Alaska Northern Railway

The Alaska Northern Railway Company was born on October 9, 1909 following the Alaska Central's foreclosure on October 11,1909. The book Rails North by Howard Clifford says of its assets, "The Alaska Northern took over three locomotives from the Alaska Central (some reports indicated that one of the original four was sold to the Copper River and North-western Railroad.  Other reports show all four being taken over by the government in the transfer of properties when the government purchased the Alaska Northern in 1915).  Other properties included two baggage or mail cars; 33 freight cars, including seven box cars and 26 flat cars; and one service car; plus other rolling stock.

trainThe company finished the loop section and added 21 miles of single standard gauge track which brought it to Kern Creek on Turnagain Arm.  Also, 16 miles of siding was added with another 40 miles partially complete.

A variety of calamities plagued the railroad.  It was costly to maintain and frequently succumbed to blizzards, tunnel ice, large snowfalls, and avalanches.  By late 1910 the project was running low on funds.  New rail could not be added and maintenance of existing rail and equipment could not be done.  Soon, only a gasoline speeder operated on the track.

By 1914 the Alaska Northern was suffering.  Basic track maintenance did not take place due to internal struggles for corporate control.  William H. Wilson in his book Railroad in the Clouds adds, "This was so much worse, for the line pioneered through sixty-five and seventy pound rail laid over untreated native spruce ties.  There were ten degree and 12 degree curves and a 2.5 percent grade against traffic to tidewater.  Cuts, fills and tunnels were dangerously narrow, and native timber trestles sagged over glacial streams."  In 1912, the railroad hauled a pitiful 257 tons of freight and 2,600 passengers.

The Secretary of the Interior recommended to President Taft that the government purchase the Alaska Northern and finish the job.  In 1915 the government purchased the Alaska Northern including 71 miles of standard gauge track, shops and equipment.   This included three locomotives, a rotary snow plow, 5 boarding cars, 1 observation car, 24 flat cars, 3 box cars, 2 cabooses, 2 gasoline cars.  Investors spent over $4,125,00, but the government's purchase price was about 25 cents on  the dollar.

The government (in the form of the Alaskan Engineering Commission) set to work brining the line up to good working condition and had trains operating to milepost 45 by early in 1917.  By the beginning of the summer, trains were running to Kern Creek, milepost 71.

Here is the cover and first page of Equipment Register No. 18 of the Alaska Northern Railway.

Click here to view a stock certificate from the Alaska Northern Railway.

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