All in a Day's Work

Portraying the various types of work and special challenges that occur along the rails of the Alaska Railroad


Night Shift of the Tunnel Rehab Crew - In the late 1980's it became obvious that something drastic had to be done with the track inside the long Whittier Tunnel on the Door 2 end. The ballast section was nothing but mud from all of the water seeping in and track surface could not be maintained. Bid quotations were solicited from private contractors and when the costs came back in, they were exorbitant. The General Roadmaster at the time, Jim Carr, said "we can do it ourselves for a lot less money." That began one of the biggest internal track projects undertaken with internal forces on the Alaska Railroad. Two separate crews worked 12 hour shifts for 7 days straight and removed and replaced a mile of track from Door 2 back toward Whittier. To start the project, the existing staggered joints were "squared up." Then a large excavator was offloaded in the tunnel and used to pick up the panels, put them on two track lowboys hooked to a locomotive crane. The crane then took the panels out to a work pad built in Bear Valley where the panels were unloaded for disassembly and new panels built using new ties/plates and the existing rail.

After the panels were all removed, a front end loader and a conveyor with hopper were staged in the tunnel and a continuous line of large dump trucks were loaded to remove all material down to the bedrock of the tunnel. These truck drivers (Zipay Trucking) did a fantastic job backing up inside the tunnel........ with very little room on either side of their trucks.

After all of the ballast/dirt/mud/ material was removed, the process was reversed with bringing the new track panels back in and laying them to build new track. Although there is a small book of individual stories that could be told about this project, it is a true testament of the abilities and work ethic of the 60+ track guys and heavy equipment operators that accomplished a very difficult project in a remarkably short amount of time.