the Yukon economy it was based on.