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Nenana Depot History
A Time Line History of the Nenana Alaska Railroad Depot
by Patrick Durand

Time Line Links

> October 27, 1922
>Agent's Quarters 1937
>Summer 1938
>June 20, 1962
>July 1964
>August 1979
>October 1979
>September 1981 (south)
>September 1981 (west)
>September 1981 (street)
>Summer 1983 #1
>Summer 1983 #2
>August 1998
>2001 collision
>2001 despute

Other Important Stuff

>Golden Spike Ceremony
>75th Anniversary
>Yard Map
>July 2000 Photo
>Nenana River

The Nenana Station platform has hosted Panama 200 class moguls and 4000 class SD70MACs over it's 80 year history.  Preparing to build a detailed model of the Nenana Depot required reviewing many photos and books in my library.  It occurred to me that not many potential builders of the American Model Builders Kit would have these resources, so I set out to create a list of detail features.  With many changes made to the structure over the years, the list evolved into a time line.  It is offered to assist in presenting an accurate portrayal of the structure.

I have exercised the doctrine of "fair use" in making altered copies of photos from some publications to illustrate this aid for model building.  Credit has been given to sources, and these items are not to be duplicated for any commercial purpose.  Photos by Pat Durand and Matt McCullor may be duplicated for your enjoyment.

October 27, 1922 dates a construction photo in which the doors had not yet been painted green.  The Nenana Depot was opened for service on December 12, 1922  as reported on page 485 in Bernadine Prince's two volume book THE ALASKA RAILROAD.  (Future references for this work will be "Pr  page number" example Pr485.) 

A single level station with passenger waiting room to the east (railroad north) and baggage freight room at the west (railroad south) the depot was finished in dark green with white trim.  (PollyS 414281 Reading Green is a good choice for a model displayed under interior light.)

Features to note:

  • White trim is extended to exposed rafter ends
  • All window mullions, sash and casements are white
  • Door jambs and trim are white, but the door surface was green
  • Chimney extends four courses above roof ridge
  • Coal chute opening next to agents door has a 6 lite window

  • July 15, 1923 the Depot was in service for the "Gold Spike" ceremony which was held across the river at the north end of the Mears Memorial Bridge.  Keith Christenson's post card collection provides an updated view based on a CANN photograph taken looking due west.  Locomotive 601, a Panana mogul, is pausing with a passenger train in a classic platform shot.

    Features to note:

  • Chimney is obviously brick as constructed.  When this was changed to pured concrete is not known as of yet. 
  • No road vehicles in view. Nenana was not on the highway system until the 1960s with the completion of the Parks Highway.
  • Costumes of the period include hats on every head.  Do you see any women?

  • In 1937, a Proposed Agent's Quarters for Nenana Depot, File No 320, was adopted and built during November and December.  A single piece of paper indicating "No other drwgs" roughed out a second floor "Agent's Quarters" to be built over the existing baggage room.  Two bedrooms, bath, living room and kitchen were completed.  The drawing is courtesy of Randy Thompson. The stairwell went down five treads to a landing and then turned east along the South wall of the baggage room to an "arctic" entry on the street side.  This residence entry was separated from the baggage area by a second interior door at the bottom of the stairwell landing.

    Summer 1938 (Pr627) shows the second story complete with its new cement block chimney.  The original furnace chimney has been extended upward with large diameter stove pipe to clear the roof line of the new second story.  Later views show this extended with poured concrete.

    1947-52 Alaska Railroad post war rehabilitation included a spruce up campaign along the entire railroad.  Sometime in this period, the Nenana Depot got the new paint of beige with dark brown trim.   Windows, mullions, frames and casements were painted dark brown.   Doors, frames and jambs were all painted dark brown.  The remainder of the structure was Beige.  (PollyS  414302 Sand is proper for modeling the beige and 414281 Boxcar Red is appropriate for the trim.)

    On June 20, 1962 the depot was captured when the Nenana and Tanana River junction was at flood stage (Pr915).  The last operating steam engine on the Alaska Railroad, #557 was used during high-water on the Nenana River to pull trains through flood waters between Clear and Nenana.  The photo was taken looking west and is from the Alaska Railroad Collection. 

    Features to note are: 

  • High water mark, which flooded the basement boiler room 
  • No flag pole or stone monument
  • Original Chimney is now extended up to 12 feet with poured concrete

  • In July 1964, a benchmark photo of the Nenana Station was taken looking southeast from the deck of a barge tied up at the Tanana River wharf.  This photo is the December offering in Randy Thompson's 2001 ARR Calendar and is courtesy of the Anchorage Museum of History and Art, Alaska Railroad Collection.   This depiction of the working, north side, of the Nenana Depot in its glory days was probably taken about 10 pm in the evening judging from the midsummer shadows being cast on the East side of objects.  That was back in the days when Alaska had four time zones.  Not a person to be seen on the street but the open doors and windows indicate an 80 or 90 degree day, not uncommon. 

    Features to note are: 

  • Paint is beige over all with brown windows and doors including their trim
  • Small chimney pipe on second story and short bathroom vent pipe in roof
  • Fire escape ladder below living room window on the southwest corner of the roof
  • Baggage cart on platform along with pallet freight and 55 gallon drums
  • Trash cans made from 55 gallon barrels with swinging door hooded covers
  • Benches under eves on passenger platform
  • Train order boards in stop position
  • Two inch vent pipe for buried fuel oil tank is attached at northwest corner
  • Large and tall utility pole at east end mounted a radio antenna
  • Screen door at Agent's office opened out on right side hinges
  • Rail next to depot is 115 lbs. while the siding is likely only 70 lbs.
  • Box for waybills is located to the left of baggage room door
  • Nenana sign is centered below the windows on west end
  • Scrap lumber nailed at strategic places on roof to support workers when they replaced storm windows or worked on chimney.  These also prevented ice and snow from sliding off over the baggage room door.

  • The 1979 (August and October) view westward by Ken Brovald, shows off the stone monument and flag pole near the northeast corner of the waiting room.  The monument was added during the 1973 50th anniversary.   Photo courtesy the Ken Brovald Collection at The Museum of Alaska Transportation and Industry.  This and other Nenana photos are in ALASKA WILDERNESS RAILS by Ken C. Brovald.

    Features to note are:

  • Ladder boards nailed to roof of Agent's Quarters
  • Ladder affixed to the roof from the eve to ridge for access to vent in attic
  • Combined stop sign and street sign at southeast corner
  • Second track siding is connected to the main line west of the depot

  • September 1981 photos (south, west and street) by Pat Durand were taken about 8 pm in the evening. These may be reproduced however you wish because the author exposed them!  The street scene and south side details are instructive. 

    Features to note:

  • Utility connections and poles are next to the restroom bay
  • Aluminum screen door covers entrance to Agent's Quarters
  • Curtains in bedroom windows but no shade in stairwell window
  • Steel guard rails attached to piling protect street side of building
  • Position of attic vent hatch and ladder is verified
  • Small dormer roof protecting baggage room door on street side is obvious
  • Furnace flue on west end was upgraded to Metal Bestos insulated type
  • Electrical hitching post outlets are on west end
  • Railway Express sign is positioned below restroom window

  • In summer 1983,  Dr. Nicholas Deeley captured the Depot area with photos in his book, ALASKA RAILROAD "The Great Denali Trek", on pages 140 and 141

    Features to note: 

  • Paint is still beige with brown trim, weathering on the north and west sides
  • Trash cans are now residential containers
  • Nenana sign has been moved about five feet toward the track and is no longer centered on the roof overhang

  • 1987 saw the Nenana Station transferred to the City of Nenana and the establishment of the Alaska State Railroad Museum in the building. A restoration program was undertaken which resulted in return to the dark green paint with white trim. Utility poles and guard rails were removed from the south side. A 75th anniversary stone monument was added next to the 50th monument at the east end of the depot.

    August of 1998 photo taken by Matt McCullor and reproduced here by his permission, provides another benchmark. Looking northwest at the street side of the Nenana Depot it documents the 1990's ambiance. A gift shop contractor operates in the waiting room area. The balance of the building is dedicated as an Alaska State Railroad Museum with a number of display items inside and out.

    Features to note:

  • Paint is overall dark green including rafters and the doors
  • White trim is on windows, casements, jambs, corbels, belt line and posts
  • Both the metal chimney and furnace chimney have been removed fromthe residence on the second floor
  • White attic vents have been added at the east and west ends of the shingled roof on the residence and on the west end of the ground floor
  • A taller flashing was added to the remaining poured concrete chimney
  • The small dormer roof over the street side baggage door is shown
  • A higher vent hood has been added to the access hole on the ridge line of the first story roof near the dormer roof extensions. This is reached from a roof ladder on the track side.
  • Both stone monuments and flag pole are prominent at the east end.
  • A Fairmont M4 speeder is displayed under the eves at track side. A large ships capstan protects the flag pole from errant autos while gold dredge buckets protect the street side corner support of the building.
  • The combined street and stop sign post Indicate Front St. & A St.
  • Utility service entrance has been removed from outside of bathrooms and the utility poles and guard rails are gone from the street side
  • Mixed flower boxes of begonias and fucias decorate the street side

  • In March of 2001, an inebriated driver drove down A street, the main street in Nenana, and his vehicle did not stop at the intersection of Front street.  The vehicle entered the bathrooms and continued through the hall into the poured concrete chimney breaking it in five places. As of January 2002 repairs have not been completed as there is a dispute among the insurance carrier and all the parties involved.  Photos courtesy of Diane Neill of the Nenana News.

    Contractor John Reeves, in a phone interview, confirms the main chimney was poured concrete about 24 inches square with rebar every 3 inches. Wood forms were made from 8 feet lumber so from ground level these appear to be block. Unfortunately this feature has now been removed. A perimeter concrete foundation supports the building.

    The basement under the agents office held the original coal bin, boiler and steam heating system. This basement was subject to floods. The coal fired furnace was abandoned and the coal chute window covered over. Prior to 1964, a boiler room for a fuel oil fired hot water system was built inside the baggage area against the west wall. The chimney extended up through the residence and roof of the second story at the west end.

    Some storm windows were found in the attic. These were two light with hardware to hang them outside the double hung windows flush with the window casement trim. Hinged at the top they could be pushed out at the bottom to allow ventilation.

    Interior paint in the agents area and waiting room was a light peach above window sills. Fir wainscoting in mahogany stain extended to the floor. The warehouse area walls were painted light gray. Hardwood floors were used throughout the building.

    February 2002, has seen some repairs made to the Nenana Depot and Diane Neill provided these updated digital views.  The details of the baggage room doors reveal different treatment on the track and street sides of the building. A gliding door on overhead barn hardware allows for maximum curb clearance for vehicles on the street side.  On the track platform side, the door is in two sections which swing outward on strap hinges on each door jamb.  Note the doors were flush sheeted during the last restoration project. 

    The safe setting on the operators doorstep, sat next to the poured concrete chimney before it was demolished by the pickup truck entering the building from the other side.  Was it projected out through the door by the impact?  Looks like it.  The strange white structure on the roof is a fire escape added to the residence in the  restoration project.  Electrical service entrance has been moved to the Northwest corner and an above ground fuel oil tank situated there as well. 

    This time line covers the first 79 years of the Nenana Depot's physical appearance based on images available and interviews. Corrections and additions are welcome by the author. Photos by Pat Durand and Matt McCullor may be duplicated. All others should be used only for modeling purposes.

    Thanks to the authors and photographers referenced and the following individuals:

    Diane Neill, Editor of the Nenana Messenger
    Gene Jensen, Nenana Fire Chief
    John Reeves, Restoration Contractor

    The American Model Builders LASERkit Nenana Alaska Railroad Depot HO Scale kit 159 can be ordered from:

    Roundhouse Hobbies www.roundhousehobbies.com
    Randy Thompson
    PO Box 149
    Denali Park  AK  99755


    Page created 1/9/02 and last updated 3/15/017
    © 2002-2017 Patrick Durand unless otherwise noted