2001 News Archive
(January-June)


Toll cut road business to Whittier - 6/25/01
Kenai Peninsula Online
WHITTIER (AP) -- Brenda Tolman, owner of Log Cabin Gifts, knows business has been down since the state started charging a toll to drive through the tunnel to Whittier. Her coin-operated reindeer food dispenser tells her so.

This summer her two reindeer, Elizabeth and baby Jolie, which she keeps in a pen along the side of her gift shop, haven't been getting fed as often. That means fewer families with young children are coming to town, she said Saturday.

After the 2.5-mile Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel opened Whittier to road traffic last June, the former military base turned tourist destination on Prince William Sound saw a jump in summer visitors.

[See story]

Neighbors okay deal - 6/6/01
Anchorage Daily News
Williams Alaska Petroleum and Government Hill residents have struck a deal that removes a political hurdle in the company's plans to expand its fuel terminal near the Port of Anchorage. 

Company executives joined with Government Hill representatives Tuesday evening to announce that Williams will remove three storage tanks within a couple hundred feet of homes if the $10 million expansion becomes a reality. 

[See story]

Seward may again be home to bulk fuel tank farm - 6/5/01
Kenai Peninsula Online
The Yukon Fuel Co. wants to make Seward home to a bulk fuel tank farm again.

Seward's waterfront tank farms were destroyed in the 1964 Good Friday earthquake. The Anchorage-based fuel distributor is negotiating a long-term lease with the Alaska Railroad Corp. for 10 acres of industrial-zoned land on which to construct six fuel storage tanks, according to Yukon Fuel President Larry Shelver.

[See story]

Train depot awaits repair; some fear effect on tourism - 6/5/01
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
Nearly two months after a driver crashed his truck into the middle of the historic Nenana Train Depot, the depot's manager says insurance company negotiations have delayed repairs on the building, thus hurting tourism in the town.

"Nothing could be removed until they could agree with the contractor," building manager Joanne Hawkins said. She leases the building from the city.

Hawkins regularly opens the museum and gift shop in the depot May 1. However, workers only started removing part of the chimney stack May 31.

Because of the extensive damage to the building, Hawkins speculates she may not be able to open the depot for tourists this year, hurting both her business and the tourist attraction in the small town about 58 miles southwest of Fairbanks on the Parks Highway.

Instead of people bustling in and out of the historic building at the end of A Street, a blue tarp covers the gaping hole in the middle of the depot.

"People see it and keep driving," Hawkins said.

Just before midnight March 22, Mark Malin, 47, of Fairbanks drove his Dodge truck off the Parks Highway, down the main road that runs about a mile into Nenana and into the train depot.

Malin, who was later charged with driving while intoxicated, crashed his truck into the depot up to the back wheels. A criminal complaint says Malin had a .17 blood-alcohol level, above the .10 legal limit. He is scheduled to face a jury trial July 9.

His truck destroyed the men's bathroom, a hallway and hit an antique safe in the museum so hard it flew 40 feet, opening a hole in the other wall. The safe hasn't been moved from its spot near the railroad tracks outside the depot, Hawkins said.

"He just happened to hit the backbone of the building," Hawkins said.

The building, which was completed just in time for President Warren G. Harding to drive the golden spike signaling the completion of the railroad in 1923, is listed on the National Historical Registry.

This, Hawkins explained, is why special care is needed when repairing the building. Its historical value also adds to the cost of repairs, which has increased from Hawkins' estimate of $200,000 to $371,000 because the insurance company is negotiating with the city.

The depot has been damaged four times by a vehicle, but by far the most damage was incurred in the latest incident.

Hawkins has a 20-year lease to run her gift shop, the museum and a four-room bed and breakfast in the historic building.

She also owns a cafe and gift shop in town, which is part of a guided tour.

"The depot is one spoke of a wheel," Hawkins said. "There are five spokes of the wheel and the museum is the hub of that wheel. It really puts a crunch to my business."

Nenana Mayor Bob Knight said it's too early in the quarter to see the effect of the depot's closure.

"The road traffic is down, just generally because of the price of gas," Knight said. He's had to find other attractions, such as the sport car races at the city's airport this weekend, to bring tourists to town.

"It's (the depot) quite a bit of sales tax that comes through here," Knight said. "Anything that brings in other people to the town will visit the rest of the town and spend money."
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Cruise ship information - 5/29/01
Based on an email from Robert Krol
This past Friday was a double ship day in Seward.  The Holland America had the Ryndam in and Royal Caribbean had the Rapsody of the Seas in.  The Alaska Railroad ran a big passenger train for the passengers of both ships.  The coaches of the train were stretched out on the dock.  This will happen every other Friday through the summer.  I was too busy keeping track of luggage on the Royal ship.  Princess has the contract for three years for transportion of the people and luggage. 
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Local students are working hard on the Alaska Railroad - 5/27/01
Anchorage Daily News
Now that summer officially has arrived, it's time for all good Alaskans to come to the aid of their visitors. 

When friends and relatives come to town, it seems I'm better off keeping the car full of gas and ready to go at a moment's notice. This summer we'll be headed to Denali one weekend, the Kenai Peninsula the next, with dinner at the Glacier Brewhouse squeezed in for good measure. 

But it takes an army of folks to shepherd visitors around the state. One of the most successful programs designed to match up local students with visitors is a school-business partnership between local high schools and the Alaska Railroad. 

[See story]

Murkowski thinks natural gas line could boost railroad line - 5/27/01
Kenai Peninsula Online
Sen. Frank Murkowski, long a promoter of a rail line from Alaska to Canada, thinks a natural gas line to the Lower 48 could make both more economically feasible.

Murkowski, R-Alaska, visited British Columbia last week for the U.S.-Canada Inter-parliamentary Conference. He said he's asking North Slope gas owners to consider the idea as they study ways of bringing gas to the Lower 48.

Murkowski has long promoted the idea of a rail line from Alaska to Canada. The new track would stretch 1,150 miles from Eielson Air Force Base, near Fairbanks, to Fort Nelson, B.C. -- the northern terminus of the North American rail network.

[See story]

Whittier access project receives award from American Society of Civil Engineers - 5/14/01
Office of the Governor Press Releases
Selected as Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement for 2001

The Whittier Access Project has been awarded the 2001 Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement Award, one of the most prestigious awards in engineering, Gov. Tony Knowles announced today. The award is the highest honor given by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and recognizes civil engineering projects that contribute to community well-being, demonstrate resourcefulness in planning, solve design challenges, and use innovative construction methods. 

"I am pleased and proud that the Whittier Access Project received this highest of national engineering awards," Knowles said.  "It proves the outstanding professional ability of the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities and the resourcefulness and power of Alaskans working together to come up with a creative solution to the longstanding issue of providing better, cheaper, and more convenient access to Whittier and western Prince William Sound."

The Whittier Access Project was selected from among 17 other outstanding projects throughout the United States. Past winners of the award include the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, relocation of the Cape Hatteras Light Station, Interstate Highway H-3 in Hawaii, Denver International Airport, Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Launch Complex 39 at Cape Canaveral, and the World Trade Center in New York.

"The Whittier Access Project not only serves as a symbol of engineering ingenuity, but also represents a significant contribution to Alaska communities, providing the Whittier community with improved access to retail services, social and cultural activities, and recreational facilities," said Robert W. Bein, P.E., ASCE. "We commend all of those involved from the Alaska Department of Transportation to Kiewit Construction Company for the superb job they did in working together to successfully and efficiently complete this challenging work."

"The Whittier Access Project joins the ranks of the most innovative and outstanding engineering achievements in the United States of the past 50 years," said Joseph Perkins, P.E., commissioner of Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities. "We are all very proud of being a part of this project. I appreciate the massive effort on the part of my staff and our consultants who successfully completed Alaska's first major design/build transportation project. I also appreciate the involvement of the public, especially the residents of the City of Whittier. The Whittier Access Project is truly a legacy project for all of those involved and for all it serves."

The Whittier Access Project provides highway access for the residents of Whittier, a vital cargo port, recreational area, and tourist destination located on Prince William Sound. Separated from the nearest highway by five miles of rugged mountains, lakes, and glaciers, residents previously had to load their automobiles onto shuttle trains and travel through a 2.5-mile-long railroad tunnel to connect with the highway system. 

The Whittier Access Project met the community's need for better access by converting the 2.5-mile long Anton Anderson Memorial railroad tunnel into a multi-modal facility, the only combined highway/railroad tunnel in the world and the longest highway tunnel in North America. The tunnel uses an innovative design of precast concrete panels with embedded railroad tracks for the road surface. The project also included two bridges, a 500-foot-long highway tunnel, 2.6 miles of road, and support facilities.

To comply with Federal Railroad Administration safety requirements, the project pioneered the use of an integrated tunnel control and train signal system to ensure that cars and trains are not in the tunnel at the same time. It is the first tunnel in the United States that features safe houses spaced at 1600-foot intervals to provide emergency shelter for travelers and a ventilation system of jet fans mounted in the tunnel ceiling. Specially designed portal buildings at both ends of the tunnel can withstand avalanche loads up to 1,000 pounds per square foot.

Construction was completed without impacting the freight trains running to Whittier and most of the work had to be done in brutal winter conditions with winds greater than 120 MPH, minus 40 degree temperatures, snow up to 43 feet deep, and avalanches that shut the project down for four days.

The Whittier Access Project has received an unprecedented number of awards from industry associations. In addition to the ASCE award, the project has also won Outstanding Heavy/Highway Project and Outstanding Design Project honors from the F. W. Dodge Awards program; Total Program Excel Award for Public Involvement with a Consultant from the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials; the 2000 Globe Award for Engineering Excellence from the American Road and Transportation Builders Association; the 2000 Excellence in Construction Award from the Associated General Contractors of America; 2000 Concrete Bridge Award from the Portland Cement Association, and the 2001 Grand Award from the American Council of Engineering Consultants. Tom Moses, the project manager, also received the president's award as the top highway engineer in the U.S. by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials for his work on the project.

Major contributors to the project include: Alaska DOT/PF; Alaska Railroad Corporation; CH2M-Hill, designer of Portage Lake Segment; Hatch Mott MacDonald, designer of Tunnel Segment; HDR-Alaska, EIS, RFP, and technical support during tunnel segment construction; Herndon and Thompson Inc., contractor of Portage Lake Segment; and Kiewit Construction Company, design-builder of tunnel segment. Other engineering firms who contributed to the project include: ABKJ; AGRA Earth & Environmental; Dryden & LaRue; Fergusson & Associates; Golder Associates; Lachel & Associates; Land Design North; Parsons Brinkerhoff Quade & Douglas; Peratrovich, Nottingham & Drage, Inc.; RIM, Inc.; RSA Engineering; SESCO Co. Inc.; Traffic Management Associates; and USKH. Numerous Alaska firms also helped in the construction of the project.

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Couple sues railroad for fuel spill damage - 5/13/01
Kenai Peninsula Online
A Gold Creek couple is suing the Alaska Railroad for alleged damages related to a 1999 fuel spill near their home.

Kathy and Leeroy Zeroth contend their property and livelihoods were damaged when a train derailed about 40 miles northeast of Talkeetna, dumping about 120,000 gallons of jet fuel in the wilderness surrounding their home.

The couple's complaint was filed in Superior Court in Palmer.

[See story]

Williams looks to grow - 5/12/01
Anchorage Daily News
Williams Alaska Petroleum has applied for permits to expand its Anchorage fuel terminal, a move some Government Hill residents oppose unless Williams agrees to relocate storage tanks that lie just below their neighborhood. 
.....
The project calls for building a double-track rail loop to allow Williams to unload fuel from tank cars more efficiently.  The company runs a refinery in North Pole and ships jet fuel, gasoline and other products on the Alaska Railroad to Anchorage. 

Each track would handle up to 60 cars at a time, Williams told the Corps of Engineers. 

Williams said it would build four 100,000-barrel and two-40,000 barrel fuel tanks inside the rail loop, but that part of the plan apparently changed Friday. 

[See story]

Bits and Pieces - 5/10/01
Based on an email by Casey Durand
It is definitely spring time in Alaska, the gravel trains are running, the passenger equipment is being cleaned, and MOW is out and about!

The gravel train right now is standing at 83 cars.  Yes, you sit at a crossing and the thing just keeps coming and coming.  It is being powered by either 3 GP40s or 2 70MACs, whichever is available.  It seems that the old GPs make better time.  Could it be because the MACs DON'T replace the GPs 2 to 1 like advertised?  Gee...

The passenger trains start this coming weekend, with the addition of a new private car to each Express.  The Royal Celebrity tours are adding a brand-new Ultra Dome to each Express.  There big white cars and cartoonish animals definitely stick out.  And no these are not like the Princess cars.  They are a full 18'1" tall and the interiors are totally different.  Something that is interesting is they will not fit into the shops!  The biggest shop door is 17'8"!  Sounds like fun!

But wait, if we can clear a car at 18'1" what about double stack containers.  Yes a rumer has been heard as to a report on the ability to accommodate double stack container service.

MOW is running all over!  Tie replacement has been cut from 80,000 to 40,000 this season, all in favor of the re-alignments.  Gravel, rock, junk dirt, is being dumped all over the side of the right a way between Anchorage and Wasilla.  The hope is to shorten the 1.5 hour run to .75 hour.

The airport terminal is under way.  You can see cast columns being erected at the airport, next to the parking garage.

As of now the Anchorage double track project has been tabled so more attention can be focused on the realignment.

Also we are already short of crews and motive power!  That's right before passenger season has started!  The projection for the summer is that we will be short 2 locomotives a day this summer.  So much for the idea that the 16 MACs could satisfy our needs!  We should have kept those 40s we sold!
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Carl Marrs named to Alaska Railroad board - 5/07/01
Office of the Governor Press Releases
A respected leader in the Alaska business community, Carl Marrs of the Anchorage- based Cook Inlet Region, Incorporated (CIRI) has been named to the Alaska Railroad Corporation board of directors, Gov. Tony Knowles announced today.

"Carl Marrs has an exceptional record of success as the head of one of Alaska's most successful corporations and his business savvy and dedication to Alaska will be an asset on the state-owned railroad," Knowles said. "Carl will be a tremendous addition to the new management team at the railroad headed by former General Patrick Gamble."

Of Aleut descent, Marrs was born and raised in Seldovia. He started his career with CIRI in 1973 and worked his way from land manager to president and CEO, a position he has held since 1995. With 7,000 shareholders, CIRI has emerged as the most successful of the regional ANCSA Corporations with holdings in telecommunications, real estate, construction, heavy equipment, and natural resources.

Committed to the local community, Marrs has volunteered for the United Way of Anchorage, Special Olympics, and the Western Alaska Council of the Boy Scouts of America. He has served on the Fiscal Policy Council of Alaska, Resource Development Council, and Commonwealth North. He is president of the Association of ANCSA Corporation Presidents and CEOs, member of the Alaska SeaLife Center board of governors, and trustee of Alaska Pacific University.

"Gov. Knowles has made an excellent choice in naming such a proven business leader as Carl Marrs to the Alaska Railroad board," said Johne Binkley, chairman of the Railroad board. "We welcome Marrs' experience, skill and commitment as we work to continually improve the Alaska Railroad's safety, customer service, and profitability."

Purchased by the state from the U.S. government in 1985 for $22 million, the Alaska Railroad operates on 611 miles of track from Fairbanks to Seward. With 58 locomotives and more than 1,700 cars, the railroad carried 500,000 passengers and 6.2 million tons of freight last year, and reported total revenues of $94 million. Marrs fills the seat of Dale Lindsay of Seward, who resigned last June.
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Seante stops on Denali rail - 5/01/01
Anchorage Daily News
A bill moving through the Legislature would help Fairbanks entrepreneur Joseph Fields build a passenger railroad from Healy to Wonder Lake inside the wilds of Denali National Park and Preserve. 

The bill would transfer up to 3,500 acres of state land in an area known as the wolf townships to the Denali Borough. 

The transfer would provide a corridor for Field's company, Kantishna Holdings Inc., to construct the first 30 miles of the rail line to the eastern edge of the park. To continue the remaining 55 miles to Wonder Lake, the company would need an easement from the National Park Service. 

[See story]

Alaska Railroad looking for federal grant money to improve tracks - 4/26/01
Kenai Peninsula Online
Track problems caused 19 accidents on the Alaska Railroad over the past decade, costing millions of dollars.

The railroad's top-ranking officials were in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, looking for more federal financial help to underwrite improvements.

Patrick Gamble urged a House Transportation subcommittee to pass legislation setting up a new grant program for track work on small railroads. Gamble, who took over as president of the Alaska Railroad two weeks ago, also encouraged Congress to make sure the corporation would be eligible for the grants.

[See story]

Railroad reaps record profits - 4/18/01
Anchorage Daily News
The Alaska Railroad Corp. made a $16.7 million profit in 2000, the largest since the state bought the railroad from the federal government in 1985. 

The number is so big mainly because of a timing and accounting quirk.

[See story]

Alaska Railroad to pay for hazardous spills - 4/17/01
Anchorage Daily News
The Alaska Railroad agreed Monday to pay the state of Alaska at least $530,000 to avoid civil and criminal charges stemming from five recent fuel spills, and to pay additional costs to implement its spill response and prevention program. 

The spills occurred between October 1999 and July 2000 and included the Gold Creek spill north of Talkeetna in which 120,000 gallons of jet fuel spilled near the Susitna River. The agreement also covered a February 2000 spill in the Anchorage rail yard in which a railroad mechanic wired open a safety valve to drain fuel during repairs. That incident resulted in the state bringing criminal charges against the railroad. 

[See story]

Alaska Railroad touts improved safety - 4/13/01
Alaska's 11 KTVA Anchorage
The corporation has released its annual report, which says that net income for the year was up and the rate of injuries was down. 

Johne Binkley, chairman of the board, says the railroad has been turned around, bothoperationally and financially. 

The railroad reports that the frequency of injuries dropped 25 percent from 1999, and was down almost 45 percent from the end of 1997. 

[See story]

Cantwell man injured when car hits train - 4/08/01
Kenai Peninsula Online
FAIRBANKS (AP) -- A Cantwell man suffered broken ribs and a gash to his forehead after he drove into a moving train near Hurricane on the Parks Highway Wednesday evening, according to Alaska State Troopers. A dog in the back of his station wagon died.

James L. Miller, 60, was driving south toward Anchorage when he hit the 54th car of a 64-car train crossing the Parks Highway at Mile 169, Trooper Sgt. Sonny Sabala said. The crash occurred about 11:30 p.m.

Miller was taken by ambulance to Talkeetna and then flown to Providence Medical Center in Anchorage for treatment. He was hospitalized in stable condition Friday.

[See story]

Carl Marrs named to Alaska Railroad board - 4/05/01
From the State of Alaska Website
A respected leader in the Alaska business community, Carl Marrs of the Anchorage-based Cook Inlet Regional Corporation (CIRI) has been named to the Alaska Railroad Corporation board of directors, Gov. Tony Knowles announced today.

"Carl Marrs has an exceptional record of success as the head of one of Alaska's most successful corporations and his business savvy and dedication to Alaska will be an asset on the state-owned railroad," Knowles said. "Carl will be a tremendous addition to the new management team at the railroad headed by former General Patrick Gamble."

Of Aleut descent, Marrs was born and raised in Seldovia. He started his career with CIRI in 1973 and worked his way from land manager to president and CEO, a position he has held since 1995. With 7,000 shareholders, CIRI has emerged as the most successful of the regional ANCSA Corporations with holdings in telecommunications, real estate, construction, heavy equipment, and natural resources.

Committed to the local community, Marrs has volunteered for the United Way of Anchorage, Special Olympics, and the Western Alaska Council of the Boy Scouts of America. He has served on the Fiscal Policy Council of Alaska, Resource Development Council, and Commonwealth North. He is president of the Association of ANCSA Corporation Presidents and CEOs, member of the Alaska SeaLife Center board of governors, and trustee of Alaska Pacific University.

"Gov. Knowles has made an excellent choice in naming such a proven business leader as Carl Marrs to the Alaska Railroad board," said Johne Binkley, chairman of the Railroad board. "We welcome Marrs' experience, skill and commitment as we work to continually improve the Alaska Railroad's safety, customer service, and profitability."

Purchased by the state from the U.S. government in 1985 for $22 million, the Alaska Railroad operates on 611 miles of track from Fairbanks to Seward. With 58 locomotives and more than 1,700 cars, the railroad carried 500,000 passengers and 6.2 million tons of freight last year, and reported total revenues of $94 million. Marrs fills the seat of Dale Lindsay of Seward, who resigned last June.
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Domes arrive on barge - 4/05/01
Based on an email from Robert Krol
My dad said two blue and yellow domes came off the barge today and two silver  cars. The silver cars might be the two diners they couldn't get rebuilt. 
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Alaska Almanac: Alaska's $80 million one-way tunnel - 4/01/01
Anchorage Daily News
Days until the state begins charging drivers to use the Whittier tunnel: 1 

Round-trip toll for cars: $15 

Maximum round-trip toll for a commercial vehicle: $250 

Average number of vehicles using the tunnel each day last summer, when it was free: 891 

Number of times per day in summer that vehicles in each direction get priority over trains for access to the tunnel: 6 

Time, in minutes, of each guaranteed opening for vehicles: 15 

Yearly cost to operate the tunnel: $3.6 million 

Cost of constructing the tunnel and access roads: $80 million 

Capacity of tunnel in cars per hour: 800 

Amount the state spent for each car the tunnel can handle per hour: $100,000 

Amount the state would pay to build a mile of one-lane road, assuming a similar price per car of capacity: $40,000,000

Sources: Whittier tunnel Web site (www.dot.state.ak.us/whittiertunnel), Daily News files, Alaska Department of Transportation public affairs office. 
..

Derail this bill - 3/29/01
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
Senate Bill 123 is barreling through the Capitol like a runaway train threatening to flatten hopes for Fairbanks' new rail depot.

The proposed legislation, introduced by Sen. Drue Pearce only weeks ago, would give lawmakers veto power over new Alaska Railroad projects exceeding specified dollar values.

Whatever rationale exists for mandating such legislative oversight is lost in the blur of this legislation's fast-track ride toward passage.

Alaska Railroad projects aren't funded by the state. The federal government and the railroad's own profits are used the pay for ongoing track improvements, new engine purchases and other capital improvement projects, such as the new depot planned for Fairbanks.

Those projects are all contingent on approval from the Alaska Railroad Corp.'s managing board, whose members are appointed by the governor.

Federal environmental studies, with all their accompanying public review, are required for projects having a major impact on local communities. That would be the case with the proposed track realignment to eliminate unsafe road crossings in the Greater Fairbanks area.

Yet, former Senate President and current Senate Rules Committee Chair Pearce apparently feels another layer of legislative oversight is required. Her bill would force the railroad to seek passage of a new law before commencing so much as the design of any facility worth $5 million on up, or track improvement if it's expected to cost $10 million or more.

SB 123 cleared its first committee, Senate Transportation, after a single hearing and was forwarded to Senate Finance on Friday. Assuming it clears that last station of Senate committee scrutiny, Pearce, the bill's sponsor, controls the scheduling of a chamber floor vote.

That discretionary power to schedule what comes before the full Senate may well give Pearce political steam to push her legislative train through the House. But that would be unfortunate. If SB 123 passes, design work on the railroad's new Fairbanks depot will be set back at least a year. And we can expect similar delays ahead on a whole range of projects.

Pearce has represented Anchorage in the Legislature since 1984. She is considered one of Juneau's true power brokers, and may be accustomed to having state entities conform to her personal schedule and priorities.

But is this any way to run a railroad?

Let's keep the Legislature's hands off the throttle. Professional engineers and Alaska Railroad's appointed board are far better prepared to keep the trains moving in orderly fashion, and take the politics out of rail-improvement projects. 
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Historic Nenana train depot damaged by driver - 3/26/01
Kenai Peninsula Online
FAIRBANKS -- A pickup truck moving between 55 and 70 mph slammed into the historic Nenana railroad depot Thursday night, sending an old safe flying through a wall and knocking out the building's windows.

The driver, Fairbanks resident Mark A. Malin, was taken to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital where he was treated for his injuries and released.

Nenana Police Chief Milton Haken said Malin had a .17 blood-alcohol level and he was charged with driving while intoxicated.

The depot, completed just in time for President Warren G. Harding to drive the golden spike signaling the completion of the Alaska Railroad in 1923, suffered about $200,000 in damage, said Joanne Hawkins, who manages the city-owned building. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

[See story]

Atlas to release N scale GP38s - 3/23/01
Based on an email from Tom Koole
Just received word that Atlas will be coming out with an N scale GP-38 painted in the Alaska RR scheme.  Two road numbers will be available.  Suggested price will be somewhere between $89.00 and $99.00 dollars.

Webmaster's additional remarks:

This new model will be offered in two variations: one with a factory-installed Lenz decoder and the other with a PC board designed for easy conversion to DCC if desired. 

Features Include:
- Directional lighting
- Walkway safety tread
- Blackened metal wheels
- Dual flywheel equipped 5-pole skewed armature motor with a low friction mechanism
- Factory-installed AccuMate® magnetic knuckle couplers!
- Dynamic brakes where appropriate
- Painted handrails
- Three units available: 2003, 2005, unnumbered

Coming in June!

MSRP Range: $89.95 to $99.95 
MSRP Range w/ Decoder: $129.95 to $134.95
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Airport's new depot 'albatross' inspires bill to control projects - 3/23/01
Anchorage Daily News
Juneau -- Calling the plan to build a train depot at Anchorage's international airport "a failure in the public process" and "a $28 million waste of taxpayer money," lawmakers urged a Senate panel Thursday to pass a bill to require the Alaska Railroad to get the Legislature's approval before starting any new big projects. 

Plans for the airport rail station moved forward without legislative input and lacked a public review process despite affecting hundreds of residents and possibly needing future state dollars, Sen. Drue Pearce told the Senate Transportation Committee.

[See story]

RDC 711 damaged - 3/15/01
From an anonymous source
RDC 711 hit a frost heave around Klatt Road on Wednesday, March 14.  The plow was destroyed.
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Spring party train gets derailed by costs, regulations - 3/13/01
Anchorage Daily News
Call it the last dance. 

Rising insurance and operating costs, worries about avalanches, red tape and regulations have caught up with the polka-swaying ski train to Grandview Valley. 

After more than 30 years of sponsoring the rolling spring party train -- with its oompah band strolling the aisles and playing for booted dancers -- the Nordic Ski Association is calling it quits. The last ski trains are scheduled for March 24 and 25. 

[See story]

Railroad plans $90 million interior rerouting - 3/13/01
Kenai Peninsula Online
FAIRBANKS (AP) -- The Alaska Railroad Corp. is proposing to relocate a Fairbanks line between Sheep Creek Road and the median of the Parks Highway.

The new alignment would move onto the Tanana River Dike and stay there past North Pole to the Moose Pass Road interchange, eliminating 48 road and trail crossings. That plan also cuts out about 18 miles of track.

Thomas Engineering and Peratrovich, Nottingham & Drage Inc. drafted the conceptual designs for the project. Bob Thomas, with Thomas Engineering, said the project has a price tag of about $90 million.

Thomas estimated project completion to be six to 10 years from now.

[See story]

Royal Celebrity Line accepts two passenger cars - 2/27/01
Posted on the Trainorders.com Forum
Royal Celebrity Cruise Line has accepted delivery of two passenger cars from Rader Railcar near Denver. These two cars eventually will go to Seattle for furtherance to Alaska for service up there. They will make a short "tour" on their way to Seattle, however. 

Car numbers are RCIX 1001 and 1002. 

RCIX 1001 & 1002 will display Denver CO 2/28 & 3/1. 

RCIX 1001 will route BNSF to FWWR 3/2 thru 3/5 
RICX 1001 will display Grapevine TX on FWWR 3/6 thru 3/8 
RICX 1001 will route Ft Worth - Los Angeles via BNSF intermodal train 3/9 thru 3/12 
RICX 1001 will display in Los Angeles 3/13 & 3/14. RICX 1001 will route Los Angeles-Barstow-Riverbank CA via BNSF on manifest trains At Riverbank, RICX 1001 & 1002 will be put back together; see below 

RICX 1002 will route Denver - Richmond CA (via Barstow) on BNSF manifest trains 3/2 thru 3/9. 
RICX 1002 will display Oakland CA (on UP) 3/13 & 3/14. 
RICX 1002 will route Richmond CA to Riverbank CA 3/16 to meet RICX 1001. 
RICX 1001 & 1002 route Riverbank CA - Portland OR via BNSF manifest train 3/17 thru 3/20 
RCIX 1001 & 1002 will display in Portland OR 3/21 & 3/22. 
RCIX 1001 & 1002 will route Portland OR - Seattle WA via BNSF manifest train 3/23 
RCIX 1001 & 1002 will display in Seattle WA 3/26 & 3/27. 
RCIX 1001 & 1002 depart Seattle on Alaska barge 4/11/01 
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Fire foam system inoperative - 2/22/01
Based on an email from Robert Krol
Channel 2 News had a story on tonight about the safety of the Port of Anchorage.  The news story says the fire foam system Williams installed doesn't work and hasn't passed Anchorage Fire Dept. inspection.  Williams wasn't required to put in the fire system at the tank car unloading racks, but put it in as a safety precaution.  The story was directed towards Williams and not the Alaska Railroad.
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Assembly approves rail spur compromise - 2/21/01
Anchorage Daily News
The Anchorage Assembly unanimously agreed on Tuesday to set aside a corridor for a possible railroad extension up the Girdwood Valley, but several conditions must be met before tracks could be built. 

Among the conditions: the Alaska Railroad would build a multimodal transportation center at the valley entry, the city would hold an advisory vote on the rail spur, and the Assembly would consider information on things like traffic levels before making a decision. 

[See story]

Woman thought see could save snowmobile - 2/14/01
Anchorage Daily News
Wasilla -- Not many people get hit by a train and live to tell about it. Vicki Wohlers doesn't remember much. 

One minute the Anchorage woman was reaching down to grab her snowmachine trying to free it from the railroad tracks. The next she was flying through the air.

[See story]

Locomotives on the move - 2/13/01
by John Combs
Alaska Railroad locomotives 3013, 3014, 3015 left Seattle this morning and are headed for Illinois for a rebuild.  Check it out on the BNSF equipment trace.
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Woman hurt when train hits snowmobile - 2/13/01
Anchorage Daily News
Wasilla -- A woman suffered a broken leg Monday after nearly being hit by a train while riding a snowmachine along the railroad tracks in Wasilla, Mat-Su public safety officials said. 

[See story]

Federal government awards transportation grants - 2/12/01
Excerpt from Kenai Peninsula Online
A $1.8 million grant was awarded to the Alaska Railroad to build a pedestrian safety access facility in Whittier. The money will be used to build a pedestrian underpass below the Whittier train yard.

The underpass will include lighting, heating, ventilation and video safety surveillance.
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Railroad efficiency's well known; its safety record shines, too - 2/7/01
From ADN editorial section
I read Cynthia Wentworth's Compass piece (Jan. 30) with equal surprise and pleasure. Her points were all quite accurate, but all too frequently overlooked by those in the general public who dismiss railroads as 19th century technology. The amazing capacity of a railroad track and the tremendous fuel efficiency of a steel wheel on a steel rail are well established facts. As a 30+-year career railroader, I know those facts, but once in a while it's nice to see someone outside the industry does too. 

I would, however, like to add another point to her list, and I suggest it belongs at the top. Directly below Ms. Wentworth's article is a cartoon depicting three citizens shivering in fear at the prospect of crossing a street. This page was printed only hours after a man lost his life right here in Anchorage just because he was on the other side of the street from the restaurant at which he planned to have breakfast. North American passenger trains are orders of magnitude safer than our highways.

Last year we replaced the Alaska Railroad's Whittier Shuttle with a highway. The railroad had provided service for 50 years without a single fatality or major injury. The highway's record failed to reach 50 days. 

The price we pay in human pain and suffering for our "modern" automobiles is beyond imagination. Call railroads 19th century if you will; they still often beat the best the 21st has to offer. 

-- Joshua D. Coran
Anchorage 
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Bid protests slow locomotive rebuilds - 2/7/01
by John Combs
There were two protests with the award for the rebuilds to 3013, 3014 and 3015.  However, the units are now en-route in anticipation of resolution of the protests.
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ARR bid section update - 2/7/01
Based on an email from Robert Krol
In case you haven't scoped out the ARR Bid section. They have out for bid:  new vehicles, new or used flat cars, new or used COFCs, watering spots for passenger cars, Seward dock eng. services, passenger car cleaning and food service, 
depressed flat car, equipment leases, and shoulder ballast and ditch cleaning services. 

They also have quite a few jobs open right now too. 
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Girdwood rail decision deferred - 2/7/01
Anchorage Daily News
A group of Assembly members failed to muster enough votes Tuesday night to delay a major study of a possible rail spur up the Girdwood Valley for up to 15 years. 

Two votes to delay the project ended in a 5-5 tie, so the Assembly will take yet another vote Feb. 20 when an absent member is present. 

[See story]

Transition stalls railroad study - 2/6/01
From the MSNBC Website
Anchorage, Feb. 5 - It appears a change in presidents has stalled a study to connect Canada and Alaska with a railroad.

Yukon Premier Pat Duncan says she hasn't heard from U.S. officials about building a railroad.  Alaska Sen. Frank Murkowski is calling for the joint study to see if the project is feasible.  President Clinton approved $6 million for the three year study. He hoped to link the Alaska Railroad to the Lower 48 by way of Canada.  Murkowski believes that could tap coal and mineral resources in Alaska.  Officials say they expect the railroad initiative will wait until President Bush gets settled into office.  The connection would require about 1,100 miles of track at a cost of between $1 billion to $2.3 billion.
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Three GP40s arrive in Seattle - 2/1/01
By John Combs
GP40-2 numbers 3013, 3014 and 3015 (to be rebuilt at National Railway in Illinois) arrived in Seattle today.  They are currently showing up on the BNSF trace.
Ex-Alaskan Command general to run state's railroad - 1/23/01
Anchorage Daily News
The directors of the Alaska Railroad have picked a four-star general and former head of the Alaskan Command to be the next president of the state-owned line. 

Gen. Patrick K. Gamble will take charge of the railroad in mid-March, when he retires from a 31-year career in the U.S. Air Force. A former director of air and space operations for the Air Force, he is currently based in Hawaii and commands all Air Force installations in the Pacific. He held the Alaskan Command from 1996 to 1998. 

[See story]

Also see the story in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Also see the story and photo in MSN NBC

Also see the Alaska Railroad's press release

Three locos sent for rebuild - 1/22/01
Based on an email from an anonymous source
GP40-2 numbers 3013, 3014 and 3015 headed out on the barge January 20th to be rebuilt with head end power (HEP) at National Railway in Illinois.   They will use the F40 system so the rebuild will fit in the present carbody.  The paint scheme will be like that on the 3009-11, a modified SD scheme.
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New locomotive crane - 1/22/01
Submitted by John Combs
This news item may be a little bit dated, but still noteworthy.  The Alaska Railroad has a new locomotive crane. ARRC LC111 is an American 60-Ton Locomotive Crane built in 1982 and rebuilt in 1996. It had recently been leased to AMTRAK to install catenary lines on the Eastern corridor.The ARRC purchased the crane from Eastern Railway Supplies in Buffalo, New York in October 2000.  Its first job on the Alaska Railroad was in support of rail grinding operations.
First Whittier freight - 1/22/01
Based on an email from Jerry VanThomme
Friday [January 12th] I witnessed the building of the first Whitier freight to go out this weekend.  On the point were three 2800's, a 4000, 3015, 3014, and 3013.  I thought they were just sending extra power down to Whitier to do the second barge while half the power brought the first barge back to Anchorage.
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Alaska Railroad schedules open house to discuss capital projects - 1/18/01
From the Alaska Railroad website
The Alaska Railroad is holding an open house Jan. 24, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Railroad Headquarters, 327 West Ship Creek Avenue, to provide a status report and solicit public comment on its capital improvement projects.  The open house will cover the Railroad's program of projects from Seward to Fairbanks with an emphasis on Anchorage area capital projects including:
 
  • Track Realignment - Anchorage to Wasilla
  • South Anchorage Double Track
  • Ship Creek Master Plan
  • Airport Rail Station
  • International Airport Road/Rail Corridor Study
  • Commuter Rail Study

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    The meeting will be an open house format from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. with presentations given at 6 p.m. on the track realignment project, South Anchorage double-track project and the Airport Rail Station. 

    The objective of the meeting will be to inform the public, government representatives and special interest groups about the Railroad's various projects and solicit input on the Railroad's capital improvement plan.  People unable to attend can submit written comments by e-mail at public_comment@akrr.com or by writing Capital Projects, P.O. Box 107500, Anchorage, Alaska, 99510-7500.
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    Recent ARR solicitations - 1/17/01
    Based on and email from Robert Krol
    If you haven't seen the ARR Bid page recently, the following is up for bid:  Renovation of the First Floor of the Depot Building, Depressed Flat Car.
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    High winds close Whittier tunnel - 1/16/01
    Based on and email from Robert Krol
    Last night on Channel 2 News they reported the high wind gust was 102 mph in Bear Valley.  There are two Bear Valleys, I'm not sure if it was Bear Valley near Whittier or Anchorage.  The tunnel was closed and people were trapped on both sides.  Anchorage people were trapped in Whittier and Whittier people were trapped in Anchorage.  I heard trees were blocking the Portage Glacier Road.  The winds have died down now.  Power was or is still out in Hope, Moose Pass, and parts of Anchorage.
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    Alaska Railroad posters for sale - 1/16/01
    Submitted by Tom Koole
    Tom Koole brought it to my attention that there are several fine Alaska Railroad posters for sale here.
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    MTH to release ARR O scale SD70M - 1/12/01
    Submitted by Harold Emerick
    MTH Premier will add an ARR SD70M diesel engine box set to its line.  It has an estimated delivery date of June 2001 and will cost $599.99. 

    Features include Directionally Controlled Headlights, Metal Wheels and Axles, Die-Cast Truck Sides, Pilots and Fuel Tank, (2) Remotely Controlled Proto-Couplers, Authentic Paint Scheme, Operates On O-42 Track, Metal Handrails and Decorative Horn, All Metal Wheels and Gears, Illuminated Number Boards, Lighted Marker Lights, Spinning Roof Fans, Metal Body Side Grills, Operating MARS Light, (2) Precision Flywheel Equipped Motors, Intricately Detailed ABS Body, Metal Chassis, Lighted Cab Interior, (2) Engineer Cab Figures, Operating Ditch Lights, Operating Smoke Unit and Proto-Sound 2.0 With The Digital Command System Featuring - Variable Locomotive Speed Control, Independent Light Control, Diagnostic Memory Features, Customizable, Downloadable Sounds, Simultaneous TMCC Operation, Squeaking Brakes, Passenger Station Proto-Effects.
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    Alaska Railroad enacts employee smoking ban - 1/10/01
    Kenai Peninsula Online
    FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Cigarette smokers who work on the Alaska Railroad might want to start chewing Nicorette.

    Former-Gov. Bill Sheffield, president and chief executive officer of the state-owned railroad, signed an order Tuesday banning smoking by employees while working in railroad-owned vehicles or buildings.

    [See story]

    Clinton signs bill authorizing U.S. - Canada rail commission - 1/04/01
    Kenai Peninsula Online
    ANCHORAGE (AP) -- President Clinton has signed legislation crating a bilateral commission to study the feasibility of building a rail link between Canada and Alaska.

    The legislation was sponsored by Sen. Frank Murkowski, R-Alaska.

    It creates a 24-member commission, with half the members from the U.S. and the rest from Canada. The commissioners are to study the economic and technological feasibility of such a rail link.

    Negotiations would have to be opened with Canada to encourage that nation to accept the measure and appoint its 12 members.

    It appears likely Clinton will leave the matter to President-elect George W. Bush to implement later this winter, Murkowski said.

    "It is wonderful that America has taken the step of creating and funding a commission to thoroughly study whether it makes economic and environmental sense to improve transportation through Northwest Canada to Alaska," Murkowski said in a prepared statement.

    "A railroad extension may be the best way to solve the region's long-standing transportation needs in a way that makes good environmental sense."
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    Railroad, state regulators rethink spill response - 1/03/01
    11 KTVA Anchorage
    The assessment is being done because of the costly Gold Creek cleanup, at nine-point-three million and rising. Less than 15 percent of the 120-thousand gallons spilled north of Talkeetna a year ago has been recovered. 

    [See story]

    Sheffield to consult? - 1/01/01
    Submitted by an anonymous source
    The rumor on the street is that once Bill Sheffield terminates his employment with the Alaska Railroad, he will work for them as a consultant in the area of securing federal funding for the railroad.
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    The information on this page was last updated June 25, 2001