Walter Strong

Walt served in the Navy SeaBees in the Aleutians during WWII and following his discharge in 1947 returned to Alaska to work for the Alaska Railroad. He began in train service reaching Conductor status at some point then became Yardmaster in Anchorage followed by his stint as Assistant Superintendent of Transportation under Bill Davidson. I don't recall what year he retired but was in late 60's as I recall.
 
Interestingly, Walt's Granddad, Fred Date worked for ARR in the very early days. He had a small house on the banks of the Chena River in Fairbanks kind of in back of where the old dorm was located and was, at one time, in the Healy Roundhouse, don't know his position. Fred's daughter, Helen (Walt's mother) was born in Valdez in 1900 where Fred was stationed with the Corps of Engineers assigned to survey a route for a railroad from Valdez to Fairbanks that ultimately became the Richardson Highway.
 
When Walt moved the family to Anchorage in 1947. I was two and Jon was newborn and we traveling via the Alaska Steamship SS Aleutian to Seward then rail to Anchorage. Jon and I were raised in Anchorage and we lived on Government Hill in a railroad Quonset hut until about 1956 then moved over to the south bluff overlooking the rail yards. I actually worked at ARR first as a gandy-dancer in 1963 then the old freight shed then moved over to the heavy equipment shop on a mechanic apprenticeship.

- Contributed by Walt's middle son  Bob (Bobbie)

image 1. Anchorage is in the back ground of this photo taken looking nearly due South on a brisk early spring day near the Old Army POL farm. Standard Oil/Chevron loading racks are behind the photographer . The crew is standing in the middle of what is now the main road to the Anchorage dock about where the guard house is located. The loaded tank cars would have originated in Whittier.
image 2. Road bed and rail damage at Portage following the March 27 1964 earthquake. Surround terrain had sunk as shown here by the water incursion from Turnagain arm off to the left of this photo.
image 3. The Twenty Mile River Highway bridge following the March 27 1964 earthquake. The steel pile had concrete caps below the concrete deck. The caps were sheared of the piles and then the piles drove through the deck as the bridge collapsed. The railroad bridge just up river in the photo survived and was back in operation soon.
image 4. Post earthquake photo dated 7-20-64. Seward main streets run due North from the docks at the bottom of the picture where the railroad terminated. The entire railroad yard and docks that were at the Eastern edge of town along the waterfront are now gone.
image 5. Walter Strong on new caboose #1022.
image 6. (left to right) Assistant General Manager Dick Bruce, Trainmaster Walt Strong, Superintendent of Transportation Bill Davidson
image 7. From the caption: Office Force,- Alaska Central Ry.-Seward, Alaska. - March 10, 1906. My guess this is the entire railroad staff and a few customers as well. At that time the Alaska Central Railroad went to mile 50 and connected to nothing in the middle of the winter. This is probably a spring organizing meeting planning for the summer season construction. Head hunters were busy convincing their key employees such as John Van Cleve,(5th from the right) Master Mechanic and Superintendent of Motive Power, to move to Eyak and work for Heney and Hawkins to build the Copper River and Northwestern.
image 8. This scene is not on the Alaska Railroad
image 9. Alaska Railroad Depot and General Office on Ship Creek in Anchorage shortly after completion in September 1942. There were later addition to both ends of the building. The notation Commissary refers to the large white building on the other side of ship creek.
image 10. Roster photo of 4-8-2 Light Mountain #801 on the Anchorage Turntable.
image 11. Cushman Street Bridge in Fairbanks looking up river. The ARR end of track is about one city block to the left of this image at the station.
image 12. Locomotive #702 at the Healy Yard. In this photo she still had the standard cab and the booster on the trailing truck. Both features were changed in later years.
image 13. Looking down the Nenana River overlooking the original five span deck bridge on the Suntrana spur. The Suntrana coal tipple is about 2 miles to the right and the Healy yard is on the bluff to the left of this image. This bridge was later replaced with a thru span moved from another location. Today the mine mouth Healy Power Plant is just to the right of the photo and the White Elephant fluid bed clean coal plant is in moth balls just right on the shore downstream.
image 14. What can I say. "Shist happens" Just another rock slide probably in the Healy Canyon.
image 15. 16, 17, 18. What can I say. "Snow happens". Correct me if my eyes deceive, but I do believe this is Mogul #611 showing us her belly after either being caught in or running up on a snow slide along Turnagain Arm. Best guess would be around Bird Point. These are some of the best detail shots you will find of the 600 class Panama Moguls. Compare the width of the tender tires to those on the locomotive. She had wide tires to the inside to reduce her gauge from 5 ft to 56 1/2 inches. This also made these locos subject to hard rides on ice because they would run up on ice outside the rails that other traffic failed to remove.
image 16. See description #15
image 17. See description #15
image 18. See description #15
image 19. and 20. Please not another moose photo. These are instructive, as the first one is either laying down or wading in deep snow. The later view is headed railroad North past Peters Creek along Knik Arm. Those are the Talkeetna Mountain due North.
image 20. See description #19
image 21. In the cab of a new EMD F7 approaching the Eklutna Section house. Lazy Mountain is in the background.
image

22. Conductor taking it easy. This could be the Seward with its large rear facing window and offset door on the rear platform.

image 23. Troop Sleeper probably parked for a section gang camp. Person, unknown, is setting in the offset door. As an economy measure, when these cars were built they moved the doors to the left to share the upright support of the window. This saved the steel upright required of a centered door.
image 24. Taken from the main line in the Healy Yard showing the Alaska Railroad central heating plant on the right edge. The Suntrana Spur is out of operation as right in the middle of the photo you can see on span of the bridge over the Nenana River is down.
image 25. Unknown
image 26. Unknown bear cubs. Maybe Moe and Curly?
image 27. Yes, Martha, it is a sun kink in Alaska. The round rock used for ballast just does not hold the ties. Like laying a railroad on roller bearings.
image 28. Doing what railroaders do best. Maybe the interior of the Healy RR Hotel judging from the windows and wall treatments.
image 29. Possibly Wasilla Creek bridge with Fairview Road in the distance?
image 30. Arriving in Downtown Wasilla about March 1953. Depot is on the left and Alaska Road Commission warehouse is on the right where today the four lane Parks Highway is located. Knik road crossing is just beyond the station. This was pretty much the end of the highway and points beyond were served by the Railroad.

Special thanks goes to the Walter Strong family and Drew Dekreon for providing these images!
Thanks also to Pat Durand for the extended commentaries.

Page created 3/24/11 and last updated 3/26/11
© 2011 Walter Strong collection unless otherwise noted

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