Whittier in the 1940s

Ship Rail dock #1 Rail dock #3 Rail dock #2
This summer scene shows two Military Transport ships at the dock. Notice there are two tracks running the length of the pier. Also notice the large stock of barrels next to the warehouse. Were these full of fuel, lube oil or empty? What would the fire marshal think?
These photos are winter scenes taken from shore across the basin that later became the original small boat harbor. Notice the warehouse is built on pile and the stiffleg crane at the end of the pier is positioned to transfer material from the deck of an ocean going ship to rail cars on the dock or across the dock to barges or smaller craft on the lee side.
An ocean side view of the dock while still under construction. The stiffleg crane has yet to be erected. You can see, suspended in the pile below the dock, some of the large concrete cassions that formed the foundation for the support legs of the stiffleg crane. The two locomotive cranes on the dock were probably still laying the tracks on the deck.

This is the original and very substantial Railroad Dock in Whittier. Construction was completed in 1943. The first passenger boat landing at Whittier was June 8, 1943 (page 660 ARR by Prince).

The original dock was destroyed by fire one June 17, 1953 and the following account is found on page 832 of The Alaska Railroad by Prince. "On June 17, fire destroyed the port installation at Whittier. Starting shortly after 5 p.m., in less than four hours there was nothing left to burn. Loss was set at $20,000,000. At least 19 firefighters were injured, among them Andy Hedge, Alaska Railroad Yardmaster. Andy and his crew succeeded in getting 35 cars from the dock area - many of the cars contained valuable military cargo. Andy was finally forced to jump from the dock as two walls of fire closed in on him. He was injured when he landed on the fireboat 35 feet below. Other casualties were military personnel. The depot was saved, but the dock and three warehouses were destroyed, along with the Railroads stiffleg crane, the largest in Alaska.

"All traffic was shifted to Seward immediately, placing a heavy burden on that port. To add to the burden, weather was unseasonably warm. Snow from the high country melted and brought lakes and rivers to flood level. Water was over the tracks at Moose Pass and Crown Point. Diesels were pulled off and the steamers took over through areas where as much as nine inches of water covered the rails."

"Because of his heroic actions in saving the railroad cars and military freight from the fire that destroyed the Whittier terminal facilities on June 17, Alaska Railroad Yardmaster Andrew J. Hedge received the Interior Distinguished Service Award, the highest honor the Department of the Interior can bestoe. Still under treatment for injuries received when he had to jump from the dock during the fire, he was unable to attend the special convocation in Washington, D.C., on December 8, 1953."

There is a photo on page 833 showing the aftermath of the fire.

Photographs courtesy of the Terry Bender Collection
Brill 114 Brill interior Whittier yard
Brill number 114 ran three times a week to Whittier.
Passengers are traveling to the tunneling through ceremony.
Rail yard in Whittier.


Crewbuilders Dock Whittier yard
Left to right, jack Felte, General Electrical and Mechanical Superintendent; A. C. Swalling, West Construction Company Superintendent; Lt. Col J. M. McGreevy, Command Officer of the 42nd Engineers; Major C, B, Burgoyne, Resident Engineer; Robert W. Craig, Chief Draftsman; and Anton A. Anderson, Chief Engineer, Whittier, Alaska - June 11, 1943.
Freight train being loaded at Whittier Dock on June 8, 1943.
Galloping goose 1944  
The old Dodge rail bus No. 111, affectionately known as the "Galloping Goose," the "gray goose," or the "gray ghost," became a traveling Post Exchange for the 714th.





A few from Bernadine Prince's book, the Alaska Railroad

Snow Laying track First trip #1 First trip #2
Laying track in Whittier Railroad Yards. Note snowbanks of dozed snow. Accumulative snowfall was 8 feet - February 2, 1943. Laying track on Whittier Cut-off. Note heavy snow - January 10, 1943. Crew of the new diesel, front row, Engineer George Moore and Conductor W. P. Burgan; center, Maurice Scott; top row, a member of the 714th, and Wayne Ware. Photograph was taken at Whittier on June 15, 1944, day of the initial run. No. 1001 and Fireman C. M. Osborne oat Whittier on day of initial run.



And here is one photo from 1954
1500 Man barracks
1500 Man barracks, Whittier, Alaska.  Photographer Gene Adoline was an enlisted man in the Army at Ft. Richardson in 1954.  Of his photograph, he recalls, "Port Whittier Barracks had connecting tunnels which were used during the months that snow was bountiful.  At the time this picture was taken (1954) the army would not let photographs be taken of this area as it was a very strategic area and the mountains behind these barracks were loaded with gun emplacements. Almost like Gibraltar."


Locomotive scrapeline

Where did all those steam locomotives go?  
By Pat Durand

In January of 1958, the Norwegian heavy lift vessel the BELBETTY arrived in Whittier. Waiting there in storage were 14 retired Alaska Railroad steam locomotives bound for Spain. See pages 870-872 of Volume II Alaska Railroad by Bernadine Prince for the story and spotty photos.  

Retired locomotives were collected at Birchwood Yard and later moved to the Portage Yard where they were photographed in early spring 1956. Carol Elovirta of Naples Florida, recently visited Whittier after 51 years absence. She was a young married military dependent in 1956 and lived next door to the Durand family in the old Whittier trailer court. She shared a number of photographs from those days in Whittier that railroaders will find of interest. The originals were badly faded color slides that were computer enhanced.  These locomotives were moved into Whittier in 1957 and stored on one yard lead near Colombia Lumber Co. 

Art Gibson also photographed this line up when it was in Whittier. 

No. 401, the 402, the 403, the 405, the 406, the 552, the 555 the 558, the 559 and the 560 all consolidations were loaded aboard. The remains of 701, The 702, the 703 and the 902 completed the load on the BELBETTY destined for the Port of Gijon, Spain for service on the 40 mile long Ferroccarril de Langreo in the Province of Asturias.

During the post war reconstruction of the Alaska Railroad there was another scrap drive that resulted in retired locomotives moving to Whittier from Birchwood. On page 725 of Volume II Alaska Railroad by Prince there are photos from the Frank O'Donnell collection, courtesy of Dennis O'Neil.   These photos show the remains of 756 (sic) but there was no mike by that number, so it is probably #751 an ex NP Loco scraped in 1947. Loco 4073 an Army switcher, misidentified in the caption as 473 is in the train.  Two of the original Panama moguls, one from each class, 606, 280 lead the train in tow behind a 550 class Consolidation. These locomotives probably became granddad's Chevrolet.

Pat Durand provided us with some excerpts regarding Whittier from Bernadine Prince's book, The Alaska Railroad:

Page 658: "The first passenger was run through the Whittier tunnels on March 10 when the Alaska Railroad Brill Car No. 114 and trailer, with Engineer Frank O'Donnell at the controls, and Conductor John N. Rothy in charge of the train."

Pages 675-677: There are photos of Locos 1001 and 1000 with dignitaries and train crews in Anchorage and Whittier. The first run by these locomotives was on June 15, 1944. The Whittier Depot was complete and operational on their arrival. Engineer George Moore, Conductor W.P. Burgan, Maurice Scott, Wayne Ware and a member of the 714th made up the crew and they are pictured on page 676. The locomotives arrived in Whittier on June 9th and were towed to Anchorage to be prepared for service.

Page 692: (comment: This reference is to the operations of the 714th Railway Operating Bn and only relates to transportation functions and assets. The Alaskan Command continued with its combined force mission in Whittier, with Navy, MSTS, and Army personnel). "Under and agreement with the Army, The Alaska Railroad took over all operations at Whittier on December 17,1945, replacing soldier forces there. All mechanized equipment, supplies and buildings not already owned by the Railroad were either transferred or loaned to the Railroad. The Army also released 85 enlisted men for employment by the Railroad as longshoremen".

Page 696: Early in March 1946, the Port of Whittier was closed because of the decrease in military traffic, and such traffic was handled through Seward.

Page 697: The Seward Army Dock was closed on September 11 and the Railroad took over its operation. Army personnel moved to Whittier and opened that port again on September 12. Task Force "Frigid", experimental group of 1400 troops, arrived on September 12 at Whittier.

These photographs are from Ken Reuben's 1944-45 tour of duty in Alaska.