Built in three sections, from Skagway to White Pass, White Pass to Carcross, and Carcross to Whitehorse, the first of these proved the most difficult, although its first seven miles of track had actually been completed in only two months. On July 21, 1898, the day after the first locomtove had been delivered, an excursion train for invited dignitaries operated for the first time, pulling three flat-bed cars with wooden benches. Two months later, in September, the prepared track grade stretched 17 miles from Skagway, but a gold discovery in Atlin enticed a majority of the laborers away, complete with the vitally-needed picks and shovels for the project. At Mile 18.7, the deep, v-shaped, 215-foot-high canyon could only be connected with a 400-foot steel cantilever bridge built up of three-hinged arches.
The first train to operate to White Pass did so nine months after construction had begun, on February 20, 1899.