2000 News Archive
(July - December)
Railroad: Prevention is priority - 12/31/00
Anchorage Daily News
The events of the past year have driven home an important point at the Alaska Railroad. 

"No matter what you spend on safety, it's cheaper than $9.3 million." 

The speaker is Ernie Piper, whose job is making sure the state-owned railroad's trains operate safely. The $9.3 million is roughly what the railroad has spent so far in its effort to clean up jet fuel spilled in a 15-tanker derailment at Gold Creek 12 months ago. Less than 15 percent of the 120,000 gallons spilled has been recovered, and remediation is expected to continue for years. 

[See story]

Lynden barge makes first trip - 12/28/00
Based on an email from Robert Krol
The Anchorage Provider barge made its first trip into Whitter.  Thom Connely says the ballast system in the barge is nice.  He says there's about 500 carloads of pipe in Seattle waiting for barges and cars.  There's 12 pipes stacked on a 90 foot flat.  So they tried out the new barge to help get pipe up here.  They didn't put any backload on the barge for the trip south.  Connely said there's lots of  freight in town that could have went, but the engines came down light.
P-30 Rebuild - 12/21/00
Based on an email from Robert Krol
The ARR has out for bid an overhaul for the P-30 Power Car. 
Trains look to valley - 12/21/00
Anchorage Daily News
The Alaska Railroad is spending up to a quarter-million dollars to find out what it would take to persuade Mat-Su commuters to ride the rails to work in Anchorage. 

The study, financed by the railroad mostly with federal money, will begin within the next few days with a survey of about 400 commuters. It will estimate what it would cost to develop a rider-friendly, regular commuter rail service between the bedroom communities in the Valley and employment centers in Anchorage, and investigate how to pay for it. 

[See story]

Railroad lax on spills, environmentalists say - 12/19/00
Anchorage Daily News
Four environmental groups have asked Gov. Tony Knowles to "pressure" the Alaska Railroad to step up efforts to develop contingency plans for spills of fuel and other hazardous substances. 

In a letter to Knowles on Monday, the groups complained that the railroad has not done enough to improve its spill response abilities in the year since a derailment at Gold Creek dumped more than 120,000 gallons of jet fuel about a quarter-mile from the Susitna River. Less than 20,000 gallons has been recovered. 

[See story]

Locomotive rebuilds - 12/14/00
By John Combs
The ARR solicitation webpage was revised for the rebuilding of three GP40 passenger locomotives.  Which ones?  An anonymous source tells me, "If the vendor wants 'em (and it looks like they will) they will be 3013, 3014 and 3015 priced at $200,000 each."]
Panel targets railroad, ships - 12/12/00
Anchorage Daily News
Cargo ships, cruise ships and other large vessels and the Alaska Railroad would have to have state-approved spill-response plans and would have to stockpile cleanup gear around the state if recommendations made by a task force on oil transport are adopted by the Alaska Legislature. 

The spill response and cleanup recommendations are aimed at oceangoing vessels -- other than tankers, which are already regulated -- that carry a lot of fuel and at the Alaska Railroad, which can haul well over 100,000 gallons of fuel in tanker cars on a single train. 

[See story]

Wasilla's transportation plan hinges on state, borough projects - 12/11/00
By Rindi White
Frontiersman reporter

A transportation plan the city recently embarked upon is currently under way, but city staff is waiting on a few major components to fall into place before pushing forward with it.

Wasilla's economic planner Mike Krieber said recently the project is moving forward, but staff aren't operating at full speed on it yet.  He explained that the city would like to incorporate information from the plan into the borough's transportation master plan, which has not yet been contracted out.

Additionally, he said, the state Department of Transportation (DOT) will be completing a traffic modeling study in the next few weeks, the results of which will have significant ramifications on the development of the city's plan.

The recent request from Wasilla that the Alaska Railroad Corp. (ARRC) move the railroad out of the heart of the city has caused the city to put a hold on future completion of the plan, as well.  Krieber explained that LCMF Inc., an Anchorage-based engineering firm, is working on completing a draft study of the four relocation routes proposed by the city.

"We hope to have a draft study in our hands by the end of next week," Krieber said.

Once the study is received, Krieber said he plans to send out notices to the potentially affected property owners who live along each of the four routes and schedule public meetings.  He estimated affected property owners could expect to see the draft study and a map of the proposed routes by the end of the year.

If the ARRC agrees to move the tracks, Krieber said it could open up many new possibilities for the city's downtown area.  It would also have significant effects on other city ventures, including development at the city's airport.

"It's a whole domino effect here," Krieber said, "based on what the Railroad decides."

A final decision is also pending from the ARRC as to where to put the commuter rail facility.  Krieber said the final plan for the project should be completed by January or February.  If the location near the Wasilla Municipal Airport is chosen, as the city hopes it will be, there will be more additions made to the city's transportation plan.

For starters, Krieber explained that South Church Road, a project the city has been working on for more than a year, will be extended to meet Mark Road.  Connecting the Parks Highway and Knik-Goose Bay Road will ease traffic congestion at the intersection  of the Parks Highway and Knik-Goose Bay Road.  It will also give emergency responders a much faster response time to emergencies at the airport or the commuter rail station, and will give those who live on Knik-Goose Bay Road a faster access route to both the airport and the commuter rail facility.

The city is not simply biding its time while waiting for these other pieces to fall into place,  Krieber said.

Currently, he said, city staff are working to identity every road within the city limits, determine which entities control those roads (the state, borough, or the city) and what improvements are needed on the roads.

After the initial identification process is completed, Krieber plans to estimate how much it would cost both the city and property-owners involved and send out notices to them that the road improvements process is available.

Krieber said he is currently working on a similar project in the Independence Estates, Ravenswood subdivisions and Bay View Gardens subdivision off Fern Street.

He explained that property owners from Independence Estates recently petitioned the city for a paving project in their area.  Since the other subdivisions share road access and live adjacent to Independence, city staff has contacted those property owners to give them the option of improving the roads in their subdivision at the same time.

Krieber is hoping to convince the DOT to help fund some of the paving and road improvement projects, he said.  He cited an item in the department's budget which generally involves between $15 and $30 million being set aside for a gravel-to-asphalt program.

The funds are generally used to pave state-owned gravel roads or upgrade those roads to reduce maintenance costs.  Often, maintenance on those roads is turned over to the local governing body after they are upgraded.  Wasilla, Krieber explained, does not have any roads which qualify for the project.

"The only state road in the city limits that was not paved [was Old Matanuska Road]," he said, "so the city has not really been able to enjoy the money."

Old Matanuska Road was recently paved by the DOT, but not under that program, since DOT continues to provide road maintenance.

Krieber said he took part in a transportation symposium held at the Third Annual Valley Economic Development Conference held recently by Mat-Su Resource and Community Development.  He is scheduled to speak at the Tuesday meeting of the Greater Wasilla Chamber of Commerce.  The meeting will be held from noon to 1 p.m. at Mat-Su Resort.

Alaska Railroad wins best of the best, receives three international awards - 12/7/00
Alaska RailroadPress Release
The Alaska Railroad has more than shiny new locomotives to show off these days.  It received  three international awards at the 2001 Onboard Services Awards presented by Airline, Ship and Catering Onboard Services Magazine in Orlando, Florida Dec. 5.  The awards recognize excellence in four industries including airline, cruise line, railroad and terminal concessions. 

The railroad won the 2001 Overall Onboard Services Award for outstanding overall service integrating all elements related to passenger safety, comfort and enjoyment in a railroad environment.  In addition, the railroad received the Diamond Award for Outstanding Uniforms and a Diamond Award for Outstanding Onboard Services.

President and CEO Bill Sheffield said that all Alaskans should be proud of the awards.  "These awards confirm that we offer an outstanding experience to people who ride our trains.  We provide them the best service through some of the worldŐs most magnificent scenery.  We couldnŐt do it without our outstanding employees and the people throughout this state who provide the overall Alaska experience to our visitors," he said.

Laurie Herman, Director of Passenger Services, said employees work hard every day to make sure AlaskaŐs visitors have the trip of a lifetime.  "This is truly an honor to be recognized as an industry leader in delivering outstanding service to our passengers.  We are ecstatic that we have received the awards."

Last season, Alaska Railroad moved approximately 700,000 passengers.  Within the next three years, the railroad expects to move more than a million passengers.

Alaska Railroad provides daily passenger service between Anchorage and Fairbanks, Anchorage and Seward and Anchorage and Whittier, mid-May through mid-September.

Health risks of fuel spill low - 12/7/00
Anchorage Daily News
The 103,000 gallons of spilled jet fuel not recovered from last winter's derailment near Talkeetna poses little threat to human health but will contaminate groundwater and the nearby Susitna River for years to come, according to a study by the University of Alaska.

Commissioned by the Alaska Railroad and conducted by three engineering professors and a hydrology expert, the study concluded hydrocarbons from the fuel either have or will soon reach the salmon-rich Susitna. 

[See story]

Sheffield announces retirement from railroad - 12/5/00
Alaska Railroad Web site Press Release
ANCHORAGE Alaska Railroad President and CEO Bill Sheffield today announced he would retire as chief executive officer of the Railroad in January. Sheffield informed the board of directors at their regular meeting on Monday.

"The past year has been extremely arduous." Sheffield said, "The Railroad experienced an unfortunate string of events in 1999 and it has taken us some time to get those areas straightened out. I had considered leaving earlier, but since the accidents happened on my watch, I felt obligated to fix what was wrong before I moved on."

Sheffield has held the position since 1997 and has overseen a period of dramatic growth in Railroad operations. During his tenure, Sheffield sought and won millions of dollars in federal money for much-needed improvements to the line. "Our highest priority was to take the Railroad we inherited and bring it up to national standards," he said. "With the active assistance of our delegation in Washington, we've received more than $240 million in federal funds to accomplish in four years what had been put off for the past 20. I'm proud of all the employees who are making this accelerated schedule possible."

Alaska Railroad Board Chairman, Johne Binkley, said Governor Sheffield brought leadership and vision to the Alaska Railroad. "The Alaska Railroad is a far better railroad than it was when Governor Sheffield took over. We are safer, we serve our customers better, and we are more profitable. I admire and appreciate the lifelong dedication Governor Sheffield has given to Alaska."

Binkley said Sheffield has set us on course to better meet the Alaska Railroad's mission to foster economic development and improve Alaska's transportation system.

The Railroad has more than 20 capital projects currently underway, including; constructing a new freight dock in Seward and renovating the existing dock into a passenger service facility, constructing new rail depots at Ted Stevens International Airport, Fairbanks and Denali Park; upgrading and realigning track between Anchorage and the Mat-Su Valley and installing improved signalization along that corridor. The latter improvements will make commuter service feasible between Wasilla and Girdwood.

The Railroad also just embarked on a three-year, $60 million program that will install electric heated switches, and extended sidings along the rail line. The upgrades are designed to improve safety and efficiency and will enable the Railroad to move more and longer trains in meet and pass situations. Sheffield oversaw the addition of new locomotives and passenger equipment to meet the Railroad's growing needs and saw the Ship Creek master development plan through to completion.

Sheffield said he thinks the board will complete its search for a new CEO quickly. "We have an excellent team of professionals at every level of the Railroad and a terrific board of directors. It doesn't take a railroad professional to do this job but rather somebody who knows the state and its people," he said. "It shouldn't take long to find the right person."

Sheffield said he has no immediate plans past retirement. "I've been working since I was 14 years old and I've held the two best jobs in Alaska - the opportunity to serve the public as Governor and Railroad President. It might take me awhile to figure out what I want to do next.
Also see:
     Anchorage Daily News
     Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
     MS NBC

Status of MATI locomotives - 12/5/00
Based on an email from Pat Durand
Volunteers at the Museum of Alaska Transportation and Industry have prepared tracks at the Museum to receive two locomotives purchased this past summer as surplus at Clear Air Force Station.   EMD MRS1 # 1718 and GE 80 tonner #1604 have both been maintained operational by volunteers.    The next big step is to arrange transportation for the locomotives over the Alaska Railroad to Wasilla and onto the Museum tracks at MP 162.5 where volunteers will assist with placing them in the Museum grounds.

If you want to be part of the crew at the Museum to assist in this effort contact Pat Durand at 907 696 2373.   You will then be on the call list when the move is scheduled.

Close encounters on the railroad - 12/4/00
Close encounters, they happen just about everyday in Alaska. Not with alien forces, but with powerful forces being challenged everyday by drivers, pedestrians and snowmachiners. 

THESE INCIDENTS HAPPEN at railroad crossings and all along the Alaska Railroad route.  Hundreds of tons of steel up to a mile long and no where to go but straight ahead on track.

[See story]

Railroad turns on new switches - 12/4/00
Two Alaska Railroad trains met at a place called Hurricane, some 170 miles north of Anchorage on Nov. 30. 

ONE OF THE ENGINEERS punched a couple of buttons that automatically switched the track, allowing his train to move onto a railroad siding to let the other train pass. It may not sound like much, but the event signaled what could be the beginning of a much more modern era for the railroad in Alaska. 

[See story]

Orchestrating life on the rails - 12/4/00
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
By DIANA CAMPBELL, Staff Writer 

Fairbanks suits Mike Olson just fine.

Olson is an expert on Alaska communities, at least those on the railroad system. He's been up and down the line from North Pole to Seward countless times during his 29 years with the Alaska Railroad.

Enough times to know where he doesn't want to be.

"Whittier. At any given time, you can see rain, wind, ice, hail," said Olson, the railroad's Fairbanks terminal superintendent. "In fact, you can see all the different weather in 15 minutes. Sixty below in Fairbanks beats a good day in Whittier." 

Olson came to Fairbanks in 1994 to take his current job with the railroad. He oversees the loading and unloading of passengers, petroleum, coal and freight at the Fairbanks yard of the Alaska Railroad. He also supervises the maintenance of the track and equipment in the yard as well.

"I love the railroad," Olson said as he looked back over his decades with trains. He was a week shy of his 18th birthday when he took a job in the railroad's Anchorage freight house running a forklift. He was right out of high school in 1971. Before that he had been visiting Alaska in the summers to see a sister.

Olson intended to go to college and study history, but soon he was promoted to brakeman, a job were he rode the rails picking up and dropping off cars as part of a crew.

By 1975 he was a conductor and was heading his own crew. He was elected as a union officer in the United Transportation Union in 1978 and became general chairman in 1980.

Gov. Walter Hickel appointed Olson to serve on the Alaska Railroad board of directors in 1990, a position he resigned when he accepted the superintendent position in Fairbanks in 1994.

"He has a very difficult job," said Johne Binkley, railroad board chairman. "It's probably a lot like conducting an orchestra. There's a lot going on at the same time."

The railroad moves about 1.2 million gallons of petroleum south daily from the Williams Alaska Petroleum Inc. refinery in North Pole. Olson and his crew have to make sure the tank cars are at the refinery's loading dock.

"He's organized. There are times they are under pressure. If I were him, I'd probably be screaming and yelling." said Ed Sanborn, Williams' refinery shipping supervisor. 

Olson understands it's important to keep his customers happy, Sanborn said. "He makes me feel comfortable when I call him with a problem," he said.

Sometimes Olson has to call Sanborn. When the railroad had a derailment last summer, Olson called Sanborn at home in the middle of the night to let him know there was a problem.

"He won't give any more (information) then what he knows," Sanborn said. Olson won't speculate about details--simply offers what he knows with a promise to keep him updated, Sanborn said.

Other railroad customers appreciate Olson's reliability. 

"Getting a train here on time is very important for us," said Warren Mattielli, Usibelli Coal Mine, Inc.'s vice president of operations. Mattielli estimates about 800,000 tons of coal go through the Fairbanks yard, part of 1.2 million tons transported every year by the train.

"That's our lifeline for getting coal out of here," Mattielli said. "He'll be right there on the job. I'm afraid Mike puts in a lot of hours."

When Olson's not on the job, however, he's with his family. His wife Sherri is the daughter of a Washington state railroad man.

"It was love at first sight," Olson said. "We hit it off." The couple have two boys who attend Joy Elementary School. Olson praised the borough's public schools, saying they are the best in the state. Both he and his wife volunteer in their children's classrooms.

Additionally, Olson coaches Kyle's Pop Warner football team. Last season, Olson led the Fort Wainwright Cowboys to a division championship and a second-place finish in the state. 

Olson's favorite football team is the University of Washington Huskies. His boys like the University of Oregon and UCLA teams.

"They broke their dad's heart," Olson said. 

In the summers, Olson sticks the camper on the truck and the family heads to Tolsona to fish.

"It's our favorite little campground," Olson said. Fishing, football and family helps him deal with the stress of his job, he said. 

But railroading is a way of life. Managing trains takes organization and creativity, Olson said. "It's like putting a jigsaw puzzle together. It can be a lot of fun," Olson mused. 

Mike Olson Age: 47
Occupation: Alaska Railroad Fairbanks terminal superintendent
Hometown: Bremerton, Wash.
Wife: Sherri
Married: 13 years
Children: Erik, 11; Kyle, 9.
Recent book: Tom Clancy's "The Bear and the Dragon."
Favorite all-time movie: "Shane"

Earthquake rattles Alaska's interior - 11/30/00
Submitted by an anonymous source
A magnitude 5.7 earthquake centered just north of Denali National Park and Preserve hit early Wednesday [Nov. 29] morning.  The Alaska Railroad was notified by the Alaska Earthquake Information Center.  Maintenance workers then inspected the track and bridges from Eielson Air Force Base to Denali Park after the quake and found no damage.  Usibelli Coal Mine in Healy as reported no damage.
Railroad plugs in new switches to melt snow, speed up traffic - 11/30/00
Anchorage Daily News
Sometime this afternoon, a train engineer will punch a keypad to throw open a siding switch near Hurricane Gulch and conduct the Alaska Railroad into the 21st century. 

The first of what will be 80 heated, radio-controlled switching systems at sidings from South Anchorage to Fairbanks goes online at noon today. It will allow trains to pass each other more safely and efficiently, cutting up to 90 minutes off travel time between the state's largest cities. 

[See story]

New heated switches at Hurricane - 11/29/00
Based on an email from Robert Krol
Regarding the new remote-controlled and heated switches at Hurricane - Channel 2 News had the ARR Hurricane story on.  The ARR needs to line them out.  Channel 2 reported the ARR put in a million dollar switch heater.  They  left out the the power switches and signaling system for the computerized siding. 
New Jordan spreader status - 11/29/00
Based on an email from Jeff DeBrock
ARR spreader 9 will be arriving in Whittier in about four weeks. It was getting ready to ship in New York last week.
Report tells railroad changes are needed - 11/22/00
Anchorage Daily News
A Cabinet-level commission appointed by Gov. Tony Knowles says the Alaska Railroad needs better safety and accident response planning, higher standards for track and railbed maintenance, and better pay and training for its employees. 

[See story]

F40 bid - 11/21/00
Submitted by an anonymous source
The Alaska Railroad web page bid section is asking for three remanufactured F40 locomotives. These would be numbered beginning at 3031.  It seems the railroad's trains are getting too long for the 315 KW HEP plants installed into GP40-2s 3009, 10 and 11 about eleven years ago.  Amtrak has offered rebuilt F40PHs, modified with a nose door (like the new SD70MACs) and the railroad expects to receive an offer from at least one other rebuilder for a GP carbody unit.  The specifications are for an 800 KW from a head end power generator driven by either a shaft from the prime mover or a separate engine.  Delivery is to be by the start of passenger season, so watch for some fast work starting with the BOD meeting on 12/04.

[Webmaster note: If you recall, I had a 2/27/98 news item titled, "ARRC to Purchase EMD F59PHIs".  It said the ARRC was considering purchasing two EMD F59PHIs for passenger service at an extremely good price. They were the
"Marlboro Train" locomotives which were scrapped in the wake of the cigarette law suit and project delays and cost overruns.  However, the operations folks adamantly objected to this and the idea was dismissed.  Well, it now appears the pendulum has swung back the other way.]

ARR units showing up on the BNSF trace - 11/16/00
Based on an email from Robert Krol
The ex-ARR engines are showing up in the BNSF Trace System. [Webmaster note: As of 9:00 a.m. on November 16, all six were showing up on the trace and ARR 3020 is showing a junction delivery to Seattle, Washington.  Also, check out Steve Noland's ARR delivery photos on my main page.]
Ex-ARR locomotives arrive in Seattle - 11/15/00
Based on an email from Steve Noland
I saw an assortment of Alaska RR locomotives and passenger cars in West Seattle last night on my way home from work.  I'll be leaving the house in a few minutes to go catch these engines in the sun.
Railroad warns of track maintenance - 11/12/00
Anchorage Daily News
The Alaska Railroad will begin grinding rails in Anchorage and the Matanuska Valley this week, and railroad officials say people should not mistake the sparks for fires along the tracks. Scott Banks, railroad public affairs officer, said the grinder uses an 800-foot machine with 96 computer-controlled grinding wheels to smooth out the rail. "The machine creates a lot of sparks that light up the night sky," Banks said. "We don't want people to be alarmed that there is a fire along the tracks." The machine will work the entire length of the railroad between 6 p.m. and 7 a.m. through late December. Rails were last ground in 1994. Grinding is needed because the rail surface breaks down over time and gets rough. 
New bids - 11/9/00
Based on an email from Robert Krol
The ARR has out for bid: Safety Boots, Archaeological Dig Assistance, Anchorage International Airport Rail Depot (now the Ted Stevens International Airport).
Murkowski promotes gas line, rail link to Canada - 11/8/00
Anchorage Daily News
Sen. Frank Murkowski is back at home in Alaska, where he's touting the construction of a trans-Alaska natural gas pipeline.   A gas line also could help spur development of a railroad linking Alaska to Canada and the Lower 48, Murkowski said. 

[See story]

Proposed Wasilla Route Changes - 11/1/00
Based on an email submitted by an anonymous source
Until around last spring, Wasilla was very strongly against moving the Parks Highway out of Wasilla.  Then for some reason, they started to change their minds and now seem to favor it.  The relocation of the railroad and the Parks would probably work hand in hand as the two would probably more or less parallel each other.

This map is right now nothing but a dream.  I do not know if any actual surveys have been made and what the status is of the lands that the different routes cut through.  You cut the two curves on the right side off (MP154), and to the RR these are a major problem as that stretch of track also involves a short but significant grade.  Therefore, I would guess that for the railroad route D would be the preferred route.  As to what right of way problems would be involved, I have no information at this time.  You can see from the map that the City of Wasilla is also looking at commuter service to Anchorage.

Union Pacific interested in buying power cars - 10/25/00
Submitted by an anonymous source
It is true the UP is interested in buying the Alaska Railroad's power cars (P-30 and P-6).  The UP knows the whereabouts of every surviving E type B unit. The Providence and Worcester has one, the Alaska Railroad has two.  There is one more out there somewhere and the UP has the rest.  When they rebuild them they take out the two 12 cylinder 567 engines and put in one 16 cylinder roots blown 645.  The result is that it is a GP38 in disguise.

The bad news is that the Alaska Railroad is planning at this time to convert the P30 to two axle trucks.  Hopefully, the Alaska Railroad is able to protect the old monster A-1-A trucks so the UP can convert it back some day. 

Locomotives sold - 10/25/00
Submitted by an anonymous source
GP35's 2501 and 2502, GP40-2 3016 and GP40's 3017, 3019 and 3020 were sold to David Joseph at Joseph Transporation, Inc, Cincinnati,  Ohio.  This is the second time they have sold, but this time the deal should go through.
Overland SD70MAC HO model status - 10/24/00
Based on an email from Bob Garner
Just found out that the Overland SD70MACs won't be out until first quarter of 2001. They are only going to produce 69 units.
New caboose status - 10/20/00
Based on an email from Robert Krol
My dad says he has seen the new cabeese up here.  He seen the 1091 and the 1093 in the Whittier Yard.  He says they are gone now, so should be in Anchorage getting ready for the road.  I suspect they will get put on the fuel trains.
Funds approved for rail study - 10/20/00 
MSNBC News (Associated Press)
Washington, D.C., Oct. 19 - Congress has approved $1.5 million in federal funding for a study on a rail connection to Canada.

ALASKA SEN. FRANK MURKOWSKI hopes to link the Alaska Railroad to the Lower 48 via Canada. He said that would help tap coal and mineral resources in Alaska.  The connection would require 1,150 miles of new track. The track would stretch from Eielson Air Force Base to either Fort Saint John or Fort Nelson in Canada.  It could cost more than $2 billion.

Railroad to make repairs - 10/17/00 
MSNBC News (Associated Press)
Fairbanks, Oct. 17 - The Alaska Railroad has begun work to smooth railing in the Fairbanks area. The work will continue for the next couple of months.

THE RAILROAD will be using an 800-foot-long machine with 96 computer-controlled grinding wheels to smooth the railroad through late December.  Railroad officials say the work was needed because the rail surface breaks down and gets rough through years of use.   The railroad says fuel consumption and equipment maintenance increase with a rough track.

Senate passes rail line legislation - 10/16/00 
Kenai Peninsula Online
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. Senate has passed legislation sponsored by Sen. Frank Murkowski to study a 1,150-mile rail connection to Canada.

The bill, which now goes to the House for consideration after being approved Friday, would set up a joint U.S.-Canada commission to conduct the study. The bill also authorizes Congress to spend $6 million over the next three years to carry out the work. Appointments to the 20-member commission would be split equally between the U.S. president and the Canadian government.

The track now ends at Eielson Air Force Base. The closest rail in Canada is near Fort Nelson and Fort St. James. The distance in both cases is about the same.

[See story]

The Latest Happenings - 10/16/00
Based on an email from Casey Durand
The Pandrol Jackson rail grinder arrived at the Anchorage GOB track on the morning of 10/14.  It is a seven piece consist with three grinding cars.  All blue with yellow lettering.  They are to start work on the 15th, with a white Hy-rail suburban following it.  Should be quite a show!!!

The new Vegetation Control Vehicle, "weed burner", should be done by the end of the month.  It is basically a Hy-rail truck with arms capable of reaching 20 feet either side of the track.  Should be a nice tool to have around.

The track work on the Open Rip in Anchorage is almost done.  The Open Rip " repair in place " track has been moved over near lower 3, and a new switch cut in just above the C street bridge.  This is all to accommodate a track and service building for the Royal Celebrity Tours cars.  This facility will be next to the present Princess shop.

While on the topic of passenger equipment, the mass of passenger equipment is overflowing out of the coach barn.  A two track shed/addition has been proposed off the side of the car barn to help with this.

No. 2004 is almost totally stripped down in the electrical bay in Anchorage.  It is slated to be totally rebuilt in the Anchorage shop, frame-up.

It is rumored that no more equipment will be sent to LRC, " Livingston Rebuild Center ", due to problems encountered with 2002 and the two RDCs.

It is also rumored in the Passenger services department that next summer might be the magic season when we see four passenger trains on the Anchorage Subdivision.  With Westours running six and seven cars, Princess running five, and Royal running two, on each train, that will stretch the current trains too much.  We quite possibly will see two "Cruise Express" and two "Aurora Express" trains a day.

Rail grinder status - 10/14/00
Based on an email from Robert Krol
Heard the RMS 6 Rail Grinder Engine on the radio, on Friday night about  21:00.  I saw them come through Portage about then as well.  It was pitch black dark, all I saw was a bunch of lights on the rail grinder train.  So they must have unloaded the barge today and got everything setup and running to go to town.
New caboose status - 10/7/00
Submitted by an anonymous source
ARR cabooses 1091, 1092, and 1093 are still two weeks from being shipped due to some additional work.  First, the ARR applied a unique feature: After a pre-set period of no axle generator output all electrical loads except for the marker lights and train radio are shed.  The plan is to reduce the frequency that the railroad has to shop the caboose due to dead batteries.  This occurs when a train arrives at a terminal and the cab is left lit up.  Second, an error in the dimension on the order of the new (FRA) glazing has delayed the glazing application.  Finally, the car department is having the trucks rebuilt on two of the cabooses.
Barge ties Seattle, Whittier - 10/6/00 
Anchorage Daily News
The first of three new barges has been launched for service between Seattle and Whittier. The 420-by-100-foot barge is equipped with rails so railcars can roll on and off. Deck space also can be used for break-bulk cargo and containers. The Alaska Railroad has signed a 10-year contract with Alaska Railbelt Marine, a subsidiary of Lynden Inc., to charter space for the weekly service. "The new barges are designed to provide faster, more efficient and more reliable service," said Jim Jansen, president of Lynden. Construction of a second barge is due for completion in February,

[See story]

New barge launched for Seattle to Whittier service - 10/6/00 
Kenai Peninsula Online
The first of three new barges has been launched for service between Seattle and Whittier.

The 420-foot-long by 100-foot-wide barge is equipped with rails so railcars can roll on and roll off. Deck space also can be used for break-bulk cargo and containers.

[See story

Assembly holds off on rail spur study - 10/4/00
Anchorage Daily News
A decision by the Anchorage Assembly on whether to support a study of a railroad extension into Girdwood Valley won't come before mid-December.  After listening to two more hours of public comment Tuesday night, the Assembly set a Dec. 12 work session and a Dec. 19 meeting date to deal with the issue. On Tuesday, more people spoke against the rail extension than for it.

[See story]

32 coach passenger train - 10/2/00
Based on an email from Robert Krol
Channel 2 News had a story on Sunday night.  The longest Alaska Railroad passenger train ever.  The 32 car train ran from Anchorage to Indian and back.
32 coach passenger train - 9/29/00
Based on an email from Scott Banks
A big passenger train with 32 coaches will leave the Anchorage depot on Sunday at 6:30 p.m.  They'll spot the train in mid-morning, cut in half until it's time to give the air.  Passengers are part of a convention of household good forwarders.
Updated bid section - 9/28/00
Based on an email from Robert Krol
ARR has updated their bid section.  Out for bid now is:
  • Professional Insurance Broker/Agent Services
  • Avalanche Vehicle - Purchase Track-Type Tractor
  • New Hydronic Heating System - Portage Tunnel Icing Control

  • .
    Assembly hears more support for Girdwood rail spur extension - 9/27/00
    Many in Girdwood opposed
    Anchorage Daily News
    A proposal to extend railroad service into Girdwood received more public support than opposition before the Anchorage Assembly late Tuesday. 

    The public response differed from an Assembly hearing in Girdwood last week, during which most speakers opposed the plan. 

    [See story]

    Girdwood Rail on tap tonight - 9/26/00
    Assembly to hear public input
    Anchorage Daily News
    The public will have a chance to tell the Anchorage Assembly tonight how it feels about a controversial proposal to extend a railroad up the Girdwood Valley to Alyeska Resort. 

    [See story]

    Road crossings and airport access - 9/26/00
    Based on an email from Robert Krol
    Channel 2 News had a story this evening about several law enforcement  officers were given a train ride on an RDC so than can see the number of near collisions at road crossings.  Maybe there will be something at ADN.com tomorrow. 

    Also work continues on the rails by the airport.  Last weekend crews were replacing the rails at the road crossing on International Airport Road.  The ramp leading up to the new terminal has been partially built, dirt was built up making a nice ramp. 

    Railfan input requested for ARR website - 9/22/00
    By John Combs
    A gentleman from ARRC public affairs tells me they are redesigning their web site and will have an area for railfans.  He has asked me what railfans would like to see in that section.  Email me by September 27th  and tell me what you'd  like to see and I will pass it on to him.
    Railroad denies pollution claim - 9/22/00
    Anchorage Daily News
    The Alaska Railroad has pleaded innocent to two criminal pollution charges  related to a rail yard fuel spill in February. Attorneys for the railroad  entered the pleas Thursday in state District Court. The spill occurred when  railroad mechanics, following what prosecutors contend was a "normal and  accepted practice," wired open a safety valve while changing a fuel filter on  a locomotive. The mechanic doing the work went on break and a supervisor who  finished the job failed to remove the "cheater wire" holding the valve open,  prosecutors say. As a result, about 2,300 gallons of fuel spilled in two  locations. The charges, both Class A misdemeanors, accuse the railroad of  criminal negligence in discharging a petroleum product and polluting land.  Under state law, each of the charges could lead to fines of up to $200,000.  Trial is tentatively set for late November. 
    Fertilizer spilled at Whittier dock - 9/21/00
    Anchorage Daily News
    About 3,000 pounds of fertilizer spilled during offloading of a barge at the Whittier dock Wednesday morning but apparently dissolved harmlessly in the currents of Passage Canal, the state Department of Environmental Conservation said. The fertilizer -- ammonium nitrate in a granular form -- spilled when a rail car was pulled over a metal ramp between the barge and the dock. A handle on a belly valve on the car was tripped accidentally. The estimated 3,000 pounds of fertilizer dropped out of the tank and through the ramp's grating into the water before crews were able to close the valve. Harry Young, an environmental specialist with DEC, said the fertilizer is soluble in water, and the current was moving at a speed of about 1.5 knots off the dock. "We think it has dispersed, and they've seen no signs of stressed animals or fish or anything," Young said. "We had some concerns at first, but we truly believe at this point we don't have a problem."
    Bits and Pieces - 9/13/00
    Based on an email by Casey Durand
    On 9/13 the 2002, our rebuilt GP38-2, was working a short dump train with two of the older GP40s.  It is strange to see this shiny " baby MAC " in-between two of our good old girls.

    The new business / observation car, the AURORA, has made a few trips since it got here almost three weeks ago.  It is a sharp looking car, but not a replacement for the Denali.  Unlike the Denali the Aurora does not have a full kitchen, and true sleeping accommodations.  But the Aurora does have a larger vestibule and a good sized conference table. The major plus is FRA glazing.  Maybe every one could get together and charter it sometime, if we could find a coordinator do do all the dirty work!

    An order has evidently been placed for a new Jordan spreader.  This would be the first one made in I believe 23 years!  It will have an all new closed loop hydraulic system powered by a small Detroit.  The thinking is that this will be a demo for other railroads looking to replace their ageing fleet.

    There is talk in the Heavy Mechanical shop that someone wants to parallel the baggage car generator sets with the HEP units generator set.  This would be quite a project, with extra wiring and computer additions, but we will see if this actually happens.

    There is a very strong possibility that next summer we will see the addition of two Royal Celebrity Tours (owned by Royal Caribbean International) cars to the north and south bound express.  Their shop would be placed behind Princess in the area of the lumber yard and dead line.

    The Museum's locomotives are still at Clear.  Dick Morris has taken charge of the move for the museum.  The 1718 has been fixed, and filled with coolant good to -20F and the GE is being used intermittently to keep the batteries hot.

    Agents target huinters trespassing on railroad tracks - 9/12/00
    Fairbanks Daily News Miner
    Staff Writer

    While thousands of Alaska hunters are prowling the country for a moose, a handful of agents for the Alaska Railroad are patrolling the woods looking for hunters who illegally use the railroad tracks.

    "Hunting is probably our worst time of the year for four-wheelers," said Dan Frerich, chief special agent for the Alaska Railroad in Anchorage. "They are a big problem."

    According to state statute, it is illegal to trespass on the railroad right-of-way, which extends 100 feet on each side from the track's center line. But hunters often take advantage of the railroad to get to places they otherwise couldn't reach.

    Fairbanks special agent Gary Wing spent last weekend patrolling the railroad crossing on Standard Creek Road, which winds through a large woodcutting area about 20 miles south of Fairbanks. The area is popular among moose hunters, many of which use the railroad track to scout for moose.

    "I was amazed at the number of people who passed through the area," Wing said.

    He encountered people walking, riding mountain bikes and driving four-wheelers and motorcycles along the railroad tracks.

    "They were all on the track and they were all hunting," Wing said.

    In one case, Wing said he intends to file a complaint with the Fairbanks district attorney's office and bring charges against the hunter, though he declined to discuss the details of the incident.

    Hunters using railroad tracks is a problem every year, agents said.

    "Some years are worse than others," Wing said. "This year seems to be exceptional."

    The railroad covers almost 500 miles from Fairbanks to Seward and cuts a giant trail through some prime and remote moose hunting territory.

    "It's a helluva a path," acknowledged railroad public affairs officer Scott Banks.

    The 25-mile section of railroad track from Murphy Dome to Dunbar, which includes the Standard Creek Road crossing, is the biggest problem area in the Interior for trespassing, Wing said.

    The problem of people trespassing on railroad tracks is not confined to hunting season, Banks said.

    "If it's not hunting season it's fishing season," he said. "If it's not fishing season it's snowmachines. It's a concern to us every day."

    Trespassing on the railroad tracks is a Class B misdemeanor and is punishable with a fine of $1,000 and up to a year in jail. Violators typically pay a $500 fine, according to Frerich.

    More often than not, hunters are issued a warning to stay off the tracks. Repeat offenders are cited.

    "Our goal is not to go out there and arrest people and fine them and take them to court," Banks said. "Our concern is the safety of people out there and the safety of our crews."

    Four-wheelers pose the greatest hazard for the railroad during the hunting season.

    "They're big and bulky," Frerich said. "If you get them stuck on the rail it's hard to get them off.

    There have been cases when hunters have abandoned four-wheelers in the face of oncoming trains. It takes a fully-loaded train 1-1[1/2] miles to come to an emergency stop, Banks said.

    "Generally at the last second they'll abandon the four-wheeler and get out of the way," Frerich said. "We've had them keep on running and never come back for the machine."

    Of course, if the four-wheeler has been run over by a train, which has happened on several occasions, there's not much to come back for.

    "When a train hits a four-wheeler at 40 mph there's not much left," Frerich said.

    One incident near Broad Pass several years ago sticks out in Frerich's memory.

    "The most remarkable incident I can remember was a guy with a four-wheeler towing a trailer with a 100-pound propane tank in the trailer and the trailer got stuck in the middle of the trail," Frerich said. "A passenger train came around the corner and hit the trailer. Luckily the bottle didn't burst."

    As for the hunter, "As soon as he saw the train he just started running," the agent said.

    Four-wheelers also cause damage by eating away gravel around the ends of railroad ties, Frerich said, which increases the chance for derailment.

    "The person driving the four-wheeler doesn't have a clue he's putting lives in danger by doing damage to the rail bed," Frerich said.

    Royal Celebrity Tours to add own passenger cars in summer 2001 - 9/1/00
    Based on an email from Deane Motis
    Royal Celebrity Tours is a new Alaska tour company owned by Royal Caribbean International, the parent company of Royal Caribbean and Celebrity cruises.  The cars are being built by Colorado Railcar.  The first cars were already under construction this past December when I visited their plant in Ft. Lupton.  This is the same company who built the Princess cars as well as the Gold Leaf domes on the Rocky Mountaineer.  [Webmaster note: operations will begin summer 2001]
    Kerry Brookman Monument - 8/24/00
    Based on an email from Robert Krol
    Channel 2 News had a nice story on the news tonight.  A monument was built near the site where Kerry Brookman was killed in an avalanche earlier this year. Several members of his family were up here for the dedication today.  Bill Sheffield was on hand as well, speaking at the dedication. 
    Railroad an asset worth keeping - 8/21/00
    Bill Sheffield, President of the Alaska Railroad
    submitted to Anchorage Daily News, Voice of the Times
    This year has been one of the roughest ever for the Alaska Railroad. With three derailments, a lawsuit and tragic death of one of our employees, the Alaska Railroad has held a regular spot on the front page of newspapers throughout the state. While we fully expect news coverage of this unfortunate string of events, what's tough to swallow are the editorials such as recently appeared in The Voice of the Times.

    I feel compelled to respond to the inaccuracies in the editorial for the sake of our employees and the people of Alaska who own this railroad. The editorial suggests that the Alaska Railroad would be better off sold to a private company. But what it didn't address is the railroad's ability to improve and expand due to its unique state-owned status. Over the last five years, the Railroad has received more than $150 million in federal funding. Most of this federal money would simply not flow to a private company.

    That means there would be no track straightening, double track, improved sidings, remote controlled signals, or new depots planned for Fairbanks and Denali without these federal matching funds. That's why it is so important that the Alaska Railroad is a public corporation, owned by the people of this state. These projects cost millions more than the Alaska Railroad, publicly or privately owned, could generate on its own.

    With the part of the money not earmarked by the federal government for specific projects, we have been aggressively improving our track. But you certainly wouldn't know that from reading The Times editorial.

    For example, railroads our size typically replace 30,000 ties per year. With the help of federal funding, we have replaced 100,000 ties per year for the last five years. In fact, we have spent more than $80 million on rails, ties and ballast since 1995 to revamp a railroad that was worn out when the state purchased it in 1985. And this improvement to the system is noticeable.

    Gary Wolf from Rail Sciences Inc, a national, independent consulting firm who investigated our last derailment said, "I saw this railroad in 1995. Today it's almost night and day with the improvements they've made."

    The Times also alleges that, while the people of Alaska are the railroad's shareholders, they do not have much say in the line's operation. That is also incorrect. Every day we respond to a host of inquiries, complaints and requests for information from Alaskans. It's part of our job and one we take seriously. In fact, we have formed a community advisory board made up of representatives from rail belt communities to make sure we remain responsive to the public.

    Furthermore, the board of directors and management has to report to the governor and the Legislature about the railroad's operations. Anyone who believes that isn't adequate oversight hasn't had to appear before a legislative committee or before the governor and made to answer hard questions.

    The truth is, as a state-owned operation, we have more than half a million bosses out there watching what we do. They all have our telephone number and many aren't shy about using it.

    The Alaska Railroad is mandated to "foster and promote the long-term economic growth and development of the state." That means by law we are directed to look for ways to improve our service and make it easier and more efficient for our passengers and freight customers to use the railroad. Every last cent of revenue this railroad generates goes right back into fulfilling this mission and growing this railroad.

    And growing we are. Last year the railroad posted record revenues in its three main sectors: freight, real estate and passenger services. In 1999, we carried more than 670,000 passengers and hauled more than 7 million tons of freight, primarily commodities such as gravel, coal and, of course, fuel. These are basic commodities Alaskans depend on every day for heating facilities and homes, building new infrastructure, operating airports, etc.

    People often don't realize the vast role the railroad plays in our state's economics. For example, every 747 cargo plane that takes off from the International Airport carries 47,000 gallons of fuel. That equals 2 1/4 tank cars of the 120 tank cars hauled by the Alaska Railroad from North Pole to Anchorage everyday.

    Finally, the editorial stated that the railroad would have to abide by rigid regulations imposed by the state if it were in private hands. Maybe this fact isn't widely known, but the Alaska Railroad operates under federal regulations, just as all railroads in the Lower 48 do.

    Additionally, we are in no way exempt from state regulations. We will be fined and penalized just like any private company for the fuel spilled in our derailments that cannot be recovered. We have spent nearly $10 million dollars at the Gold Creek derailment site and will be working for many years to restore the environment and protect the Susitna River.

    In essence, as long as the state owns the railroad, the question of whether to sell or not sell it will periodically rise. That's appropriate. We are a state asset and whether we are sold is an appropriate public policy debate. In this debate, however, it is essential that Alaskans discuss this issue based on the facts -- not mythology.

    The Alaska Railroad has been operating in Alaska for more than 75 years. It has helped to shape our history and build our state. Like our many homegrown businesses, it is a cornerstone of our economy. It employs about 700 dedicated and hardworking Alaskans today and it will play a key role in the way Alaska develops through the next millennium. The railroad does all this and doesn't require one dime of state funding. I think that is an asset worth keeping.

    Bill Sheffield is a former governor of Alaska.

    4016 is new hanger queen - 8/17/00
    Submitted by an anonymous source
    The 4016 had a B2 contactor failure.  These contactor failures had been becoming routine, but this time it took a transformer and two resistors with it, and the resulting heat cooked a bunch of wiring.  Since the ARRC is constantly short of parts, it now has a new hanger queen.  The computer screens were taken out almost before the wheels had stopped turning when it arrived at their Anchorage locomotive shop.
    Observations - 8/17/00
    From Curt Fortenberry as posted on the Yahoo! ARRrailfans club
    Hoppers: in addition to the CEFX hoppers, ARR is also using JAIX 4 bay hoppers in the 99100 series. Total number on lease is not known.

    2002 is finally out of the ARR shop after rebuilding by LRC. I believe its maiden run was yesterday, bringing a train to Fairbanks arriving this morning. The other bud car at LRC is due to be inspected by ARR next week. 702 is already in state.

    All the former fun train cars have arrived, some are in use, some are still being inspected and prepared for service. I personally can't see these going into the long distance ANC=FAI route. It would be torture to sit under all that glass all day long. The seats are narrower than normal due to the A/C ducts being by the windows, and aisles being wheelchair accessible. Plus there is no overhead storage, and no underseat space either. Plus all coach (really a low level dome without the benefits of a dome) seating is face to face.

    The GP40's have joined the retirement line pending disposition. 3016, 3017, 3019, and 3020. 3016 was temporary brought back to life, but will go back to the deadline.

    The Army must have cleaned out a siding. Former ARR troop car boxcars have shown back up, stenciled: Retired, US Army Property, do not switch. Included in these 8 cars is one still painted in the 1953 McKinley Route arched lettering, and another troop car hi-cube boxcar (this would make 2 still existing)

    4016 suffered a serious electrical fire, and is sidelined. ARR also seems to be having a short life expectancy with the display monitors. Availability of the MAC's is between 60-70%.

    Weeds cost railroad $20,000 - 8/8/00
    Anchorage Daily News
    Federal railroad safety regulators have proposed a $20,000 fine against the Alaska Railroad Corp. for allowing too much plant growth along some of its tracks. 

    The fine adds to troubles that seem to have sprung up like weeds for the state-owned train line in recent months, including derailments and environmental infractions. 

    [See story]

    Rumor: SD70MACs for sale? - 8/7/00
    Submitted by an anonymous source
    I am not one to publish every rumor I hear, but this one came from a good source and is extremely interesting.  The ARRC is having some discussions stating the SD70MACs may be off the line in two years.  It seems these huge jackhammers are finding all the weak spots on the line and tearing it up.  It is reported both the ARRC and EMD will be holding their breath this winter while watching the SD70MAC rail ballet. -- JC 
    Cruise train hits car - 8/6/00
    Based on an email from Robert Krol
    The Cruise Train deadheading to Seward on Saturday hit a car on the Rabbit Creek Rifle Range crossing.  The car was totaled, with only a slight bend to the snow plow on the 4007.  Here's the photograph of the red paint on the plow.  The crew was replaced and the train was delayed for a few hours. 
    Pipe system part of cleanup plan - 8/5/00
    Anchorage Daily News
    By Don Hunter 
    Daily News Reporter 

    The Alaska Railroad and its Gold Creek contractor have submitted a draft report to state environmental officials outlining plans to enhance the cleanup of a 120,000-gallon jet fuel spill in the remote valley north of Talkeetna. 

    On another front, a senior official with the state-owned railroad said it apparently has assuaged the concerns of state and federal agencies about the emergency bulldozing of a section of Trail Creek on the Kenai Peninsula last month. A tributary was diverted to prevent the tracks there from flooding, and the work was done without a permit from the state Department of Fish and Game. State biologists feared the work might threaten salmon habitat.

    The state coordinator on the Gold Creek cleanup, Leslie Pearson, and railroad vice president Ernie Piper said agency and railroad officials discussed extending a vapor extraction system to a heavily contaminated area on the east side of the tracks in a meeting at the site this week.

    A private landowner who owns property on that side of the tracks has pressed for months for more remediation there, and state Department of Environmental Conservation officials fear that heavy rains or seasonal runoff could push contaminants toward the Susitna River, about a quarter-mile west of the spill. 

    Piper said Fish and Game biologists and representatives of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers visited the Trail Creek site this week, too. 

    "I think once everybody looked at it, the energy level came down," he said. "The Corps called us later today, and their concern dropped quite a bit, too." 

    Representatives of Fish and Game and the Army Corps could not be reached for comment Friday night. KTUU-TV reported that Fish and Game found no damage to salmon habitat at the site and the Corps of Engineers said the railroad was allowed to do the work under nationwide regulations. 

    Railroad engineers are continuing to work on a long-term design change to cure seasonal flooding problems where the railroad crosses a broad delta near Trail Creek, Piper said. 

    The work likely will involve the railroad improving fish habitat in the area in return for altering the stream's flow -- "some type of one-for-one tradeoff on habitat protection," he said. 

    At Gold Creek, the railroad has drilled dozens of recovery and monitoring wells since a Dec. 22 train derailment dumped fuel from a half-dozen tank cars along both sides of a section of track nearly 40 miles north of Talkeetna.

    Less than 15 percent of it has been recovered. Most of the rest is bound up in soil between groundwater about 30 feet deep and the surface. 

    The railroad is burying a network of pipes that will be used to suck air through the soil and stimulate naturally occurring bacteria which eat hydrocarbons. The process is expected to take years.

    Piper said the recovery wells should be more effective in winter, when the water table drops and fuel is expected to collect atop it again.

    The Associated Press contributed to this story. Reporter Don Hunter can be reached at dhunter@adn.com 

    Kenai Creek bulldozed by railroad - 8/1/00
    Anchorage Daily News
    The Alaska Railroad may have violated state and federal laws and harmed salmon by sending a bulldozer onto Chugach National Forest land this month to divert a stream threatening to overflow tracks on the Kenai Peninsula. 

    [See story]

    Railroad has extensive list of solicitations - 7/28/00
    Submitted by John Combs
    Looks like the railroad has a lot of new solicitations on the street:
  • Fall Protection for Locomotive Shop
  • Air Brake Valve Cleaning and Repairs for Freight Cars
  • Rail Grinding Services to cover the entire railbed with completion by autumn of 2000
  • Pre-Cast Steel Pipe for a pedestrian underpass at Whittier
  • Rental/Lease of Heavy Equipment (excavator, caterpillar and compactor)
  • Precast Structural Concrete planks for the Whittier Rail Yard
  • New vendor for Passenger Services Reservation Systems (including upgraded features)

  • .
    Railroad told to dig bad soil - 7/27/00
    Anchorage Daily News
    State environmental officials are demanding that the Alaska Railroad dig up and remove soil in the areas most heavily contaminated by last winter's jet fuel spill at Gold Creek and produce a new timetable for cleaning up the site. 

    [See story]

    Railroad hit with charges - 7/25/00
    Anchorage Daily News
    State prosecutors filed two pollution-related criminal charges against the state-owned Alaska Railroad Corp. on Monday in connection with a 2,300-gallon fuel spill last winter in the Anchorage rail yard. 

    [See story]

    New ARR cabooses - 7/25/00
    Submitted by John Henderson via ARRrailfans Yahoo Club
    Alaska Railroad cabooses 1091, 1092, and 1093 were sitting outside the paint shop at CEECO yesterday, July 23. They are freshly painted and numbered but there is still masking on the windows and no small lettering such as date built or repack dates on them.
    Rail bed blamed for spill, tracks separated in Hay Flat Curve - 7/24/00
    Anchorage Daily News
    By Don Hunter
    Daily News Reporter

    (Published July 22, 2000)
    A deteriorating rail bed on a problem curve caused an Alaska Railroad train to jump the tracks near the Palmer Hay Flats State Game Refuge last week, a consultant hired to investigate the accident said Friday.

    Gary Wolf, president of Georgia-based Rail Sciences Inc., said the outer, or "high rail," on the curve had gradually cut into the wooden ties over a period of years. That allowed the distance between the rails, or gauge, to widen. When the train passed July 12, pulling 45 tank cars of fuel, the outer rail slid out far enough to pull one car's wheels off the inner rail. That car and several others lost the track and tumbled down an embankment, spilling a still-disputed amount of gasoline.

    The problem developed on a section of track earmarked for replacement and straightening two years ago, but startup had been delayed by federal funding procedures. The "wide gauging condition" on the curve at Mile 153 was spotted by a maintenance crew using a track-measuring device on May 25, and "gauge rods" were installed to draw the rails closer together.

    That section of track is inspected almost daily, and the rail gauge was within federal standards, according to Wolf and Loren Mueller, the railroad's newly hired chief operating officer. The inspector thought the rails would hold.

    "The inspector had been right every day for 20 years," Mueller said.

    This time, he wasn't.

    After the derailment, Mueller said, track inspectors walked every curve of more than 3 degrees on the entire Seward-to-Fairbanks track. They found three  other spots with similar conditions: One was about one-quarter mile north of last week's derailment, and two others were in the Healy Canyon.

    New ties have been installed at those locations, and the railroad has asked for $456,000 in expedited federal funding to replace the four curves, including Mile 153, where the existing 12-degree curve will be reduced to 3 degrees.

    "That needs to be done right away," Mueller said.

    Eventually 70 curves between Klatt Road in Anchorage and Wasilla will be replaced, Mueller said.

    Wolf said the rail section that failed last week under a heavy fuel train wouldn't have given way beneath a lighter passenger car. "I've never seen this kind of activity under a passenger train," he said.

    Unlike most other rail lines, the Alaska Railroad has hundreds of curves, many much more acute than the 2- to 3-degree curves prevalent on other lines.  The sharper the curve, the bigger the problem for the railroad, Wolf and Mueller said.

    Still, the Alaska track is "in extremely good shape for the tonnage (the railroad) hauls," Wolf said, and major upgrades have been made in the las  five years.

    "I saw this railroad in 1995," he said. "Today, it's almost night and day with the improvements they've made."

    The derailment near the Hay Flats was the third in about eight months for the railroad. On Oct. 31, a fuel train partially derailed at Canyon Creek north of Talkeetna, spilling about 12,500 gallons of jet fuel. On Dec. 22, a fuel  train derailed at Gold Creek, a few miles south of Canyon Creek, spilling about 120,500 gallons of jet fuel.

    Railroad officials insist that less than 100 gallons of gasoline was lost in the Palmer derailment, but the state Department of Environmental Conservation pegs the spill at nearly 600 gallons.

    Ernie Piper, a railroad vice president, said he measured the rate of the gasoline pouring from a valve at Palmer and believes no more than 70-odd gallons could have splashed out. DEC officials, subtracting the amount still inside the derailed tank car from the amount pumped into it at a Fairbanks refinery, come up with 578 gallons missing.

    Friday, Piper said that about 170 gallons of gasoline remained in "nooks and crannies" of the leaking tanker after it was offloaded and that much of the rest likely evaporated during the lightering process.

    The Palmer spill appears to have been contained in a natural marshy basin between a gravel roadway and the railbed, and both railroad and DEC officials have said it seems unlikely to escape. The Gold Creek cleanup has cost the railroad about $9 million so far, and less than 15 percent of the 120,000 gallons spilled has been recovered.

    Reporter Don Hunter can be reached at dhunter@adn.com

    Safety experts to study railroad - 7/19/00
    Anchorage Daily News
    The contractor that investigates Alaska Railroad derailments will conduct a computer-based safety study this fall to pinpoint trouble spots on hundreds of miles of aging track. 

    [See story]

    New Alaska Railroad Conference Car, AURORA #2000, Begins Move via UPRR - 7/18/00
    Based on an email submitted by Web Lurker
    Gregg Moss, 9News (Denver, CO, television) broadcast live about 6:45 AM, July 17, 2000, from Colorado Railcar, LLC, at Fort Lupton, CO.  He was aboard Alaska RR's new conference car, AURORA, car #2000.  The car was shipped July 17 via Union Pacific to Denver then onto Seattle, WA.  There it goes by barge to Alaska.

    AURORA has a large open platform on the rear.  Inside the glass topped car is a large room which will have a dining area separated by a glass partition from a lounge area.  Presently, the car floor layout is empty.

    9News showed great views of the AURORA's exterior and interior.  Gregg was shown on the open rear platform from the ground and an elevated camera.

    A Colorado Railcar, LLC, spokesman was interviewed by Gregg.  Views of other cars were shown during the early morning live news feature.  Cars shown Rocky Mountaineer Railtours and the Princess Tour bi-level, glass roof cars.

    City, railroad reach deal on Ship Creek Trail - 7/18/00
    Anchorage Daily News
    The long-awaited Ship Creek Trail came one step closer to construction Monday when the city and the Alaska Railroad signed an agreement that will allow Anchorage to build the trail on railroad property. 

    [See story]

    Railroad review ordered - 7/14/00
    Anchorage Daily News
    Gov. Tony Knowles ordered a Cabinet-level investigation of operating and safety systems at the Alaska Railroad on Thursday, a day after the state-owned railroad suffered its third derailment in less than a year. 

    [See story]

    Train Derails, Spills Gas - 7/13/00
    Anchorage Daily News
    An Alaska Railroad train derailed near the Palmer Hay Flats State Game Refuge on Wednesday, spilling an estimated 100 to 400 gallons of unleaded gasoline from one of nine cars that went off the track and tumbled down a steep embankment. 

    [See story]

    Latest on 1718 museum acquisition - 7/12/00
    Based on an email from Pat Durand

    After several weeks trying to get a National Stock Number for the right hand water pump for a 567B engine, I finally made the decision to remove the needed pump from Locomotive #1500 at the Museum of Alaska Transportation and Industry.    #1500 is inoperative, needs two traction motors and an air compressor rebuild and lots of electrical work before she would ever run.   We will put the old pump parts back in for static display.

    Now I am ready to schedule a trip to Clear AFS for July 10 or 11 to complete installation.  At that time a progress report with all the newsletter articles will go out to the contributors.   Please advise the #1818/1718 family of friends that progress is being made and we expect the locomotive to move to Anchorage at the end of the very busy Alaska Railroad passenger season after September 15, 2000.

    Richard (Dick) Morris, has agreed to coordinate that move with the railroad in my absence from Alaska this fall.  We are asking the ARR to store the locomotives in Anchorage until spring 2001 when they can be moved back north 48 miles to the Museum under their own power.

    At the Museum we have a Naval Reserve Unit of SeaBees (Naval Construction Battalion)  17 people strong, doing construction work on a volunteer basis for two weeks.  These folks men and women are all from the New Orleans, LA area and are putting in 12 hour days.  Funding is from from an "Ice Tea"  DOT grant passed through from the State of Alaska and the Matanuska Susitna Borough.   One of the jobs is laying track to receive the locomotives.   There may be money left to buy the steel for a 40 ft by 60 ft building to house two locomotives.

    Progress can only be made in response to plans laid in advance.  Thanks to all you folks who helped realize the purchase of both #1718 and #1604 so we can realize some of those plans.     Pat Durand

    New observation car AURORA - 7/12/00
    Based on an email from Web Lurker
    Alaska Railroad will be getting an open platform, glass roof passenger car named AURORA, numbered 2000.  Car was at builders' plant, Colorado Railcar Manufacturing, LLC, at Fort Lupton, CO, on 6-3-00.

    Additional note from Curt Fortenberry: This was included in the batch of the Florida fun train cars, but it was never finished nor part of the FFT. It was called a sun room conference car.

    Additional note from an anonymous source: The 2000 is a new car built on a CN baggage car underframe. Mechanically it is like the other "sunroom" Florida Fun Train cars.  It was built to demonstrate the concept for the Florida Fun Train, but never completed and it is thus a "new" car.  It will be an entertainment car, mostly for charter or company use



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