2000 News Archive
(January - June)

Whittier hits the road - 6/8/00
Anchorage Daily News

The first motorists through the tunnel also signaled another piece of Alaska's history falling to the wayside. After 35 years in business, the shuttle train that connected Whittier to Portage took its final ride at 11:15 a.m. Many of those waiting in cars on both sides said they were glad, while others bemoaned the end of an era. 

[see story]

Whittier shuttle ends today - 6/8/00
By Robert Krol via the arrrailfans Yahoo Club
The Whittier Shuttle has ended today with the opening of the new road to Whittier. The shuttle made a few trips out this morning and will have another trip back into Whittier this evening. I called over to the Lead Ticket Agent and he said he was closing up the booths in Portage. The fun ride is over and now you have to drive into Whittier. The ARR had 2, 3 man crews in Whittier holding down the shuttle job and now they are displaced and have to bid on other jobs. The 4-6 ticket agents are out of jobs and have to start looking for other employment. It would have been nice for them to move over to the tunnel operations, but the State of AK DOT contracted out that operation to a company from Virginia. I guess that is some kind of money saving thing, having an outside company run your show for you.

Channel 2 News in Anchorage will have coverage of the road opening tonight on the Late Edition at 10pm, for all of you who have access to local Anch. channels.

Whittier building to be demolished and removed - 6/7/00
By John Combs
The Alaska Railroad Corporation (ARRC) is soliciting bids for demolition and removal of the "In-Transit Storage Building”  on the ARRC Marginal Wharf in Whittier.  The building was built in 1958 and was used for office space and living quarters.  The west quarter end of the building currently houses ARRC Maintenance-of-Way forces and is not part of the removal contract.

Atlas announces ARR GP38 - 6/7/00
By John Combs

Atlas has announced an HO scale ARR GP38 due in September.  It will use the blue and yellow paint scheme and have numbers 2003 (#8979) and 2005 (#8980) plus one unnumbered unit (#8981).  MSRP will range from $119.95 to $129.95.
Gold Creek fuel spill remains unconquered, Neighbors, river face pollution - 6/6/00
Anchorage Daily News Report Don Hunter
For an hour or so, the flag-stop train chugs through forests of spruce and birch north of Talkeetna, never far from the rushing, gray Susitna River. It's an idyllic ride: A passenger looking to the west is likely to see pairs of white swans gliding above the water, a brown bear splashing on the far bank, a moose looking up as the train passes. A cabin here and there sits back among the trees, and sometimes there's a flash of blue tarp at a campsite.

The panorama changes abruptly when the train rounds a corner and approaches Gold Creek. Instead of trees, dozens of metal well casings stand chest high on a broad band of ground scraped bare and replanted with huts and container vans. Everything changed here on a dark night last December when a train jumped the tracks and spilled 120,000 gallons of jet fuel. And years will pass before the network of pipes and pumps built to recover or neutralize it disappears.

The Gold Creek spill was the largest in Alaska since the Exxon Valdez hit Bligh Reef in 1989. Though the amount of kerosenelike fuel that drained from the wrecked tank cars is minuscule by comparison, all or part of the cargo in 15 cars was lost at Gold Creek.

The job of cleaning up the spill has proved formidable.

The railroad's initial response was slowed by cold, snowy weather and the remoteness of this valley floor hemmed by the Susitna, which runs through a forest about a quarter-mile west of the tracks, and by a steep ridge to the east that the handful of locals call Nevermore. Leeroy Zeroth, who owns 80 acres adjoining the railroad right-of-way, isn't sure how the peak got its name, but has his suspicions. "It's a pretty tough climb," he said.

Instead of pooling in the snow atop frozen soil, as railroad officials first predicted, the spilled fuel quickly soaked into the ground and pancaked out for hundreds of feet. It stopped when it hit groundwater, 38 to 40 feet down.

Cleanup crews drilled dozens of wells to find it and recover it. A little over five months later, they've retrieved about 16,000 gallons. The pace has dropped to about 30 gallons a day - "If that," said Jim Kross, general manager for ESL, LLC, the contractor hired by the railroad to conduct the cleanup.

With breakup, the groundwater rose, pushing oil into a "smear zone" in the soil where it can't be pumped out. Kross and the railroad are pinning most of their hopes on clean air and the tiny microbes that naturally occur in the soil. Work crews have built a "vapor extraction" network of pipes and pumps on the west side of the railroad tracks. Later in the summer, the system will be extended through the railbed to the east side, where Zeroth and his wife Kathy are worried about fuel that has spread under their property.

Kross said vapor extraction has worked at other spill sites in Alaska. "Skimming the product is necessary, but we get more reduction in contamination from this air system," he said. Still, he and railroad officials expect it will take several summers for the microbes to consume the fuel.

Vacuum units create underground suction through the wells, drawing air from above ground down through the fuel-contaminated soil. Oxygen in the air stimulates microbes, which start eating hydrocarbons. They're especially good at neutralizing highly refined jet fuel, Kross said. The system sucks fuel vapors and dead microbes out of the ground and releases them through an above-ground exhaust pipe.

The vacuum works to about 200 feet around each unit, he said. "By keeping this system going all the time, we're affecting this entire contaminated zone."

Kross said that includes a concentrated spill site on the east side of the tracks that started in the railroad right of way but now has fanned under the Zeroths' land and up toward a rental cabin they built about 200 yards away.

The Zeroths have watched the clean-up with growing annoyance. Most of the work is taking place on the west side of the tracks, where the spill has infiltrated Denali State Park and is very slowly edging toward the Susitna River. They want the railroad to drill more wells on their property and get a better idea of that end of the plume.

They also complain that railroad officials didn't listen when they warned that spring runoff would create the giant pond that interrupted recovery efforts last week. "The ponding just kept getting bigger and bigger and deeper and deeper," Kathy Zeroth said.

Ernie Piper, the Alaska Railroad's assistant vice president for safety and environmental compliance, said crews concentrated on the west side of the tracks for a good reason. "They (the Zeroths) are uphill," Piper said. "The priority was to work downhill, where there might be some movement."

The Zeroths also wonder what will happen when summer rains saturate the contamination zones and boost the flow in the Susitna. "I do know that river is going to get higher," Kathy Zeroth said. When the river rises, the groundwater will too, and that might push the plume farther onto their land, she said.

The prospect of heavy rainfall also worries Leslie Pearson, a spill coordinator for the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. "Anything feeding into this area is going to help move the plume," she said.

Piper said he thinks the contamination plume will remain stable. "The site has behaved exactly as we had predicted it would," he said. "The edges of the plume may have varied by a few feet over the months, but as a whole ... it hasn't moved much at all since February."

Bachmann releases an ARR N scale set - 6/4/00
Based on an email from Tom Koole

Bachmann has just come out with an N-gauge set that includes 2 ARR F-7s painted yellow and blue (one powered and one dummy) with 3 Westours full length dome cars.  The Westour cars all have different river names, ie: Knik, Deshka, etc.  Price is around $105.00 with a circle of track and a basic power pack.  Will try and order a set and will give you a full report.
Walthers releases ARR freight car set - 6/2/00
Based on an email from C. Roger Camplin
Walthers has released a set of Alaska RR cars in set 932-909. It is a five pack with a 50' flat #12952 w/ 2 containers; black hopper w/yellow lettering #14327; silver tank car #9024 (lub oil loading only); black hopper w/ yellow lettering #16005; and 40' flat w/ logs #12823.   The set lists for about $45. Needless to say, I have mine.
Runoff threatens fuel spill cleanup, Railroad to pump lake from recovery wells - 5/31/00
Anchorage Daily News
An estimated half-million gallons of spring runoff has collected beside the Alaska Railroad tracks at Gold Creek, threatening efforts to clean up last winter's 120,000-gallon jet fuel spill. 

The water has formed a lake on the east side of the tracks where the railroad has drilled a network of recovery wells to suck spilled fuel out of the ground.

[See Story]

ARRC to lease freight cars - 5/29/00
By John Combs

The ARRC has an RFP to lease new or used freight cars.  They are requesting 9 cement hoppers, 10 flatcars (for MOW purposes) and 23 airdump cars (for coal and aggregate service).  The contract specifies they will be painted in ARR colors and these is also an option to buy these cars.
Leased locomotives returned - 5/29/00
Based on an email from an anonymous source
In case you did not know it all those [Helm Leasing] units are gone.  I was happy as they really cluttered up the roundhouse.
Tunnel ready to go, Whittier facility nation's largest - 5/23/00
Anchorage Daily News
BEAR VALLEY - Project engineer Jeff Brown can look out from the control room windows in the pretty vale, past the looming entrance to the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel and across a staging area where cars, trucks and buses will wait their turn to travel 2.5 miles under a mountain to Whittier. 

No one knows for sure how many will come, though estimates run as high as 700,000 visitors this summer. They will line up in a giant parking lot and then convoy through the A-frame entrance and into dim light for about six minutes through the longest highway tunnel and the longest combined rail-highway tunnel in the nation. 

[See Story]

Leased units to be returned soon - 5/15/00
From an anonymous source

Helm units HLCX 4413, HATX 505, HLCX 4405, 4408, 4407, 4401, 3876, and 3877 are all sitting on the Park Spur in prepartion to be sent south. No ship data as we still have some defects to correct and we are too busy with the upcoming passenger season to get to that work. 

Railroad Season Begins - 5/13/00
Anchorage Daily News with an additional note from David Shewfelt

The Alaska Railroad passenger season is scheduled to start today when a train leaves Anchorage for Seward at 6:45 a.m. Ninety minutes later, the Denali Star leaves Anchorage for Fairbanks and at 10 a.m., the Glacier Discovery is to head for Whittier, said Laurie Herman, director of passenger services. The season lasts through Sept. 23. Last year the railroad carried a record 671,967 passengers, up 9 percent, Herman said. "The railroad is beginning the season a few days earlier and ending it a few days later than last year," she said. 

And David Shewfelt adds, "The First passenger train arrived at 8:15 this evening with 4001 and 4011 pulling one baggage, two coaches, 1 diner and 1 dome care all in the new paint .  It sure is a different look with the MACs up front." 

Alaska Railroad and Holland/America Westours holds benefit - 5/12/00
Based on email from James Blasingame, ARR VP Corporate Affairs

This [train comprised of an SD70MAC 4001, three McKinley Tour domes and Denali on the passenger mainline in Anchorage] was a benefit to the Children's Hospital at Providence Alaska Medical Center. 

The Alaska Railroad and Holland/America Westours made a commitment to the Alaska Children's Hospital to operate a train [on May 11, 2000]  utilizing the Westour dome coaches and we at the Alaska Railroad committed to pulling the cars.  Holland/America provided their dome cars and all the catering for the event.      It was a dinner train along Turnagain Arm to Portage and return.   The participants paid $500 a couple to enjoy a gourmet dinner with strolling musicians on board.   This was the 3rd year it has been offered.

All the proceeds goes directly to the Children's Hospital which was just built here at the Providence Alaska Medical Center.   It is really a very neat hospital because it is "kid-friendly"........ it allows those children in Alaska who may have some debilitating disease to be treated here in Alaska without having to travel to the lower 48 and Seattle to seek treatment.   It has become the success story among our medical community. 

You [John Combs] will have to see it when you visit Alaska because all of the " theme decor" of the hospital is transportation.   The Railroad is featured, aircraft is featured and ships as well.   The rooms are all individually appointed with all the fixtures at "kid height" and there are bed facilities for the parents to sleep right in the room with their children.   The intensive unit of the facility has whales on the ceiling that provides some fun for the kids in that unit.   It helps to take the kids minds off their illness.

 Latest ARR news - 5/10/00
Based on Jeff Childs' posted message at the ARRrailfans Yahoo Club

I talked to Josh at the ARR open house in Anchorage and he indicated the 2002 is indeed in the "new" scheme along with the three HEP 40's. Looks like we also should be getting 3 new ex-CN cabeese shortly (1091, 1092, 1093) - two were in Tacoma and one in B.C. This from Casey. Also, 4006 has been declared the hanger queen for the MAC fleet - the things are experiencing so many failures that this unit has been sacrificed for parts for the time being to keep the others running. EMD is sending more personnel to try to fix things. 

 A "Brakeman in Training's" Input - 5/9/00
Based on an email to the ARRfriends mailing list

As one of those "Brakeman in Training" I thought I would provide some input here. 

Dome 522 from the Fun Train is in the car barn as of 8 May without trucks. It appears that Amtrak's "rebuild" of the Fun Train wasn't as good as it should have been. 

4006 "Spirit of Anchorage" is still in the shops getting it's pilot rebuilt. Two of the four steps were off of it on the conductor's side as well as the right side for the step well. The plow was off and being rebuilt as well. 

The gravel train should be making two round trips a day. Crews are called at 0700 and 1900. The crew gets on the train in Anchorage, takes the train to Palmer, load, goes to AS&G or ALAGCO unload, and return to Anchorage for crew change. It takes almost a full 12 hours to make one run with the train returning to Anchorage empty around 1700. 

There's not really a training ground at Fort Richardson. It's actually just a 12 or 13 track storage yard. It allows the class to go somewhere that we won't be bothered and can "train" safely. There's no building around the yard. So 1776 acts as our mobile class room while we're out there. Of course when we were in Anchorage yard today 1776 was nowhere to be found, and we're going out to Fort Richardson again tomorrow. 

Another observation made today is that 2502, 3019, and 3020 are dead sitting behind the engine house. The plan is to salvage all the good parts and then scrap them. I hate to see 2502 go, but with all these wonderful SD70MAC's around, she's not needed any more. 

A note about the SD70MAC's, there's a list of sidings the length of my arm that they can't go into, so every thing has to get out of there way.

ARR movement in the lower 48 - 5/9/00
From the Flimsies Northwest mailing list

Subject: FNW Fusee - 08May00 
Date: Mon, 8 May 2000 23:01:22 EDT 
From: FNWFusee@aol.com 
To: FNWFusee@aol.com 

Another Alaska engine - this time GP38-2 #2002 - has completed its rework at LRC-Livingston and is on its way home. The engine was spotted in Missoula returning to Seattle on May04. GP40-2s 3009/ 3010 also headed back north after a visit to Livingston for some work. They looked great in the Seattle sun (?) in their new paint - the same scheme as the SD70MACs have been delivered in. Alaska dome coach 523 was spotted in Seattle as well, coming in on the back of the Empire Builder. In another twist, four cabooses were spotted coming out of British Columbia on a BNSF freight, presumably heading to the frozen frontier as well - three were painted in ARR colors (the fourth was CN). - Dave Franz, Steve Goodman, Steve Noland, Claude Prutton

ARR buys cabooses from CN - 5/8/00
Based on an email relayed by Casey Durand

>Looks like the ARR has bought some Cabooses from CN...This report from railswest 

BNSF Southbound leaving Brownsville at 12.30. Power was BN 2711 GP39-2 Green 
BNSF Southbound leaving Brownsville at 12.30. 
Power was BN 2711 GP39-2 Green 
BNSF 2267 GP38-2 H1 
BN 9284 SD60M Green 
BN 2706 GP29-2 Green 
At the tail end of the train were 4 CN Wide Vision Cabooses numbered CN 78196, ARR 1091, ARR 1092 & ARR 1093 

Casey adds: 

just did an equip. trace on BNSF.  It shows... 

CN 78196 not found 
ARR 1091 in Tacoma, 5/8 6:00am 
ARR 1092 in Tacoma, 5/8 6:00am 
ARR 1093 at Brownsvill, B.C., 5/8 12:24am 

 Dome 523 Arrives in Seattle - 5/6/00
Based on an email from Steve Noland

At 0936, Amtrak 1007, the Empire Builder crossed Bridge 4 with engines 827 and 294, followed by six cars, an Alaska Railroad dome car number 523, and three roadrailers. 

 ARRC acquires boxcars; Locomotives to be retired - 5/3/00
Based on Curt Fortenberry's posted message at the ARRrailfans Yahoo Club

The railroad has acquired about 20 former Missouri Pacific 60' double door boxcars. I don't know all the number, but I've seen several in the 1097xx, 8xx numbers. There are still in the MP brown, with just the ARR reporting marks and numbers. 

ARR covered hoppers in the 14500 series are still floating around. The 14600's are leased in Canada. The earlier series is not suitable to interchange due to the conversion trucks (friction converted to roller bearings). A few are sitting at the east end of the Anchorage yard, still in their original paint (badly worn too). 

Also, GP30 2504, and GP35 2502, have been retired. Presumably they will be sold at a future auction. 

 Latest on the Florida Fun Train - 4/28/00
Based on Jeff Childs' posted message at the ARRrailfans Yahoo Club and ARRfriends Onelist

On my way to work this AM, I caught sight of a batch of passenger cars sitting in the midst of the yard, and since I was a bit early for work, I went by to check them out. The former Florida Fun Train cars were sitting in the yard still connected to the just arrived barge train. I was able to get a few photos from across the TOFC loading tracks, but the two high level cars were partially obscured by freight cars as was one of the dome-coaches. They look pretty sharp though!

Gravel season has started and 4009 and 4003 had the rocks s/b at Anchorage on 4/26 at 12:45pm. Today (4/27) 4009 was joined by 4007 (all fixed up after its scrape with 4006) going thru Anchorage at 12:30pm.

For those not accessing the Yahoo list, the Seward Fun Train is here as well as new domes 521 and 522. Still haven't see 523. Also, reported on the Yahoo list were coaches 201-204 leaving LRC for Seattle. Should be a great film-burning summer with all the new equipment!

 Latest on ARR 201-204 - 4/25/00
Based on a posted message at the ARRrailfans Yahoo Club

Here is the latest on ARR 201-204 returning to Alaska from rebuilding at the Livingston Rebuild Center.

John Henderson

Four Alaska Railroad passenger cars that were at the Livingston Rebuild Center in Livingston MT have been released and are heading home via Seattle. ARR 201/202/203/204 departed Missoula MT this morning at 06:55 on train HLAUPAS1 20, after being ferried to Missoula by train H LAUMIS1 20 yesterday. As of this evening, they were sitting in BNSF's Hauser ID yard, waiting fortransport to Seattle. They should be there in time to catch the barge to Alaska next Thursday. Three of the cars show as empty while #204 shows asloaded, which could mean that there is an escort aboard this car. - Warren Bell, Dave Franz, Ken Liesse, Brent Mueller

Alaska Railroad's passenger cars being returned from LRC - Livingston MT may have been split up. The latest trace shows ARR 201 & 202 in Spokane as of15:34 yesterday, while ARR 203 & 204 show in Pasco at 06:40 Apr22. There have been no sightings from the field on these four cars since they were spotted by Dave Franz coming out of MT. Also, out of the four cars there are three different due dates in Seattle. Go figure. -- Ken Liesse

In the other "Trace of the Week" category, the saga of the four Alaska Railroad cars as previously mentioned gets stranger and stranger. Cars ARR 201/204 are both shown as being sequence 90 and 91 respectively on the MPASINB1 23, passing Easton WA (Stampede Sub) at 21:48 Apr23. ARR 202/203 still show in Pasco, arriving there at 06:40 Apr22. All four show as planning on interchanging to the ARR on Apr26 at 16:30 (handed off to the barge). By any means, at least two of the cars will be in Seattle by Monday morning. - Ken Liesse

Latest ARR Happenings - 4/24/00
Based on a posted message from Jeff Childs at the ARRrailfans Yahoo Club

Thought you might like to know that domes 521 and 522 are in Anchorage. They were "on display" behind the depot with 4001 on the point and powered by a ground plug-in to the depot so their lights would work (since there is no HEP - yet - on a SD70MAC). I couldn't find anyone to ask to go inside, but the seats still had their plastic covers on from what little I could see through the windows. These domes have fluted roofs and look like they HAD fluted sides, but those were replaced by flat panels. I did get walk around exterior photos and roof shots (thanks to the fire escapes on the back of the depot), as well as some great roof detail shots of 4001. 

The loaded coal train sat on the P-Main next to the yard for Thursday and Friday with 4009, 4003 & 4004 on the head-end humming away. 4009 has not received its "Spirit of" decals yet.

As an aside - all of the Helm units have been parked out back of the Anchorage shops. Are any of them still being used on trains with all the MAC arrivals? I'd imagine they'll start shipping them southward soon.

Finally, the railroad must be laughing over the Whittier tunnel fiasco. In the Daily News today, everyone is now arguing over who should have priority use of the tunnel - trucks, cars or buses and in what order of passage. What a mess! And to think they could have achieved the more controlled level of traffic into/out of Whittier for 1/2 the cost by allowing the railroad to increase shuttle service.

Helm units to be returned? - 4/19/00
Based on an email from Richard Wise

The Alaska Railroad has several Helm units. I believe the plan is to return them soon, as the new SD70MACs are arriving and are being put into service. The following units have been sitting at the roundhouse in Anchorage and appear to be going through inspection and servicing before returning them. HATX 505, HLCX 3876, 3877, 3878, 4401, 4405, 4407, 4408, 4413.

New Anchorage to Seward train - 4/19/00
Based on an email from Robert Krol

I see in the ARR bid page that they want a company to provide On-Board Bev. and Food Service and cleaning of the new Seward - Anch. train named the "The Grandview".  The train will reside in Seward for the summer and consist of 4 coaches, 2 diners, a bag car and loco. The train will run on Sat., Sun., Mon., and alternating Wed. and Thurs. It will provide service for the cruise ships and run up to Anch. in the mornings and return in the evening.

Railroad car leaks load of oily water - 4/18/00
From the Anchorage Daily News

An Alaska Railroad tank car holding contaminated water from the Gold Creek jet-fuel spill near Talkeetna itself spilled its contents over the weekend near Ship Creek in Anchorage, the state Department of Environmental Conservation said. 

[See Story]

Jet fuel cleanup evolves - 4/16/00
From the Anchorage Daily News

Cleanup crews have recovered a little more than one-tenth of the 120,000 gallons of jet fuel spilled in a train wreck at Gold Creek last December, and the Alaska Railroad has decided against hauling out tons of contaminated soil. 

[See Story]

Refurbished passenger cars heading to Alaska - 4/12/00
Based on an email from the Web Lurker

Current reports show two low levels and one high level [Florida Fun Train cars] on #14 in Oregon today, with the other three still on the coach tracks at Oakland. Probably a number or cars "limit" on #14, so imagine the other three will follow in a day or so. I assume the two NP cars are in seattle somewhere. Have not heard anything about the other three ex-FFT cars yet, nor anything about the third dome out of Beech Grove.

Florida Fun Train car refurbishment complete; cars heading to Alaska - 4/11/00
Based on an email from The Colorado Zephyr

Six Alaska RR passenger cars outshopped by Colorado Railcar Manufacturing, LLC, Fort Lupton, CO, were at Denver Union Station, Denver, CO, 4-7-00.  The ex-Florida Fun-Train cars were repainted and modified for $5.5 million.

Alaska RR single level dome coaches 551, 552, 553 & 554 along with bi-level cars 351 and 352 were on track four at Denver Union Station.  They're freshly painted Alaska RR's blue and yellow scheme.  All cars will likely move west on Amtrak's California Zephyr, train #5, departing Denver 4-8-00.

Nenana Depot laserkit is expected to be available late 4th quarter - 4/11/00
From Randy Thompson

The Nenana Depot laserkit is expected to be available late 4th quarter, 2000. It will be in the design stages early this summer. The manufacturer, American Model Builders, the Laserkits people, are looking for detail photos and view shots of the Nenana Depot as well as a written history of the building for use in the kit.  Contributors may be eligible for a free kit. Please email Dave Otte at laserkit@aol.com or mail to: 
American Model Builders, Inc. 
1420 Hanley Industrial Court 
St Louis, MO 63144 
314-968-3076 Phone 
314-968-0799 Fax

John's Alaska Railroad page to shut down - 4/1/00
From John Combs

After many weeks of careful consideration, I have decided to stop maintaining my Alaska Railroad page.  Being a husband, father, Boy Scout leader and federal employee takes up almost all of my time.  After working on this website, sometimes late into the night and into the early morning hours, I have virtually no time for myself.  It is with a heavy heart that I shut down this page after almost three outstanding years.  Many, many thanks to the dozens of kind people who have assisted me in this fine endeavor.  The high caliber and sucess of this page is due in part to your assistance, resources, and encouragement. 

While working on this website, I have made a great number of lifelong friends as well as met many railfans.  Your excitement is very contagious!  I truly hope that I can remain in contact with all of you over the years.  You have given me a very deep love for the greatest railroad in the world! This news item is an April fool's joke.  I will keep this website online and active until the first of May in case there is anything you wish to view, print or save.  Thanks a million! -- JC

Locos 3017 and 2504 likely to be scraped - 3/30/00
Based on an email from an anonymous source

Locomotive 3017 has a bad flywheel and the 2504 has a grounded main generator. Both are in the dead line and will likely go for scrap.

Locomotive Crane Lease - 3/29/00
Based on an email from Robert Krol

The ARR has out for bid Leasing a Locomotive Crane so we might see another LC crane up here.

Whistlestop camp sites proposed  - 3/28/00
Anchorage Daily News

Someday campers may be able to board the Alaska Railroad in Anchorage or Seward and get dropped off - 30-quart cooler and all - in a rugged section of the Chugach National Forest between Portage and Moose Pass. 

[See Story]

Connecting the ARR to the lower 48 - 3/22/00
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner


Back in April 1915, President Woodrow Wilson decided that construction of a railroad to Alaska's Interior was the single greatest step he could take to unlock the then-territory's great promise and to get the region's economy on track.

Some 85 years later times have not changed.

Alaska and the neighboring Yukon Territory in Canada are still North America's last untapped storehouse of mineral and natural resource wealth. We now know where much of that treasure lies--economic transportation to get the materials to market remains the chief impediment to its development.

Over the years one thing has changed: We now know how to develop our mineral, energy and timber resources in an environmentally sensitive manner, so we can protect the beauty and the wildlife of the North, while producing jobs to sustain the region's human inhabitants.

We know there is a mineral zone that extends throughout the Yukon-Tanana uplands near Faro, Yukon Territory, north to Fairbanks. The zone, home already to the Fort Knox gold mine and the future home of mines working the huge Pogo gold deposit, contains large amounts of silver, tungsten, copper, lead, zinc, and other ores. On the Alaska side of the border there are already more than 14 major hard rock deposits identified, while in the Yukon there are more than 10 major mineral deposits known. This does not include the Alaska coal deposits a line could move to Lower 48 or East Asian markets.

The same zone is also filled with timber. Within just 15 miles of a likely 1,200-mile railroad corridor through Canada into Alaska, there are 1.4 billion board feet of hardwood pole timber and almost 1.7 billion board feet of mixed pole timber.

Further to the North lies a second developmental target that another railroad could help get on track. That is the huge low-pollution, high-quality coal deposits at Point Lay and also the vast minerals of the Amber mining district farther to the southeast.

It would take just a 90-mile line to carry the coal from Point Lay to the Red Dog mine where a 60-mile line along the existing mine haul road would carry it to tidewater. Such a railroad could bring energy, in the form of coal, to the mine where it could be used to power a new electro-refining technology that would add tremendous value to the zinc-lead ore being shipped from Alaska, and most importantly provide additional jobs to the region. It also would finally allow some of the North Slope's 6 trillion tons of coal to be exported.

It would take just a 150-mile line to access the vast hard-rock resources of the Ambler Mining District and bring them to the coast, or about a 350-mile line to tie into the Alaska Railroad heading south.

Some would say talk of railroad extension is nothing more than "pie-in-the-sky" rhetoric. But railroads offer a host of benefits. They are the most energy efficient form of transportation. More importantly, they are one of the most environmentally sensitive forms of transportation. Railroads offer controlled access that removes the environmental threat of uncontrolled development. They emit the lowest levels of air pollution and usually cause the least disruption to the land.

And a rail corridor would encourage the co-location of all pipelines and power transmission lines--a process that makes especially good environmental sense.

Last year, after talks with Canadian Parliamentarians during the Canada-U.S. Interparliamentary Conference, I held discussions with Canadian Ambassador Raymond Chretien and Canadian Minister of Transport David Collinette, and later with the Canadian-American Border Trade Alliance.

In January I was further encouraged by estimates that there might be 120 million tons of freight a year from new mines and timber development along the Alaska-Canada rail corridor that would utilize such a new railroad link.

Thus I am introducing legislation in Congress to advance consideration of that railroad project. My bill will create an impartial bilateral commission to study the economic, environmental, and engineering feasibility of completing the transcontinental railroad linking Canada with Alaska.

A joint commission should have the funding--I'm proposing $6 million--and the authority to oversee a comprehensive feasibility study of a line from where the Canadian rail system ends at either Fort Nelson or near Fort St. James, about 900 miles from the Alaska border, northward to link up with the Alaska Railroad, 270 miles from the border near Fairbanks.

My bill would create an 18-member commission, half being appointed by each country. The commission would be fully representative of the residents of the area and also include scientific expertise to make sure that the difficult issues surrounding a railroad will be thoughtfully considered.

Quick action to set up the commission is particularly timely since a decision is likely within the next year on whether the United States should proceed with construction of an anti-missile defense system. And perhaps the best site for an initial 100-missile interceptor base is at Delta Junction. That decision must justify extending the railroad to Fort Greely, 80 miles closer to the border than Eielson Air Force Base--reducing the amount of additional track needed in Alaska to about 190 miles.

We should not be afraid to think seriously about big projects. Just because they're daunting, doesn't make them impossible. In this day and age of great concern for the environment: if one assumes--as I do--that the resources of the Yukon and Alaska inevitably will be developed, then rail looks like a very healthy way to make that possible.

All the commission will do is bring about debate. It will consider and explore new ideas. If a railroad connection is economically, environmentally and socially sound, then we should move ahead with it. If it is not, then it should be dropped. But at the very least, let's give the idea an honest hearing, now before any more decades pass.

Copyright 2000 MediaNews Group, Inc. and Fairbanks Publishing Company, Inc

Ski Train Special - 3/22/00
Based on an email from Richard Wise

Caught the Ski Train Special as it left Anchorage SB at 0745 and chased it to Portage. It's consist was 3013, 3014, P30, 100, 101, 205, 207, 208, 209, 210, 300, 301, and 401. Left it at Portage, as the tracks and the highway diverge. It goes to Grandview (MP 44.9) and the highway doesn't!

State orders fixes in Whittier tunnel, Wiring problems dangerous, inspector says - 3/16/00
Anchorage Daily News

When state electrical inspector Larry Coffman toured the Whittier tunnel project in January, he was astonished by a slew of glaring code violations. If left unresolved, and in the worst-case scenario, the problems could have led to explosions, fire, electrocution and possible asphyxiation from toxic fumes in the tunnel, state officials say. 

[See Story]

ARR Acquired Three Cabooses - 3/14/00
Yahoo! ARRrailfans Message from Curt Fortenberry

The ARR has acquired three cabooses from the British Columbia Railway (ex CN cabooses or vans). ARR will have them refurbished and repainted stateside before delivery. 

Tunnel causes concern, Schedules, lack of tolls worry Whittier residents - 3/13/00
Anchorage Daily News

WHITTIER - From hauling out fish to bringing in the mail, residents of this Prince William Sound community are anxious to learn when they can drive through the Whittier Tunnel and how much it will cost. 

[See Story]

Railroad changes spill crew, DEC 'concerned' over sudden switch - 3/12/00
Anchorage Daily News

The Alaska Railroad, in a move that caught state environmental officials by surprise, abruptly changed cleanup field contractors in an effort get at more of the estimated 120,000 gallons of jet fuel it spilled north of Talkeetna in December. 

[See Story]

1718 MRS1 acquisition approved for MATI as of March 5, 2000 - 3/9/00
Based on an email from Pat Durand

The State of Alaska and DRMO have accepted the proposal for purchase of EMD MRS1 #1718 by the Museum of Alaska Transportation and Industry in Wasilla, Alaska. Now it is time for all those folks who believe saving #1718 is a great idea to step up. We railfans need to raise the money for the preservation of this unique locomotive. Immediately we need $3,000 for the purchase price. I promised the Museum this acquisition would be covered by private donations. I have already donated $300.00 to the project. 

Send your contributions to: 
Museum of Alaska Transportation and Industry, Inc. 
MRS1 Preservation Fund 
P.O. Box 870646 
Wasilla, AK 99687 

If you wish to donate by credit card: Visa or Mastercard you can call or FAX your donation amount along with credit card number and expiration date to: (907) 376 1211 or FAX (907) 376 3082. 

I need your help with this project now. Thanks for any support you can offer. 

Pat Durand 

SD70MAC names - 3/9/00
Based on an email from Richard Wise

Here is an incomplete list of SD70MAC names.  Can you help to complete the list? 

4001 is Spirit of ??? 
4002 is Spirit of Seward 
4003 is Spirit of Moose Pass 
4004 is Spirit of ??? 
4005 is Spirit of Girdwood 
4006 is Spirit of ??? 
4007 is Spirit of ??? 

Proposal to buy hoppers - 3/4/00
Curt Fortenberry from the ARR  Yahoo! Club

The ARR is on the street seeking proposals for 40 new or used 4 bay hopper cars. The closing date is today (March 2). The solicitation states the cars will be lettered ARR, with the road numbers starting at 16301.

ARR receives new locomotives - 3/4/00
Anchorage Daily News

New locosBob Vernon, left, of Winnipeg, Manitoba, conducts a training session for Alaska Railroad engineers Ed Westwood, Louis Owens and Bryan Saul on one of the railroad's new locomotives. Alaska Railroad recently received six of the 16 new 4,000-horsepower General Motors locomotives it ordered. These are the first new locomotives to be added to the Alaska Railroad system since 1985. (MARC LESTER / Anchorage Daily News) 

Route to Whittier nearly ready - 3/1/00
Anchorage Daily News

The project to convert the railroad tunnel to accommodate trains and cars is nearly complete. 

[See Story]

EMD MRS-1 1718 to be preserved by museum - 2/11/00
Based on an email from Nicolai Stefan

This mail only to tell you that USArmy locomotive EMD MRS-1 1818 (1718) will be preserved by the Museum of Alaska Transportation and Industry, located in Wasila, Alaska. It will be aquired for $3.000 by the museum.

Read a bit more about it on:

More info will follow. I only received the positive mail yesterday...

I'll start some fundraising actions here in Belgium (Belgian Railway employees, Belgian railfans,...). If anyone has other suggestions?

Many greetings from a very happy (and a bit proud too, ok) Belgian railfan!

MACs on the move to Anchorage - 2/11/00
Based on an email from Robert Krol

The Whittier shuttle ran for the first time in a week and half this past Wednesday.

The tracks were reopened between Anchorage and Whittier late Thursday and the MACs have left Whittier.  One freight came into Whittier and took off pretty fast with the MACs and an outbound freight.  Another crew was busy working another barge that arrived and while they were busy on that barge another freight train arrived in Whittier from Anchorage to get more freight out of Whittier.  Rumor has it when the three barges were unloaded in Whittier they were sorted for their destinations, Anchorage or Fairbanks, so the Anchorage Yard crews didn't have to do it when the freights arrived and they could be expedited to their destinations.

Moose toll mounts, Snow driving animals into paths of cars, trains - 2/11/00
Anchorage Daily News

Nature plays no favorites in Alaska, not even with the state's beloved icon the hardy moose. 

The bulbous-nosed beasts have been dying in droves the past month as heavy snow in much of Southcentral has caused them to seek out clear but deadly paths. 

[See Story]

Bill cracks down on oil spills  - 2/10/00
MSNBC Online, April Davis

Anchorage, Feb. 9- The Alaska Railroad's recent track record on fuel spills has spawned a crackdown in Juneau. A bill being circulated would require the railroad, along with ferries and cruise ships, to have spill plans approved by the state.

The bill, drafted with help from the Department of Environmental Conservation, is designed to give the state control over anyone carrying large amounts of oil or fuel in Alaska. Three fuel spills in four months from the Alaska Railroad have drawn attention from environmental groups and legislators. The measure is aimed at clearing up what the state wants when it comes to these kinds of spills. 

Cleanup is full-speed ahead north of Talkeetna at the Alaska Railroad's largest spill in recent history. Some 120,000 gallons of jet fuel spilled in December. Many environmentalists and some legislators say the cleanup is taking too long.

"The DEC feels that if they had a contingency plan or required to have a contingency plan, the cleanup and subsequent mitigation would have been a lot better," said Rep. Andrew Halcro, R-Anchorage, House transportation committee chairman. 

The railroad has a lengthy response plan, but it admits changes need to be made. "I think it's the logical next step," said the railroad's Wendy Lindskoog. "In the early 1990s, basically after the Exxon Valdez, they regulated larger entities and now they're just looking at other entities that haul oil."

The bill would also apply to large fishing boats, cruise ships and freighters like the Kuroshima, which spilled 39,000 gallons of bunker fuel at Dutch Harbor in 1997.

"It would make them have contingency plans on file," Rep. Halcro said.  "It would make them have in place contracts with spill response contractors. It would mandate a time frame as far as how quick the railroad has to respond and what type of resources they have to allocate."

For the first time, all major fuel or oil-carrying vessels privately or publicly owned would have to get state approval to travel through Alaska.  The bill asks for all the regulations to be in place by next summer.

Sheffield rebuts spill work critics - 2/9/00
Anchorage Daily News

Most of the roughly 120,000 gallons of jet fuel spilled during a December train derailment near Talkeetna had probably soaked into the ground by the time cleanup crews arrived, Alaska Railroad President Bill Sheffield said Tuesday. 

[See Story]

Alaska Railroad chief is highest-paid state boss - 2/8/00
Anchorage Daily News

JUNEAU - The Alaska Railroad Corp. paid former Gov. Bill Sheffield $163,935 to be its president and chief executive last year, making him the highest-paid state official, according to a report on state executive pay and travel. 

[See Story]

Environmental groups urge railroad to do better - 2/6/00
Anchorage Daily News/Associated Press

FAIRBANKS - A coalition of environmental groups is asking the Alaska Railroad to improve its spill prevention and response procedures after three significant fuel spills in the past three months. 

[See Story]

Locomotive leaks diesel at rail yard, Open valve dumped 2,300 gallons - 2/3/00
Anchorage Daily News

About 2,300 gallons of diesel fuel leaked at the Alaska Railroad's maintenance yard in Anchorage on Tuesday night after a mechanic mistakenly left a fuel valve open on a locomotive, the railroad said. 

[See Story]

Whittier blasted by storm - 2/2/00
Based on February 1-2 emails from Robert Krol

Message 1 - The Seward Highway is still closed and DOT has started bombing the mountain slopes from a helicopter to bring down more slides.  DOT is working closely with the ARR to get things cleaned up and reopened.  The State Troopers were able to rescue the stranded motorist with a helicopter and bring them to Girdwood.  Tomorrow the wind is excepted to come up, with winds up to 100 mph and temps. up to 40 degrees.   Whittier is still cut off and without power.  Good thing most people live in 2 buildings and they are backup generators. 

Message 2 - Another avalanche has come down on the Seward Highway this time there are injuries.  An ARRC employee was caught in the slide.  He is listed in critical condition at an Anch. hospital.  Channel 2 News is trying to get the live report from the reporter who filmed it all.  Channel 2 News has a satellite truck that can shot live from anywhere if they can hit the satellite. 

Message 3 -  Channel 2 News finally got their link from the satellite truck.  They are reporting three bulldozer operators were swept away in a slide.  One was able to get out, one was buried, and the other an ARRC employee who was airlifted to an Anchorage hospital.  The Channel 2 News satellite truck was also hit by the slide, but they were not injured.  More dozers were sent down to the scene, since the others are a little buried. 

Message 4 - Channel 2 News says the ARRC employee was Terry Brookman.  The Channel 2 News satellite truck is now blocked by slides on both sides and can not return to Anchorage and have to spent the night on the highway.  The winds are now picking up and are suppose to get up to 100 mph and the snow is coming with the wind.  The drift will probably be big. 

Message 5 - Sad news from Alaska.  The ARRC employee caught in the slide has died.  Channel 2 News reports that he died after emergency surgery. 

Message 6 - The wind is howling here.  Power is out in various places all over Anchorage and out in some other towns.  Here in Kenai the power is trying to go out.  A gust was reported in Eagle River at 138 MPH, according to Channel 2 News.

With no time to escape, workers braced for slide  - 2/2/00
Anchorage Daily News

Larry Bushnell saw it coming.  Just seconds before another avalanche ripped down on the Seward Highway on Tuesday  afternoon, a spotter radioed him and two other state bulldozer operators working in the Bird Flats area. The message: Get out and get out now. 

[See Story]

Slide kills railroad employee, Bulldozer blasted into Inlet - 2/2/00
Anchorage Daily News

Laboring in the most extreme avalanche conditions in decades, an Alaska Railroad worker assisting highway crews at a slide near Bird Flats on the Seward Highway suffered fatal injuries Tuesday when a second avalanche fell from the mountains and crushed him. 

Kerry Brookman, 53, a heavy equipment operator with the railroad for 21 years, died Tuesday evening after being airlifted to Providence Alaska Medical Center and spending most of the afternoon in surgery. He suffered a crushed pelvis, internal injuries and bleeding. 

[See Story]

Avalanche cuts off Whittier rail service- 1/28/00
Based on an email by Robert Krol

I don't have the details yet, but an avalanche came down and cut off Whittier for rail service. Everyone that left town this morning are stuck on the otherside. Everyone that went into Whittier this morning are stuck in Whittier. Sounds like no rail service until tomorrow. Supposedly the avalanche wiped out some track. Maybe something will be on the news here in 30 minutes. The only thing the Channel 2 News has to say, is that the ARR has suspended the shuttle service to Whittier until further notice, an avalanche has covered the tracks.

Railroad agrees to speed cleanup, Operation to run nonstop - 1/28/00
Anchorage Daily News

Under pressure to speed the cleanup of a 120,000-gallon fuel spill at Gold Creek, Alaska Railroad officials have agreed to set up a 24-hour work camp and start drilling recovery wells around the clock. 

Leslie Pearson, cleanup coordinator for the state Department of Environmental Conservation, said the railroad and its contractors also submitted overdue response plans and water quality reports during a three-hour meeting Thursday afternoon. 

[See Story]

Derailment report cites heavy snow, Lawmaker has doubts about theory - 1/26/00
Anchorage Daily News

JUNEAU - An Alaska Railroad derailment that spilled 120,000 gallons of jet fuel near the Susitna River in December was caused by heavy, wet snow that froze as hard as rock in the middle of train tracks, a derailment expert said Tuesday. 

[See Story]

No fuel in Susitna water samples - 1/22/00
Anchorage Daily News

Water samples drawn from the Susitna River show no sign of jet fuel spilled a month ago during a train wreck at Gold Creek, railroad and state environmental officials said Thursday. 

Alaska Railroad spokesman Scott Banks said laboratory tests completed Thursday detected no contamination in eight of nine samples taken from the river late last week. Results on the ninth sample were inconclusive. 

[See Story]

Recent spills put cabooses on fuel trains 
Added eyes to help prevent more accidents, Sheffield says - 1/20/00
Anchorage Daily News

JUNEAU - Trains moving fuel on the Alaska Railroad will also soon pull cabooses to help guard against accidents like the recent jet fuel spill north of Talkeetna, the president of the railroad said Wednesday. 

Former Gov. Bill Sheffield, president and chief executive officer of the railroad, said cabooses will be added in about two weeks to trains carrying fuel and other hazardous material. 

[See Story]

Jet fuel recovery plodding, Wells pull 20 gallons of 100,000 spilled - 1/19/00
Anchorage Daily News

A foot of new snow blanketed Gold Creek on Tuesday as Alaska Railroad crews continued drilling holes to find and recover an estimated 100,000 gallons of jet fuel spilled in a Dec. 22 derailment. 

So far, the four holes the railroad has punched have been more successful at finding the lost fuel than in recovering it. Response crews have located pools of fuel about a foot thick overlaying groundwater at a depth of about 30 feet on both sides of the tracks, railroad and state environmental officials said. 

[See Story]

Coal Train Mishap - 1/16/00
From an anonymous source

A southbound Suneel coal train (Usibelli to Seward), doubling from Spencer to Hunter.  Are cutting off the rear of the train on the main to bring the engines to the siding to pickup the head end for double over.  The conductor drops off to knockoff the handbrakes on the cut in the siding.  As soon as the brakes are knocked off the cut in the siding rolls into the side of the engines on the main, tipping an engine over at a 30 degree angle.  Engine hop (2 engines) out of Anchorage comes to Hunter, grabs the rear of the cut in the siding and pulls them back, dropping the engines back down on the rail!  The ARR is NOT having a good winter!

Lawmaker calls for hearing on railroad spill - 1/14/00
Anchorage Daily News

FAIRBANKS - The chairman of the state House Transportation Committee will schedule a hearing to review the Alaska Railroad Corp.'s handling of a jet fuel spill north of Talkeetna last month. 

 Rep. Andrew Halcro, R-Anchorage, told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner he has tentatively scheduled a hearing for Jan. 25 to hear from railroad and Department of Environmental Conservation officials about the spill. 

[See Story]

Derailed tankers removed, Crews gauge extent of jet fuel seepage - 1/13/00
Anchorage Daily News

GOLD CREEK - Working at 15 below in a lovely, isolated stretch of the Susitna River valley north of Talkeetna, Alaska Railroad crews used cranes Wednesday to lift 60-foot-long fuel tankers bashed and torn in a pre-Christmas derailment onto flatcars lined with oil-absorbent boom. 

When the day  began, 10 of the 15 derailed tankers remained at the site - emptied and lined up in a row alongside the tracks. At mid-morning, a D-8 Cat operator shoved one of the big cylinders close to the tracks, where other workers looped cable around each end so the two crane operators, working in tandem, could lift the tanker onto a flatcar. It was not a speedy process. 

[See Story]

Railroad finds fuel 23 feet down, still digging - 1/11/00
Anchorage Daily News

Jet fuel spilled in an Alaska Railroad train wreck north of Talkeetna has seeped at least 23 feet into the ground, railroad and state environmental officials said Monday.

Response crews excavating at the site haven't reached the bottom of the contamination zone. They also have not hit ground water yet, said Ernie Piper, the railroad's assistant vice president for safety and environmental compliance. 

[See Story]

SD70MACs #4001 and #4002 on the move - 1/7/00
From an anonymous source

The 4002 and 4003 are on their way to Chicago. They left Pittsburgh yesterday at 1930 EST and are on NS train PIPR which will have them interchanged to the UP at Proviso yard in Northlake. PIPR is scheduled into Proviso at 1700 hours today, but that can vary plus or minus by as much as 3 hours.

Spilled fuel threatening ground water - 1/7/00
Anchorage Daily News

Jet fuel spilled before Christmas from a train wreck a quarter-mile from the Susitna River is seeping into the soil and threatens to contaminate ground water in a wild area north of Talkeetna, railroad and state environmental officials said Thursday. 

[See Story]

Crews getting to fuel, Two weeks pass since derailment - 1/6/00
Anchorage Daily News

More than two weeks after an Alaska Railroad train jumped the tracks near Gold Creek, response crews hope to begin today scooping up snow contaminated with an estimated 80,000 to 120,000 gallons of spilled jet fuel. 

[See Story]

Cars sent to Livingston Rebuild Center - 1/5/00
Based on an email from Josh Coran, ARR Chief Mechanic

As of this time, the AM of 1/05, it [cars being sent to Livingston Rebuild Center] is true. They are all actually passenger train cars. The two "freight" cars are actually baggage cars (former SP "economy" bags) and the five others are former UP coaches. All are on the water with an ETA at Seattle of today or tomorrow (I would guess).

Webmasters note -Here is the final tally of what the ARRC has sent to Livingston Rebuild Center:

  1. Three GP-40s (3009, 3010 and 3011) - rebuilt engines and rotating equipment, oil filled gear cases, toilets, microprocessors, paint
  2. One GP-38 (2002) -rebuilt engine and rotating equipment, oil filled gear case, toilets, microprocessor, paint
  3. Two baggage cars (former SP "economy" bags) - generator sets 
  4. Five coaches (former UP) - seat and floor repair, paint, upholstery 
  5. Two RDCs (702 and 711) - ADA accessible toilets at the baggage room end, new wiring, upholstery, rebuilt seat mechanisms, new light weight engine covers, rebuilt transmissions

State DEC says railroad too slow in spill cleanup - 1/5/00
By Al Slavin Fairbanks Daily News-Miner Staff Writer

A state environmental official says the Alaska Railroad Corp. has been too slow to clean up the 100,000 gallons of jet fuel that spilled in a Dec. 22 train derailment.

"It's been two weeks since the spill occurred and we haven't seen any cleanup of the spilled fuel," said Leslie Pearson, an on-scene coordinator for the state Department of Environmental Conservation. "We're concerned about impacts to the ground water."

Officials of the state-owned railroad on Monday attributed the derailment to an abundance of snow and ice near a rail switch.

Three locomotives and 15 tanker cars derailed near Gold Creek, north of Talkeetna. On Sunday, work crews removed an estimated 22,000 gallons of jet fuel from a rail car remaining in the area. Two other rail cars were cleared of residual fuel on Monday.

Pearson also complained that railroad officials did not adhere to a written cleanup plan submitted after the spill. The plan called for crews to work Dec. 29-31 to remove the fuel still on the rail cars, but Pearson said that did not happen. She said she planned to outline her concerns in writing and forward them to the Alaska Railroad Corp.

"They didn't begin lightering those four cars until yesterday (Sunday)" Pearson said. "It was definitely a concern of ours because they deviated from a plan that was in place with no written modifications."

Ernie Piper, the railroad's assistant vice president of safety and environmental compliance, defended the cleanup effort and said the slowdown was attributed to cold weather and the remoteness of the site. Piper said that Brad Hahn, a senior DEC official, was notified of the changes.

"The DEC had agreed that people had been working long periods of time in adverse conditions," Piper said. "We decided to take the holidays off and regroup."

Pearson was unhappy that the effort was demobilized and said rail crews could have worked last Wednesday and Thursday.

"If they don't have enough people, then they need to hire people," Pearson said. "The basic concern in any response is to make sure they get the proper response. There's plenty of people out there that have got the appropriate training."

The railroad resumed hauling Anchorage-bound shipments of jet fuel from the Williams Alaska Petroleum Refinery on Dec. 29. Piper said those shipments would not interfere with the cleanup.

Piper said that eight or nine empty cars will remain at the scene but that they were moved to a nearby location in order to expand the focus of snow and soil removal. Bulldozers and front-end loaders will begin the next phase of that cleanup effort. Piper said he believes that the jet fuel has reached the soil in the area, which is near the Susitna River.

The removal of contaminated snow is expected to be finished by midweek.

As for the derailment's cause, Piper said a heavy accumulation of snow, followed by warming temperatures, played a role in the crash.

A southbound train hauling fuel had switched to a siding to let a northbound train carrying empty rail cars pass. Piper said as the southbound train backed out of the siding, one of the wheels on the second locomotive became disengaged from the track.

As the southbound train moved forward on the main line and reached its traveling speed of 30 mph, the locomotive then derailed and dragged the rail cars off the track.

"The point of derailment was actually 140 feet north of the switch," Piper said.

It was the second derailment in less than two months.

Piper noted that a locomotive weighs 263,000 pounds and can move snow with its attached plow. He said in the future that empty northbound trains would switch from the main line to allow southbound trains hauling fuel to pass. Switches will also be checked more often.

"We're also going to start running our snow fleet once a week on Tuesday whether we think it's needed or not," Piper said. "It was previously run on as-needed basis." 

SD70MACs nos. 4002 and 4003 in Juniata Yards - 1/4/00
Based on an email from Harold Emerick 

I got some hot news about the SD70MACs in Altoona. 4002 and 4003 are now sitting in the Juniata Yards outside the shops completed. The engines are sitting behind Thompson's Pharmacy, but they are hard to see because of where they are sitting. 

Ice gets blame in derailing - 1/4/00
Anchorage Daily News 

A buildup of ice and snow on the tracks caused the train derailment last month that resulted in a 100,000-gallon jet fuel spill, Alaska Railroad officials said Monday. 

 "I know it seems strange that a 263,000-pound locomotive can be moved off the rail just by snow and ice," said Ernie Piper, the railroad's vice president of safety and environmental compliance. "We had snow and ice forming a solid surface at the same level as the track." 

[See Story]



The information on this page was last updated December 31, 2000