1998 News Archive

Locomotive and Pick-up Truck Collide - 12/30/98

By John Combs

An MP-1500 switcher locomotive struck a pick-up truck in Midtown Tuesday (12/29) morning. There were no injuries reported. The accident occurred at a spur crossing on Artic Boulevard. Even though the locomotive was traveling approximately five mph, the engineer was unable to stop the train in time. The driver of the truck also attempted to stop, but slid on the icy road. Scott Banks, ARR spokesperson, says "We had the standard crossbuck and crossing signs. The crossing was properly posted. However, we have new signals that are going to be installed there."

Railroad Isn't Trail System - Article from Anchorage Daily News

MOW Crews Checking for Pull-Aparts - 12/17/98

Based on an email message from Robert Krol

With the temperatures getting really cold the MOW (Maintenance of Way) guys are out checking for "pull- aparts". That's when the rail pulls apart at a joint or weld, due to the metal contracting so much. There's lots of chatter on the scanner on who will patrol which area.

ARRC Fairbanks Christmas Party - 12/15/98

Based on an anonymous email message

I went to the ARR Christmas party in Fairbanks this past weekend and had a blast! Some Christmas parties are pretty lame, not this! We had a great dinner, prime rib, chicken, halibut and all the trimmings. An open bar, dancing after dinner and door prizes galore! The big cheeses were all doing the macarena dance and that was a sight to see. Gov. Sheffield, president and CEO, John Binkly, Chairman of the Board, and George Erickson, VP of Transportation were giving it their best! What a sight!

ARRC Approves $5 million to Straighten Track - 12/8/98

Based on an email message from Casey Durand

The ARRC board approved spending $5 million on starting to straighten track across Elemendorf AFB and Ft. Rich. When done the project will have cost about $30 million and take 30 minutes off the Anchorage to Wasilla run.

ARRC to Consider Selling Locomotives - 11/19/98

Based on an email message from Casey Durand

This is what the ARRC board would like to do in regards to the locomotive fleet. After the arrival of 16 SD70MACs the railroad will keep 17 four axle locomotives. That is 3 GP40-2s with HEP (#3009,10,11), all 8 GP38s, 2 GP49s and all 4 of the MP15DCs. The remaining 26 locomotives will be sold except for the remainder of the GP49s that will be kept for a lease fleet.

ARRC to Use Positive Train Separation System - 11/16/98

Based on an anonymous email message

The PTS "Positive Train Separation" system is a high priority with the FRA. The ARRC will be the "guinea pig" to find the bugs, the "GE Harris" developed GPS guided traffic control system, because we are separated from all other railroads. There are many bugs to work out, the least of which is radio failure and how that plays into a computer based system, next is the failure of the computer, then failure of the on-board systems. And how should any one of these happen, continue to safely operate a railroad. The FRA will in effect and practice, have total control of the ARRC train operations. So it's gonna be interesting to say the least. But, a good light is that before any part of the system becomes operational all dispatchers and engineers have to be throughly trained so that we can work together, during a crash of the system without getting into a crash. The Alaska Railroad has never trained so many people as much as they will have to train us. With contract negotiations starting soon, they will be indispensible to the operation.

New Railroad Company in Alaska - 11/10/98

By John Combs

I have received some information on a new railroad company in Alaska, the Alaska Central Railroad Company, Inc. They were formed by a small group of Alaskan businessmen, as an Alaskan corporation Feb. 27, 1998. The company took the name of the 1904-1908 Alaska Central Railway, the first portion of today's ARRC. They wish to build and operate a new 65 mile railroad, from Wasilla to Tyonek and later maybe to Canada. Currently, they are begining to look for possible financial partners and investors. The company has already purchased its first piece of equipment, the former ARR LC-103 and idler 985E. The "tentative" reporting marks are AKC, like the "American Kennel Club". Thus, they will name their trains after dogs, sled dogs, etc.

Extra MAPCO Train Nixed - 10/27/98

Based on an email from Duane Frank

John, you may already be aware of this, but it looks like the extra MAPCO train, mentioned in several of your news items, is off. This due in part to the slowdown in the Asian economies.

Status of "The Alaska Railroad The Great Seward Trek" Publication - 10/27/98

Letter from Nicholas Deely, author of "The Alaska Railroad The Greadt Denali Trek"

Dear Sir:

Thank you for your kind letter of recent date. In the same breath I must apologize for my delayed response --- logistics associated with my retirement from the practice of medicine (Pediatrics) seemed to have inundated me!

Ironically, the material for my book --- "The Alaska Railroad The Great Seward Trek" has long been completed, but as you well know has not as yet been published. Financial pressures associated with the burdens of self-publication have, temporarily I hope, delayed its introduction to the public. In the meantime, I have used this material in my lectures at the University of Alaska (Elderhostel Program). It has been very well received by the participants. New pictures and script are being constantly added to the original material in anticipation of its ultimate publication.

My book -"Tanana Valley Railroad - The Gold Dust Line" was financially an easier project. To this effect I was given a grant and as a result it became an earlier reality. Should you have any trouble in obtaining this book for yourself, I shall be more than happy to provide you with same.

Lastly, it would be most delightful to meet with you during your planned trip to Alaska. With luck we'll be able to show you not only ARR's new locomotives, but our new Fairbanks station.

Best wishes to you and yours - have a safe and happy day!

Official Derailment Press Release - 10/27/98

From Scott Banks, ARR Spokesperson

Alaska Railroad Freight Train Derails

Thirteen empty flat cars on an Alaska Railroad freight train derailed at 3:40 a.m. today on the Whittier Branch in Bear Valley between the two tunnels. There were no injuries to the three crew members on board. The train, being pulled by two locomotives, consisted of 33 empty flat cars and 32 flat cars loaded with empty containers. It weighed 3,120 tons and was 3,794 feet long. The train was headed into Whittier to pick up freight from the Alaska Railroad rail barge that had arrived from Seattle. Crews are enroute to assess the scene and to begin rerailing the cars. No cause has been determined.

Derailment Update - 10/25/98

Based on an email from Robert Krol

I sent you [John Combs] a photograph of a Car Mover which was being used for the Whittier Road Project. Well, that car was destroyed in the Bear Valley derailment. I went to Whittier yesterday and got a look at all the destruction. The Car Mover cab was mangled and in one pile and the wheels and chassis were intact sitting next to the cab. The engine for the car mover was sitting on one of the derailed flat cars. The ARRC is in the process of building another siding there. There are still several flatcars on the ground. They will be there a couple of days cleaning things up. The Whittier main was reopened about noon yesterday with the Whittier Shuttle going through first. After the shuttle went through the rest of the freight that stayed on the rails went into Whittier to be loaded on the barge.

Further Derail Developments - 10/24/98

Based on an email from Casey Durand

This morning at 3:45 a.m. the Whittier bound freight train derailed. The accident occurred as the train was passing an ARRC approved switch and spur located in Bear Valley at M.P. F5.4. Halfway through the train, an empty ARR flat (one with the homemade bulkhead) picked the points of the switch. In turn the car proceeded to derail and plow down the spur. Kiewit Corporation, the company working on the Whittier road project, had parked their work train on the spur. The derailed car took others with it down the spur derailing the parked ARRC cars and Kiewit equipment. The front half of the train proceeded into portal number 3 and dragging a derailed car with it. When all had stopped there was about 1,000 feet of track damage. There was one derailed car in the tunnel, one plowed into the portal slightly cracking it, and 10-12 other cars on the spur. Kiewit lost the entire work train including their own Trackmobile Car Mover and received damage to a rental Backhoe and to their Speedswing crane. Kiewit's presence was positive in that they built an equipment ramp at the end of the spur which saved their offices and the tunnel portal from serious damage. A clean up effort started at about 4:30 a.m. and is still proceeding. Kiewit is loaning the ARRC the use of their equipement for clean-up. With barge traffic held-up, this accident will surely be a costly one.

ARRC Calls for Upgrades - 10/24/98

Based on an email from Robert Krol

The ARRC has put a bid out for mainframe upgrades, someone to refurbish dome cars and baggage cars, and new forklifts.

Southbound Whittier Train Derailment - 10/24/98

Based on emails from Randy Thompson and Robert Krol

Thirteen empty flatcars derailed on a southbound Whittier train near one of the tunnels on the Whittier subdivision last night or early this morning. The train was heading to Whittier to unload a barge. (RT)   An ARRC freight going to Whittier at approximately 4:00 a.m. derailed in Bear Valley. Bear Valley is 5 miles from Whittier. (RK)

Railroad Hits the Jackpot - 10/22/98

By John Combs

A year end spending bill will provide $28 million for an elevated train station at the Anchorage International Airport. Also included in the bill is an additional $13 million for track upgrades and safety systems. The true benefit of the new train station is that it will allow easy access from cruise ship to train to airplane flights. Also included is $2 million for a new depot in Fairbanks.

Man Arrested for Driving in Tunnel - 10/7/98

By John Combs

Between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. Friday, October 2 workers were breaking rock from the 2.6 mile Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel when they noticed headlights approaching. The workers left the tunnel, but left the high rail pickup truck on the tracks. A new pickup truck emerged from the tunnel and got stuck when it high-centered on the tracks. Law enforcement arrived on the scene and arrested the driver. He was charged with driving while intoxicated and second-degree criminal trespassing. Fortunately, no damage was done to the tracks or truck and no one was hurt.

Leasing ARR's Locomotives - 10/2/98

Based on an email message from Robert Krol

In yesterday's Anchorage Daily News the ARRC has an ad for the Marketing for the Sale or Lease of the ARRC's excess locomotives. It would be nice to see an ARRC lease fleet, we'll have to see what happens. With the delivery of the Macs not due until Sept. '99, it will probably be awhile until we see what happens.

SD70MAC Delivery Update - 9/25/98

Based on an anonymous email message

Alaska 70MACs will start delivery in September 1999 at the rate of two per month. The ARRC has taken the option on the eight additional SD70MACs they had under discussion with EMD. So all 16 will come at once at the rate of two per month starting one year from now.

GP-7s and More - 8/26/98

Based on email message from Jeff Childs

Talked to Josh Coran at ARR this PM and here's the skinny on the GP7's:

1801, 1803, 1808 & 1809 were sold to Alaska Metal Recycling, who in turn found a buyer in the lower 48 - one BDL Company. (Josh couldn't find out what BDL stood for, though he guessed the "L" stood for "locomotive". As far as he could tell, BDL Co. is a small time loco rebuilder who sells/leases rebuilt locos to small railroads. BDL then contracted ARRC to do repairs on the 4 units to make them road-worthy enough to be moved to the lower 48. The repair work which included brake repairs, air lines, blocking off of exhaust stacks and compressor intakes, etc, amounted to $11,000 and was just completed. The units (which I photographed today) are now BDLX 1801, 1803, 1808, 1809. They will be shipped south on the barge to their new owner sometime after ARRC receives payment for the repair work. The 4 units have had the large Alaska logos on the long hoods crossed through with a white stripe and BDLX stenciled in white above the logo. On the black and yellow 1801, the stripe all but obliterates the older Alaska Railroad logo. Also the faded DOT and ARR symbols on the noses also have white stripes painted through them (I got photos today and will try to get them developed for you shortly). Josh also said they have been stripped of the electronic bells and any other goodies that might be useful in keeping 1802 and 1806 going for the time being.

In related GP7 news, 1806 is up and running for ARR - sometimes. Josh reports it is not the most reliable loco. So that's two of the old GP7's still working. I saw 1802 in the MAPCO train that came in late yesterday morning - the road power switched the first cut of cars into the MAPCO unloading racks. Speaking of MAPCO, they want to increase the amount of fuel products being shipped by ARR. This will mean the addition of a 4-loco train to the 6-loco train already running on a daily basis - a 75% increase in POL shipments. I should have asked Josh if this meant that MAPCO was going to be leasing more tank cars, but I forgot. Anyway, the addition of this extra MAPCO train means that the lease units from Helm Leasing will probably stay for the winter to help power this extra train. Last he heard, ARR was trying to get an extension on the existing lease to cover this. This extra need for motive power in the winter also means that as of now, no ARR locos will be leased to the lower 48 like last winter when 3019 and 3020 went south to help out BNSF. Apparently, that experience was not very amusing to the ARR Board and is a story by itself. Apparently, BNSF claimed the locos made funny sounds when they arrived, and they wanted to do a bunch of big-bucks repairs that ARR would have had to pay for, etc, etc.

You might also recall the mess about the rebuilding of the three HEP GP40-2's? Apparently, the bid was put out on the street BEFORE the ARRC Board approved it. When the bidding time closed last week, the Board instructed ARR to contact the bidders and tell them the whole thing was off.

So, the 40-2's will not be rebuilt until after the arrival of the 70MAC's, as Scott Banks (I think) said the Board decided to get as much working time out of the HEP units as possible - in short, work them till they drop. This will of course add more time and money to the eventual costs of the rebuilds, but....

The gravel cars that derailed have been moved from the site and are in the shops. Apparently, the photos that Casey had taken before the cars were moved to allow for track repairs showed them in fairly good shape according to Josh who saw Casey's photos just before I talked to him today. Josh says they took a real beating from the bulldozers shoving them out of the way so the rails could be replaced to get the line open as quickly as possible. The cars are scheduled to be repaired next year - they can't get them done any sooner due to a shortage of car men to do the rebuilding due to retirements and folks moving south. ARR is working with the union to hire not-fully-qualified replacements and run them through a short training program rather than a 3-year apprenticeship. This move will help get more members into the union paying dues and help the railroad get to a backlog of repair projects. However, its unknown whether the union will go for this plan or not.

Engines to be Scrapped - 8/24/98

Based on email messages from Robert Krol, Casey Durand and Curt Fortenberry

Engines 1801,1803,1808,and 1809 that were to be scrapped are now by the Diesel Shop. The AKRR Reporting marks have been crossed out! They are now stenciled with BDLX Reporting marks. (RK)

The locos were sold to an Anchorage scrap dealer who then sold them to a leasing company.(CD)

I had been told that another company wanted them for rebuilding, parts, etc. I'll have to look up to see who BDLX is. Also, while I was in Anchorage, I noticed that the old frame of FP7A 1514 was being moved around with that set of GP7's. (CF)

Derailment Continues to Block Mainline - 8/1/98

Based on an email message by Robert Krol

The Houston derailment is still blocking the main line. The ARRC is having problems picking up the loaded coal cars. Most of the cars have been moved, earlier this morning, 8-1-98, their orders were if you don't make progress on moving the cars today, push them over the bank. Then rebuild the main to get it open, then pick up the mess. Several trains are parked on sidings and in the Anchorage yard. The ARRC has scheduled trains leaving Anchorage starting at 4 a.m. on the 2nd.

Webmaster's note: This derailment came within 18 hours of the first one. Also, during this time period, a man was killed in a separate incident. "The fatality was in Seward. A man passed out next to the track. The crew sounded the horn repeatedly with no response. They went into emergency. As the locomotive approached he finally woke up, sat up and was hit. He died from massive head injuries. Toxicology report comes back in the next couple of days." -- Scott Banks, ARR Public Relations

Gravel Train Derailment Article from Anchorage Daily News

Second Gravel Train Derailment Article from Anchorage Daily News

Second Train Derailment - 7/30/98

Based on an email message by Robert Krol

There has been a second derailment at Houston. This derailment happened late Thursday evening. A southbound train parked his train at Sunshine siding and went light engine to Houston to move the cars remaining on the track. The light engines were being protected by a high-railer patrolling in front of them. Crews have finished clearing the mainline at Elmendorf and track is being laid down. While the crane crews were heading back to Anchorage they were called to head north to Houston.

Update - The southbound train is now going to park in Montana and head south to move cars. The ARRC is expecting to have the tracks open at both sites at approx. 4 a.m. Friday. The dispatcher just put out a line-up calling a train out after 4 a.m. for Fairbanks.

Gravel Train Derails - 7/30/98

Based on an email message by Casey Durand

I was just on the scene of the derailment for one and a half hours and here is the scoop! A loaded south-bound gravel train went off at MP 120 at 12:03 a.m. There are 16 cars down. Six are on their sides with little damage, mostly to the trucks. Ten cars are piled up together and are extremely damaged. All the trucks are in pieces and the ends and couplers of these cars are all mangled and torn. North of the wreck there is evidence that one car (maybe more) were on the ground for 6/10 of a mile. As of now there is no obvious reason for the derailment. The track is severely damaged for about 1,000 feet. Cleanup and repair may be a three to four day project.

Additional note from Duane Frank, ARR Assistant Terminal Superintendent - "One interesting thing: we used up a lot of buses hauling passengers since our Passenger trains were idled. So we ended up running 2 special passenger trains to Seward for Westours in exchange for us using all the buses that they would've normally used."

Alaska Railroad's 75th Anniversary- 7/15/98

Based on an email message by Casey Durand

The special train arrived from Fairbanks about 11:15 am. The train was made of GP38-2 #2005, 1503, a repainted SP baggage car, four ex-UP coaches, and the business car A-3 (formally referred to as the "Denali"). All present then went to the main street for a free salmon bake. After the salmon bake all traveled to the ceremonial tent just north of the depot. The program proceeded with the presentation of colors and National Anthem. The honored guests were then introduced and the speeches begun. A new monument was then unveiled and the time capsule was filled. Then four gold spikes were driven. One each by Gov. Tony Knowles, Steve Love (General Roadmaster for the Healy section), Walter Teeland (present at the first driving), and Bill Sheffield (President & CEO). Each spike was driven by a chrome maul and then removed. The closing speeches were given and all boarded the train and returned to Fairbanks. Steve Love donated his chrome maul and gold spike to the Museum of Alaska Transportation and Industry where a special 75th anniversary exhibit will be prepared.

Earthquake Rattles Railroad - 7/9/98

Quoted from an email by Robert Krol

"Most trains came to a stop and others were at restricted speed after a 6.4 magnitude quake shook most of Alaska at approx. 11:40 this morning. Trains from Whittier up to Hurricane (MP281) were affected. Track cars patrolled ahead of trains and bridges had to be inspected. No reports of damage or injuries."

Tie Replacement Article from the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Countdown to Alaska Railroad 75th Anniversary - 7/98

Based on an email from Jim Blasingame, Vice President Alaska Railroad Corporate Affairs

"We will commemorate the event (75th Anniversary) by driving the spike in Nenana celebrating when President Warren Harding was here in Alaska in 1923 to drive the "gold" spike for the Railroad's completion...... for logistical and safety reasons, the spike driving will be done at the depot at Nenana as opposed to the actual site on the north side of the bridge where President Harding actually drove the spike.

John, you may interested to know that a gentleman by the name of Carl Anthony has written a book on Florence Harding, wife of President Harding called "Florence Harding, The Jazz Age and the Death of America's Most Scandalous President". The book has been published by the William Morrow agency and was just released in June. There's a couple of chapters in the book regarding the President's trip to Alaska and the events that took place.

I mention this because the author, Carl Anthony will be here in Alaska during July because he is re-tracing President Harding's steps during his Alaska trip....... Mr. Anthony will be lecturing at the Anchorage Museum of History on July 16 and will be traveling around the state performing lectures in other communities which the President visited, then on to San Francisco, speaking at the same hotel where the President stayed on the day of President Harding's death in 1923."

Sun Kink in Rail Delays NB Passenger Train - 6/29/98

Quoted from an email by ARRC employee Randy Thompson

"On Monday, June 29th we had a sun kink in the rails just south of Denali Park, between Oliver and Carlo. It delayed the northbound passenger train 90 minutes. The people were great about it and my boss shared her birthday cakes with the tired, hot and anxious passengers waiting for the train to Fairbanks."

Webmaster's note: Those ARR employees are the greatest! -- JC

Memo from Gov. Bill Sheffield - 6/12/98

To: All Employees of the Alaska Railroad

From: Gov. Bill Sheffield

Subject: New Locomotive Purchase Schedule

As you may recall, the Alaska Railroad contracted with Electro-Motive Division (EMD) to purchase eight SD70MAC locomotives for delivery in late 1999. A second order of eight locomotives was planned with delivery in the year 2001.

Due to efficiencies and capabilities of this new locomotive type, we recently contacted EMD to see if they had the available production capacity to allow us to receive the second order of eight locomotives sooner. Yesterday, June 11th, the ARRC Board of Directors approved an expedited plan for the second group of eight locomotives. They will now be received in the first quarter of the year 2000.

We are convinced that this is a good operating decision for the ARRC as it will ensure we have the locomotive power to meet our growing business needs. The ARRC remains committed to placing these new locomotives into service with minimum negative impact on our work force. To that end, we will continue to support the efforts of the ARRC Locomotive Task Force to ensure a smooth transition.

I will continue to keep you updated on this exciting project as new information becomes available.

Helm Lease Units on Site - 6/98

Quoted from an article by Jeff Childs in M.S.M.R.R.E.'s Northstar Newsletter

"We also saw some of the Helm Lease units, including one that had come from Canada. The crew's had been working on it for four solid days trying to make it legal to run! Canada must have much laxer pollution laws than here, as this loco had a hose that ran from a drain on the engine compartment floor straight to the ballast via a foot long drop. Any oil, water or other fluids simply poured out onto the roadbed instead of into a holding tank! This unit also had a broken air line, and other bent piping that required work. All the units are ex-GP40's rebuilt to 'dash 3' specs and numbered in the 4400 series. In fact, last year's visitors - 4400 and 4401 - are back for an encore engagement. Though these units were supposed to be set-up with the lead-unit capability, such is not the case. The units are being used on everything, but the passenger trains from what I've seen so far, so you should be able to get photos fairly easily."

Southbound Loses Engine - 5/21/98

Based on an email message from Casey Durand

"At 10:15pm the southbound 3006 called the dispatcher to say they were south of Eklutna and going 4mph. They had lost the second engine (3004) due to a self-shut down caused by low coolant level. With only one locomotive operating they were able to get the loaded gravel train up hill to Beach Lake crossing ( my favorite spot ) at MP 133.3. At this time the conductor was on 3004 attempting to restart it. They then came to a complete stop and called for helper service. At this time the yard crew was switching the URLB with 2007. They finished with the nights northbound then proceeded north. They met the 3006 at 11:32 and proceeded southbound."

Vandals Suspected in Derailment - 4/27/98

Based on an email message from Art Chase

"The Alaska Railroad is blaming vandals for the Monday night derailment that sent three locomotives and three hoppers filled with gravel to the ground. The damage is placed at about $50,000. It happened near Eklutna north of Anchorage, when the train diverted to a spur. The switch control stand had been thrown and directed the train off the main. Investigators at the scene said evidence suggest that someone had intentionally thrown the switch. Five crew members where aboard the 80-car train, but no one was hurt in the 2130 incident. The crews had rerailed the locomotives and where clearing the main by Tuesday. The hoppers where set aside to get the engines back in service quickly. The railroad and the FBI are investigating the accident."

Railroad Supplements Motive Power - 3/22/98

Based on an email message from Jeff Childs

"Nos. 3019 and 3020 have been on lease to BNSF. Nine Helm Leasing GP40-3's will arrive in late April to supplement the summer motive power requirements, and No. 3019 and 3020 will be returned. Three of the "dead" GP7u's are scheduled to head south for the last time as space on the barges permit. The bidding process is on-going until the 15th of April, when bids will be publicly opened. The three Geeps up for disposal are 1803, 1808 and 1809. They are in bad shape frame-wise and it is doubted that they will go anywhere and instead would be cut up here. This especially since 1803 can not be moved except within the yard in its current condition. The other two are runnable, but would require brake inspections and appropriate repairs to allow them to be moved. The fifteen 60 foot boxcars (10801-10815) have been removed from the sale and will remain with the ARR for the near future."

Update: 3/30/98 Per Scott Banks: "ARRC will lease nine, 3,000 horsepower GP40-3 locomotives for the summer. Increase gravel business and work trains make it necessary to bring in the extra power. We have leased locomotives for the past three years. Two of the locomotives will come from the Canadian National in Calgary, and seven will come from UP out of Kansas. The first three are expected on the Alaska Rail Marine barge April 23 and three will arrive on the barge each week for the next two weeks. Two leased ARRC locomotives, 3019 and 3020, are due back to Alaska at the end of May."

Car Strikes Locomotive - 3/8/98

Submitted by Casey Durand from a scanner broadcast

"At 10:08 a.m. Alaska Standard Time there was a grade crossing accident. A truck with two passengers (ages 37 and 38) and a dog ran into the Northbound No. 3013, at Meadow Lakes Crossing just north of Wasilla. The truck hit the locomotive on the engineer's side just behind the step well, square on the front axle. The damage to the locomotive was limited to the loss of the speed recorder and a dent in the fuel tank. The victims were taken to Valley Hospital. Both suffered compression fractures in their backs. The dog was also injured and take to the vet for treatment. The Alaska state troopers took pictures, and the train crew performed a break test and the train was back under way at 10:35 a.m. Skids marks showed the driver was going too fast for the road conditions."

ARRC Purchased Two Baggage Cars - 2/98

Quoted from an article by Jeff Childs in M.S.M.R.R.E.'s Northstar Newsletter

"For those of you who've been around the ARR yard the last couple of months, yes that WAS a SP Daylight baggage car you saw sitting by the car shops. The Alaska RR picked up two of these cars and they were numbered 110 and 111. They are both PCF Economy Baggage cars and originally served the SP in its two-tone gray scheme. At some point they were pulled out of service to be used for the SP Executive train and repainted into the Daylight scheme and renumbered 295 and 297 (the numbers aren't certain, so anyone who can shed extra light on this, please contact me). ARR 110 was the power car for the Executive train, so it has what looks like a big hatch in the middle of the car. Stripped of its power equipment, it may now have a small HEP unit added to the baggage space for use on the Seward train. ARR 111 was used as a food storage car on the Executive train and is currently in Tacoma being repainted into ARR colors to serve as an extra baggage car. Thanks to Josh Coran at ARR for sharing the above info."

ARRC to Purchase EMD F59PHIs - 2/27/98 Update: 3/15/98

Unofficial word has it that the ARRC is purchasing two EMD F59PHIs for passenger service at an extremely good price. They were the "Marlboro Train" locomotives, that train project has now been scrapped in the wake of the cigarette law suit and project delays and cost overruns.

Update: It is now the general consensus that the ARRC isn't likely to get these 5-6 year old, but never operated, no longer on warranty F59PHI locomotives. Originally an ARRC board member knew someone related to that Marlboro train group and that was the connection. Nobody in operations wants them.

GE Harris to Develop Computer Aided Dispatching System - 2/19/98

Melbourne, FL, February 19, 1998 - GE Harris Railway Electronics announced today that Alaska Railroad Corporation has contracted with GE Harris to supply a new Computer Aided Dispatching (CAD) system to be installed at the railroad headquarters in Anchorage. The new CAD, based on the GE Harris Train Navigator Dispatch system, will be completed in 1998 and allows Alaska Railroad to upgrade its existing manual train control system through a phased approach that is projected to produce an integrated traffic planning, train control and collision avoidance system.

The Train Navigator Dispatch system will fulfill the requirements of the first phase and will include the generation of track occupancy authorities for all trains and track forces, an automatic conflict checking algorithm, graphic display of Alaska Railroad trackage with track occupancy, and automated voice communications system control. Train movements will be controlled by one dispatching station, but the system will be implemented to support two or more CAD stations dispatching separate districts. The system is expandable to include future capabilities for supporting collision avoidance and advanced traffic planning.

"The Train Navigator Dispatch system is designed to allow Alaska Railroad to improve safety, make more effective use of its track capacity, and improve the overall schedule reliability for its customers," according to Greg Lucier, President of GE Harris Railway Electronics.

Webmaster's Note: I just found this and even though it is old news I figured there would still be people interested in reading this. -- JC

Stars Ride Alaska Railroad - 2/98

As part of the Celebrity Sports Invitational, a biannual event that has stars competing in various athletic competitions for charity, 30 celebrities and their families rode the Alaska Railroad to Grandview. Among the special guest were Dr. Ruth Westheimer, Robin Leach, William Shatner, Pierce Bronson, Jay Thomas, Linda Blair, Jim Belushi, Shari Belafonte, Mimi Rogers and John Ratzenberger. The thirteen cars used to transport the celebrities received a through going over to give them an extra touch of class. Once at their destination, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling were enjoyed by all.

Avalanche Derails Coal Cars - 2/2/98

Based on an email message from Jeff Childs

A coal train tried to double the hill from Spencer to Divide and got bogged down in 6 feet of snow at Tunnel. They were forced to cut the first section of 33 cars in half, leaving 16 cars at Tunnel, and proceeding on with the first 17 behind the locos (the other 33 cars of the 66 car train were left in Spencer just south of Portage). After getting the first 17 to the summit and tied down, the crew prepared to head back for the other 16. The ARR avalanche expert was in the area because the State's highway crews had decided to start blasting down avalanche material before the someone got buried on the highway. After observing conditions, he closed the line and had the DS hold the crew and locos. Good thing he did! When they sent a relief loco down from Anchorage to pull the 16 cars back to Spencer so they could use the recoiless 105mm rifle to blow down the snow, they found mother nature had beaten them to it. The first 3 cars on the south end of the cut were bowled over into the stream gully and 315 tons of coal went on the ground (105 per car). The next six cars had snow piled against them but stayed on the track. The relief loco was able to pull the remaining 13 cars of the cut free and get back to Spencer without incident. However the snow had torn up about 200' of track. Took them two days to blow down the dangerous snow so the track gangs could get in and clean things up and replace the damaged track. Supposedly the line was re-opened Wednesday night.


The information on this page was last updated December 30, 1998