Stephen S. Krawcyzk: Living in Alaska

Sept 2, 2014

Hi John,

I'm sorry this has taken so long. I got started on it and then life interfered. Dad will turn 96 on September 6th. He is a Pearl Harbor Survivor and is outliving many of his fellow survivors. My husband managed to secure some unissued TX Pearl Harbor Survivor license plates just this weekend, so I am going to get those FEDEX’d to him by Saturday

Anyway, I'll get this mailed to you at the same time. I wanted to give you a little background on the pictures. I sent you railroad shots as well as some others I thought you might like to see. My parents went to AK after the war as jobs were still difficult to find, following the Great Depression. My mother's father, Col JP Johnson had been tasked with modernizing the railroad up there. He was responsible for upgrading the tracks from narrow gauge to the modern standard gauge.

My folks were newlyweds at the time, in their 20's, so this was a great adventure. Initially, Dad was working on shrouding the engines, making them more streamlined. This process took place in Kenton Ohio at the International Railway Equipment Co Plant in Kenton, OH. I believe that the Aurora was the first train to arrive. Some of those pictures aren't focused well, but the camera was brand new and Dad was shooting 35mm slides. He had to calculate the settings for focus and exposure. Overall, he did very well. Each shot was precious so he worked hard to get it right.

The pictures of that engine were taken in Kenton. They had to shovel the snow off to work on it. The shots of Dad and Oakley [Brown] were also in Kenton. I believe Oakley was in charge of the shrouding operation there. I'll see if Dad recalls his last name.

My folks went to Fairbanks at the end of 1947 where Dad worked on maintaining the engines. There are a few aerial shots of Anchorage. One was deteriorating but it still showed a nice view of the city back then. The typical housing in Fairbanks were quonset huts. Those that worked for the railroad lived on Government Hill, across from the engine house. I don't know if it still exists. The quonsets were heated via steam tunnels from the engine house. It sounds as though it was quite cozy. My oldest sister was born in Fairbanks.

The quonsets were very dark as well so Dad engineered a solution and put a window in theirs. He was the first but others followed suit. He also had a garden for the very short growing season. He has to warm the water for the plants by spraying it up on to the warm quonset and letting the stream roll down onto the crop. I don't know that he got many tomatoes...

The spring thaw caused flooding in 1948 so there are several shots of the Quonsets sitting in water. Even the Catholic church was in danger of flooding. Dad has a shot of a clergyman bailing water. Life was challenging.

That's it! Should you have any questions, let me know.

Best Regards,

Margaret Wray

image International Railway Equipment Company Plant, Kenton, Ohio
image Shrouding switcher in Kenton, Ohio
image Rebuilt dining car, Kenton, Ohio
image Anchorage Railroad hotel
image Arriving Anchorage

This view of Alaska Railroad RS1 (most likely #1001) carries the 1948 blue and yellow paint scheme as well as the baggage care behind. This is probably in the Fairbanks yard near the Engine house with reference to the coal pile. Note the ancient wooden box car in the back ground and the gondolas still lettered for the Rio Grande. The gons were part of an allocation of 480 gons redirected to ARR from Rio Grande by the federal government in 1948.

There are still a few of these gons in mow service on the ARR long after their normal 50 year life cycle expired. - Pat Durand

image Loading ramp
image Aurora in from Fairbanks
image Aurora in from Fairbanks
image Col. JP Johnson
image JP Johnson and daughter Ruth
image Col. JP Johnson
image Fairbanks depot
image Flooding of yard

Flooding of railroad house

"This photo of the Fairbanks engine house is fantastic.   What looks like the Chena river running off to the left was just a shallow slew and you can see the remains of the winter snow windrows along side the submerged road running to the left of the engine house.  The actual river is about a quarter mile further to the left of this scene." - Pat Durand

image Flooding of railroad yard
image Flooding of railroad yard

Leaving Fairbanks

"The LC  Locomotive crane with the clam shell bucket was used for coaling the steam locomotives still in service.  It also cleaned the ash pit and did what ever lifting chores were needed around the yard.  You can see from the stack that she is simmering away ready for the next call to duty.  That might even be playing yard goat and pulling a locomotive out of the engine house.

"The raillroad tracks go due West at this point to the University of Alaska seen just as dots on the first foot hill to the right of the tracks.   Then they go to ESTER and turn South toward Nenana.

"Note the freshly painted blue and Yellow Brill car #214 and trailer #308.  These were probably used for local connections to the college campus and then Nenana and Healy in that era.   The parks highway construction was still 20 years away but there was a fairly good network of gravel to mud roads around the Fairbanks area.  The Richardson highway South had been improved some during the war but was still primitive." - Pat Durand

image Forrest (Dad's helper)
image Forrest
image Stephen Krawczyk in engine house
image Stephen Krawczyk with delicate tool
image Night crew
image Krawczyk quonset with garden and Dad's window
image Stephen Krawczyk and his garden
image Quonset home
image Quonset erecting.
image Quonset erecting.
image Railroad stop
image Snowed in - Government Hill
image Snowed in
image Storage yards
image Railroaders

Steam engine #310

"This 1948 view of the Fairbanks engine house shows two locomotives simmering in the cold afternoon setting sun. A good guess is early November with the ice coming off the roof. The first locomotive is a Lima built 0-6-0 which was originally constructed for the United States Army Transportation Corp. The next locomotive in the string is also a G.I. s-160 2-8-0 in the 550 class. The steam crane with the clamshell bucket filled the tenders from the coal piles. Coal was delivered in gondolas and unloaded into these piles by the same crane." - Pat Durand

image Switcher #1001
image Switchers
image 1947 Anchorage aerial
image Air freight - Lifeline
image Anchorage backyard
image Backyard boat being built
image Boat in Fairbands backyard
image Chena Slough Spring
image Chena Slough Spring
image Chena Slough Spring
image Chena Slough Spring
image Cook Inlet
image Cook Inlet
image Fairbanks backyard
image Fairbanks nightclub
image Fairbanks waterfront
image Float plane
image Gold mine
image Old gold mine
image Ice pool clock tripper
image Oakley Brown and Louise
image Steve, Oakley
image Steve, Oakley, Chuck
image Strip mining
image Strip mining
image Plant watchdog
image Sidewheeler
image Slough Bridge
image U of A


Page created 12/19/14 and last updated 1/15/15
© Stephen S. Krawczzyk and Margaret Wray