Dunbar 1969 MP432.1 (Dunbar siding is 431.6)
Jan 4, 2012
Good morning. I've been doing some archaeological surveys along the Alaska Railroad and I'm trying to find historic photos of anything and everything east (railroad north) of Dunbar (MP 432 ish). We found several features around Dunbar including a house foundation. I noticed that the photo both on VILDA and on alaskarails.org of the Dunbar Station has to be mislabeled as the current topography around Dunbar does not resemble the photo at all. I'm also trying to find photos or more information on the Dome Spur and Bartlett Station. We've gotten conflicting information on these stations. Photos on VILDA say that Bartlett was at MP 389. The USGS shows Bartlett at approximately MP 459. Apparently the Dome Station was also referred to as Drouin. It's all very confusing and I was just curious if you had any other information about these areas or additional photographs that are not on your website. Any help would be much appreciated. Thank you. Aubrey Morrison
January 31, 2012
Hi John. I think I did solve one of my questions. The station at Dunbar was moved. I haven't figured out precisely when, but a rectangular survey shows it on Carl White's homestead (slightly east of where the section house was later built). I took a trip to the National Archives here in Anchorage and got to look through the original engineering plans. So cool! I also went to the museum and looked through their Alaska Railroad collection which was also REALLY COOL! We found the building plans for the "standard section house" at the archives and I think those date to the late 1940s. All of the section houses (at least from Dunbar to Dome) were built to the exact same specifications. The building depressions we found at Dunbar relate to the Carl White homestead and the old Dunbar Roadhouse (which I haven't been able to find pictures of). Apparently the roadhouse was two stories and burned down in 1927.
As for my questions about the station at Dome, it has been referred to as several different names, but I believe its "official" name is Dome. That general area was also known as Drouin because the Drouin Ranch was in the vicinity. I think some of the images on VILDA are mislabeled which led to some confusion about railroad mileposts and station names.
That whole area has an amazing history, both gruesome and wonderful. The Dunbar-Brooks Terminal Trail that headed north from Dunbar was the mail route for Nome! Supposedly that same trail is also part of the 1925 Serum Run to Nome. In the more gruesome history, Carl White who lived at Dunbar and ran a river boat on the Tolovana River eventually committed suicide in his cabin at Dunbar. After the roadhouse burned down he ran into financial troubles and eventually filed for bankruptcy.
The other bit of gruesome history from that area took place at Saulich. Milo Saulich and his wife lived in a cabin just south of the Saulich station. In 1942 he, his wife, and a 14 year old girl were murdered by a miner who had formerly been employed by Mr. Saulich. The FBI eventually tracked the murderer to a mine shaft in Ester. Smoke bombs thrown into the shaft by the authorities eventually suffocated him. Just prior to the murders, the railroad caused a large fire at Saulich and the Sauliches lost most of the buildings on their property except the one cabin that they were eventually murdered in. That must have been a rough area to try to make a living!
I saw a recent post asking about the Dunbar Section House. I was foreman there until 1985. The house was at the base of the hill north of Goldstream creek. Just where the curve straightened out. There was a short house track with the switch at the north end. Gas car shed with two 20kw generators was next to the spur. The house had a two bedroom foreman’s quarters upstairs. Section hand kitchen was across the hall. Three room section hand quarters downstairs. Fuel was in a buried 10k tank car between the shed and house. 500 gal gasoline tank by shed. The railroad burned it in the late eighty's. Dunbar was also famous for having the best water on the railroad. The well was in the basement. Sorry I don’t have any pictures.
Webmaster's reply: Any good stories?
No real stories just everyday work. Dunbar was the only section house without road access. Train or gas car only. We'd go to Fairbanks or Nenana shopping about once a month. The old Road House was located on the west side of Dunbar siding. Nothing left now but some cellar holes. Used to be a blacksmith shop area where you could still find bits of old harness in the moss. The telegraph line I think to Nome went west from the siding. What we called the Livengood trail came up from Nenana on the west side of the tracks and turned west to follow the base of the hills.
Webmaster's reply: What year did you start living in the section house? Were you there alone? Did you work somewhere before Dunbar? What was your service years with the ARR?
I hired on in 72. Worked on X Gang 4. About a year later went to Dunbar as a laborer. Worked a couple summers on X Gang 5 as Liner operator. Went to Garner section as track patrolman between Healy and Cantwell. Forget what year in the 1970's went back to Dunbar as Foreman. Couple years later moved to Nenana section where I had some property I was developing. There was a bump so I bumped the foreman at Dunbar and moved back. In 1985 I moved to Whittier section. Got my 20 years civil service in 1988. Took an early out and went sailing. Summers at Dunbar there was usually 3 laborers. Winters 1.