Alaska Railroad steam locomotive #557.  Photo taken in 1959 at the Anchorage yard.


The following photos and commentary were contributed by Pat Durand.


Alaska Railroad #557 was the last Steam Locomotive in regular service on the railroad.  She was kept around to help during high water conditions at Nenana, Alaska where the Tanana and Nenana Rivers regularly flooded the entire town site and the rail yard.  Diesel traction motors don't like water and the steamer could easily ford two feet of water over the rails. In June of 1959 #557 was cleaned up and painted for some railfan excursions between Whittier and Anchorage.  

She was parked next to the overhaul shop in Anchorage where this photo was taken by me as a 15 year old with a shaky Polaroid.  The photo has been bouncing around in various boxes for years and was not very impressive until on a lark I put it on the scanner and you can see the results.  Even with scratches and dings there is more detail here than in any other photo I have of the engine. The locomotive resides today in Moses Lake, Washington in a junk yard museum.

#557 in Anchorage Roundhouse

Few pictures exist of the Anchorage Roundhouse.  Here is a polaroid of ARR. #557 parked inside the roundhouse a few months before the structure burned.   For historical reference I thought you might wish to have this in the archive.

557 drawing

An August 2001 conversation between John Combs and the ARR's Chief Mechanical Engineer

JC: Was the 557's bell always mounted so high? And what happened to its cast number plate (center of the smoke box front)?

CME: I don't know anything about the bell location. The cast number plate was removed and stored. One day they caught tresspassers trying to remove the plates and thus had to take action.

JC: I know the Alaska Railroad has made rumblings about trying to get [#557] back. Monte himself told me he would NEVER sell. However, he is currently 91 years old and has willed his assests to his children. They would have the option of keeping all his items or selling when that day comes.

CME: We understand the owner would prefer the that the loco sit at Moses Lake in perpetuity. I respect his wishes and understand his concern that if it came back to us we'd "play" with it for a few years and then get tired of it and it would be left to rot. I love steam engines, but I have to agree. To do this right we'd need a fully endowed foundation to own and maintain this loco and associated equipment (some heavyweight coaches).