AHS Blog

Fairbanks Event – “Gold Rush Ice Train” by Chris Allan, Wed 1/15

Date Posted: January 9, 2014       Categories: 49 History
The Tanana Yukon Historical Society presents “Gold Rush Ice Train: George Glover and the U.S. Government’s Unlikely Attempt to Conquer the North by Steam,” a lecture by Chris Allan, National Park Service historian.
Wednesday, January 15
7:00 p.m.
Pioneer Museum at Pioneer Park
The Klondike gold rush stimulated the imaginations of thousands of Americans and people around the world. Some of them set out immediately to face the snow-chocked Chilkoot Pass or White Pass with a heavy pack on their backs.
An 1897 drawing of George Glover’s “ice locomotive” choo-chooing its
way from Skagway to Dawson City. Originally designed to haul
logging sleds in the American Midwest, Glover’s invention was
supposed to haul 150 tons of food for starving miners in the Klondike,
50 Army soldiers to protect the cargo, and 200 private passengers.
The whole plan turned out to be a fraud and an embarrassment to the
McKinley administration.  Courtesy of Wisconsin Historical Society.

Others dreamed of a mechanical solution to the problem of reaching the distant gold fields. And when rumors began to circulate that the Klondike stampeders would soon run out of food, Secretary of War Russell Alger put his faith in a steam-powered, all-terrain “snow and ice locomotive” to solve this emerging humanitarian crisis.
In retrospect, the story of the inventor George Glover and the U.S. government’s rescue mission is a comedy of errors. The machine could scarcely function under the best of conditions; its inventor seemed to have his head in the clouds; and high-ranking government officials were hoodwinked by scoundrels and flim-flam artists.
However, the short-lived and ill-fated Klondike Relief Expedition offers us a glimpse of a moment in the nation’s history when greed ran rampant, the Far North seemed tantalizingly beyond reach and, for a time, it appeared a steam-powered marvel could accomplish the impossible.

For more information about this and other lectures sponsored by the Tanana Yukon Historical Society, please call 488-3383, or e-mail <tyhs@alaska.net>.