Alaska Railroad Turntables

I have presented this material here using a lazy "copy and paste" format. This style enables me to present the information in the author's own words plus encourage further comment from others . Make sure and drop me an e-note if you have more information to contribute!

By the time I moved to Fairbanks in 1963 the only turntable on the Alaska Railroad was the one in Anchorage. The Anchorage turntable went in to service about 1921. By the time I first saw it the few remaining stalls of the roundhouse were used for equipment storage of such things as the wrecker. The Anchorage turntable did see service for turning locomotives until at least the late fifties but I never saw it used to turn anything.

The new (post WW II) facilities in Fairbanks never had a turntable. I don't remember ever having found reference in photos or in writing to a turntable being in Fairbanks. I am sure the narrow gauge line never had one but would love to be proven wrong. The "steam locomotive era" engine house in Fairbanks was a oblong structure of about four tracks. Given there was not even a coaling tower in Fairbanks (they used a locomotive crane to fuel the locomotives) I seriously doubt there was ever a turntable there.

To the best of my knowledge there was also never a turntable at Healy, Nenana, Curry, or Seward although I vaguely remember references to the Alaska Northern having one at Seward.

I did a quick page by page scan of both volumes of THE ALASKA RAILROAD by Bernadine LeMay Prince and RAILROAD IN THE CLOUDS by William H. Wilson before I wrote the above. No photos of any turntable other than the one at Anchorage were noted and scanning parts of the text didn't turn up any mention of another one.

All of that said I can also add a bit of a footnote here: At least TWO turntables were picked up as War Surplus after WW II but they never got to Alaska. I have seen and heard anecdotal evidence of a considerable amount of WW II surplus being "sold for scrap" and never getting to Alaska with the proceeds going in to the pockets of railroad officials. I don't remember that anyone ever was accused or stood trial for this but the "accounting problems" did help lead to the end of Col. Otto Ohlson's reign as the General Manager of the Alaska Railroad.

by John Henderson, Alaska Rail News editor, Industrial Railroad editor, NORTH/WEST RAILFAN

Turntable photos on this web page:



Page created on 3/7/05 and last updated 7/22/05
© 2005 by individual authors as noted above