Picture of the Week
Archives Section


Welcome to the Alaska Railroad Picture of the Week archives. A photograph is truly worth a thousand words. The Picture of the Week page began on February 16, 1998 with Jeff Child's photo of the Alaska Railroad's first locomotive, number 1. Since that time, professional photographers, railfans, Alaska Railroad employees, historians and passengers have sent a multitude of prints, slides, scanned images and digital photographs. Unfortunately, I can only post a fraction of what I receive due to lack of time. Sit back, relax and enjoy!
 
 

Picture of the Week Archives: 1998 | 1999 | 2000 | 2001 | 2002 | 2003 | 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010


2011 Pictures of the Week
Date
Photographer
Photograph
01/03 Todd Shechter Wanted to share some pictures with you. My wife and I took the winter train 26 December from Fairbanks to Anchorage and had an amazing trip. I'm sure you know who Conductor Steve is; he was the best. The trip was flag-stop and had great scenery. [Webmaster's note: Todd's photo was taken in Nenana Canyon. He had so many great photos from his trip that I might just use a couple more in weeks to come.]
01/03 Sherman Stebbins Sherman Stebbins recently purchased this photo from eBay. Anyone care to commentate?
01/03 Paul Van Rossum These certainly are not PotW material, but thought you may want for them historical reference. I was able to get this shot from the road in East St Louis, Illinois on December 15th, 2010. These and the other locomotives are in a yard near a company that does locomotive refurbishment. [Webmaster's note: Three GP49s (2803, 2806 and 2807) are in St. Louis for refurbishment. The letters USRP are spray painted on the cab below the numbers on all three locomotives. For more information regarding USRP visit http://www.usrp-ltd.com/. And just who says this photo is not PotW material!]
01/10 Chris Nuthall

Chris Nuthall's photograph is truly remarkable! Has anyone ever seen more than five dome cars on the Alaska Railroad?

"Following the Seward Highway along the Turnagain Arm, GP9 1802 and domes heads towards Portage, from Anchorage, to pick up a string of flat cars to form the Whittier Shuttle in August 1985. The photographer had the wonderful experience of riding 1802 from Portage to Whittier and back on this day. History is repeating itself today as the shuttle is back in action after the road to Whittier, built some time after this photograph, was recently blocked by a rock fall." August 15, 1985

01/17 Jaz Here'a a pair from the mysterious "Jaz" taken January 10th along Ship Avenue. Maybe we could title the pair of photographs, "Of Cranes and Cabooses." I love these shots particularly with the white dusting blanketing the trees.
01/24 Michael Patrick

Michael Patrick says of his photos, "I will likely never get to Alaska to see the Alaska Railroad, however a piece of the Alaska Railroad has just arrived several miles from me." Alaska Railroad Alco RSD-1 # 1034 was moved from its home in Strasburg, Pennsylvania to the Army Transportation Museum at Fort Eustis, Virginia. These photos (1, 2) were taken on January 20 on the Ft Eustis interchange track in Newport News VA.

The RSD-1 was built in 1941 (Alco # 69427) as Atlanta & St.Andrews Bay #902, became US Army Transportation Corps # 8011 during WW2; became Alaska Railroad # 1034 in 1951, was returned to the Army as #8011 in 1956. Later it became FRA #8011, then DOT/FRA # 013. It's owned by the Smithsonian Institution and has been on loan to the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in Strasburg since the early 1980's. It was repainted into it's Alaska Railroad colors, but never lettered.

01/31 Frank Keller MP 74.5 Glacier Creek:
Alaska 4005 crosses Glacier Creek while in the background is the snow covered Chugach Mountains. These same mountains host some of Alaska's finest skiing at Mt. Alyeska Ski Resort. The resort has a tram that will take you to the peak of Mt. Alyeska and where it is possible to still see the railroad in the valley below.
02/07 Dave Blazejewski Alaskan Coal (1, 2): The mid train DPU helpers can be seen 37 cars back cut into the train in this view from the second of 3-MACs (ARR 4004, 4012, 4328) on the head end of this 10,765 ton loaded coal train. The three mid-train units (4322, 4327, 4014) are about to pass in front of the face of Bartlett Glacier, one of three massive rivers of ice that are signatures of the trip south to Seward. The 74 car train is winding around a 14 degree curve while battling a 3% grade on the single most spectacular section of line on the Alaska Railroad (which is saying a lot for a road consisting of innumerable superlatives). If a train is going to stall on the railroad this is where it will happen, but not today. The rail was clean and dry and the heavy train is marching up the grade in notch 8 at a respectable 9 MPH only three miles from the 1062 crest at Grandview. When it reaches the top it will have climbed from nearly sea level in a mere dozen miles! For decades the ARR doubled this hill, but is now capitalizing on DPU technology and the high-adhesion radial trucks on its modern fleet to single the hill. New this year is an increase in train size to 75 cars with the DPUs cut in behind the 38th head car. Prior to October of this year the trains were kept to 70 cars with the DPU power positioned on the rear. (ARR Mainline - near MP 48 South of Portage, November 17, 2010) Note: the photographer is a railroad employee with permission to ride and was wearing all required PPE while taking this photograph.
02/14 Keith Ardinger GP-7 #1808 leads a passenger train through the ghost forest at Portage. The ghost forest was created when the Great Alaska Earthquake of 1964 caused the land's elevation to fall dramatically. Within two weeks of the earthquake, tidewater had reached the forested lands. Nearby homes and businesses in the area found themselves with tidewater surging across their ground floors at high tide. The influx of tidewater forced most owners to move their homes and business to the new site. September 12, 1977.
02/21 Sherman Stebbins

This interesting photo was submitted by Sherman Stebbns. The photo was taken between 1940-1945. Does anyone have more information on it? Or perhaps a humorous caption? Check back later in the week for possible additional information.

From Sherman Stebbins -"The picture came from a group of photos that I bought that belonged to a section gang that was operating out of Willow during the time frame you have listed. These guys went hunting...ALOT !!! As you can see by the picture that is probably what this guy was doing. In the foreground on the machine you can see snowshoes, an extra jacket and his gun strapped down to the top. I am curious if this was a factory built motorbike hi-rail or if this was something these guys dreamed up and built in their spare time to run the rails for hunting and fishing. Too bad we can't see what kind of engine and drive train it had."

From Pat Durand - "You can tell Stebbins that he is looking at the motor. The three wheeled Velocipede was powered by the handle bars and pedals on the crank rod connected to the crank pin on the rear wheel. Sort of a rowing machine adapted to power the hand car. With the extra seat behind the rider there is probably another set of foot pegs on the crank rod. In some cases there was a seat on each end so two people could ride and pedal and work the hand bar. With two sets of handles you could call this a two speed velocipede with High and Low gear. We have a double ender of very similar design at the Museum of Alaska Transportation and Industry. They were normally painted yellow or red for visibility.

Captions:
1. Hey, Buddy, got a light??
2. This beats snowshoeing!
3. Three wheels on my wagon, and I'm still rolling along

02/28 Chris Nuthall Both still in Bicentennial livery, although relegated to more mundane duties, 1510 and 1512 pass through Eklutna on a northbound works train in a rare patch of sunshine on an otherwise overcast August day in 1985. Apparently Alaska Railroad was one of the last railroads in the US still using vacuum-operated side dump wagons at the time. Eklutna, August 14, 1985
03/07 Walter Strong Drew Dekreon says of this photo, "You may have already heard this, but Walter Strong's daughter dropped of a large box of historical photos at ARR a couple weeks ago. We've been scanning them and putting them up internally for the employees. This photo is 556 when it was still working. I thought it was especially interesting in that you can see it is still burning coal, meaning it was sometime prior to 1955 when #557 was converted to oil, and it is in the Anchorage yard (the depot is just visible behind it, I think)."
03/14 Dave Blazejewski

Well, I thought about quitting photography of the Alaska Railroad today. After seeing Dave Blazejewski's latest eye popping photos I figure, "Hey, what's the use?" Visitors to Alaska have about a 20% chance of seeing "the mountain" and here's Dave getting a photo of a freight train with it in the background. As if that isn't enough, he has to rub it in with this stunning fireworks photo. I guess I should just be grateful that he lets me post them here without charge. ;-)

20320! - That's the height of North America's highest peak - Mt. McKinley - which dominates the horizon and on a clear day can be seen from hundreds of miles away and is in sight for a good portion of the journey along ARR's mainline from Anchorage to Fairbanks. Here we see the nightly freight from Fairbanks to Anchorage charging south at 40 MPH with a moderate sized train of 4344 ft and 6731 trailing tons heavy with jet fuel from Flint Hills Resources in North Pole destined for the Anchorage International Airport. Willow, March 06, 2011

Every year the city of Anchorage hosts a two week long celebration called Fur Rendezvous...or Rondy as it's known. This is a winter carnival and the city's biggest celebration of the year. The first weekend always features fireworks down near the mouth of Ship Creek that draw a large crowd. The location of the launch necessitates shutting down rail operations at the south end of the ARR's main classification yard and moving all haz-mat cars out of the "fall out" area. Since nothing was moving at the south end it was a perfect time for an impromptu photo shoot with a string of SD70MACs just in from a freight run. This was my first attempt ever shooting fireworks, what do you think? Anchorage, February 26, 2011. Note: the photographer is a railroad employee with permission to be on the property and was wearing all required PPE while taking this photograph.

03/21 Ted Smith-Peterson

Okay, go ahead and rub it in. Last week I said I was thinking about quitting photography of the Alaska Railroad after seeing Dave Blazejewski's photos. Then along comes Ted Smith-Peterson's fabulous shots. Just rubbing salt into an open wound, I guess.

On the plus side, I am sitting at home, warm, dry and well rested!

Hurricane Gulch: The train gods blessed me on this day. I was duly informed southbound freight trains were near impossible to photograph on the massive Hurricane Gulch span owing to nocturnal scheduling of freight movements. It happened to be my luck the southbound Fairbanks/Anchorage train was delayed by 14 hours thanks to a dispatcher who didn't show up for their midnight shift, effectively shutting down the railroad and allowing me the opportunity to catch this night owl in broad daylight. Some lighthearted snowshoeing was required for this photo as there is no public road access regardless of season.

03/28 John Combs collection In the mid-1960s the Alaska Railroad began using flat cars for vehicle shuttle service between Portage and Whittier. The "Whittier Shuttle" (1, 2) provided passage through Maynard Mountain via the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel. At Portage you would drive your vehicle onto a flat car and then take the short rail trip into Whittier. From there you could drive onto a ferry and cruise across Prince William Sound to Valdez where you would return to the highway system. This unique travel opportunity came to an end when the existing tunnel was converted into a combined highway and railway tunnel. and was opened to traffic on June 7, 2000.
04/04 Frank Keller Alaska 4005 rolls through the tiny berg of Indian, AK across the bay is a three unit DPU consists and in the far distance is the Kenai Peninsula. Even though it is only about 1 PM the sun is low and already in the western sky.
04/11 Sherman Stebbins Two military transport ships are along side the original Alaska Railroad Dock in Whittier in this view from the Sherman Stebbins Collection. Missing is the large stiff leg crane that was later installed at the far Eastern end of the dock. This dock was destroyed by fire June 17, 1952 and was replaced by a war surplus DeLong floating dock that is still in service at Whittier today.

June 8th, 1943 is the likely date of the photo when it is compared to pages 660 and 661 of THE ALASKA RAILROAD by Birnadine Prince. The troop ship was the first landing at Whittier with troops to board trains. The locomotive with the slope back tender is Panama Mogul Number 266.

The troop ships are in war trim with gun tubs at the top corners of the bridge deck and extra life rafts mounted on the mast rigging. Notice the dark neutral color of the buildings on the dock, no bright sheet metal. The Army uniform of the day was quite casual.

Flat car loadings are all finished lumber. The old box car is of note, as the door in the end allowed loading of long timbers and lumber as well.

Whittierites all rejoice in the rare clear sunny days like June 8th, 1943.

04/18 Dave Blazejewski Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue....and Gold! - This is indeed something new for the Alaska Railroad. A borrowed three section drawbar connected double stack well car (DTTX 620612) is tested for the first time between Anchorage and Fairbanks (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). Here a vintage blue and gold GP38-2 (EMD built 1968 as a straight GP38 for Penn Central) switches with the car as it builds the rear end of the nightly train 130 to Fairbanks. Over the last couple of years line changes and infrastructure improvements (pen ultimately, the daylighting of Moody Tunnel) have sufficiently improved clearances to permit two domestic high-cube containers (9'6" high) to clear between Alaska's two largest cities without restrictions. Unfortunately, clearances are still too tight to Whittier (specifically the Bear Valley Tunnel) to permit this car to operate from origin. Hence the bottom tier of 53 ft containers was loaded in Whittier and then the top tier was added at the AWE (Alaska West Express - Lynden) yard in Anchorage. By all accounts the test was a success, now the hard work of analyzing the economics begins. Will regular stack train service ever become a reality in Alaska? Only time will tell....Note: the photographer is a railroad employee with permission to be on the property and was wearing all required PPE while taking this photograph. March 27, 2011
04/25 Pat Durand Spring has arrived on the southern end of the Alaska Railroad as of April 12, 2011. MoW equipment was staged all along the railroad from Bird Point siding to Moose Pass. Looks like major tie replacement and bridge maintenance is in order. This excavator with thumb can be used for many projects including picking up and placing ties along the line. The track mobile, flat and gon were parked along the Seward Highway on the Bird Point siding. There was an extreme low tide and the mud flats were littered with the dwindling ice flow chunks left high and dry in the background.
05/02 Terry Douglas Many thanks to Terry Douglas who responded to my plea for more photos for my Picture of the Week page. "I was distressed to read that you had run out of pictures suitable for POTW! I don't have anything very historic, but I'm attaching some of the ride on the Hurricane Turn my wife and I took in 2008. It was (sadly) the last year for the RDC's on this route, and I'm glad we caught it. Maybe our trip foreshadowed the logic behind the retirement of the RDC's. When we left Talkeetna we had 4 operating engines (2 per RDC). By the time we got back, there were only two working." #702 on Hurricane Gulch Bridge, Numbers 712 and 702 at Talkeetna, Conductor on the roof of #702, RDC missing generator drive shaft
05/09 Matt Leistico and Robert Krol Here are a couple of photos (1, 2, 3) from the May 7, 2011 open house in Anchorage. I just love the one of Mr. Moose!
05/16 Andrew Packee Last May while the Coastal Classic was pulling into Seward, I was able to take this picture of ARR #32 sitting in the Seward yard. I have always thought that the F40PH locomotives themselves were beautiful, but with ARR #31 and #32 painted in the new ALASKA Railroad paint scheme, I think that they are the most beautiful F40PHs. 5/24/10
05/16 Jaz SD70MAC and GP40 #3015 parked at the Anchorage Depot with some tour company rail cars awaiting summer tourists. April 2011
05/23 Andrew Packee Thank goodness the Alaska Railroad has brought back its yearly open house! Also, I am thankful for Andrew Packee who sent a few photos for those of us that were unable to attend! Andrew says of his photos, "Today (5/14/11) the Alaska Railroad had a great turnout for their first open house they had in a couple of years, and I was able to take some pictures of the event. The first picture is of guests lining up for a free train ride. This year the ride went from the Fairbanks Depot to the Old Steese Crossing and back. The second picture is of GP40-2 #3012 waiting as passengers board the train. The third picture is of guests exploring ARR Equipment. This year they had SD70MAC #4325, their DMU, dome, coach, cafe diner, and two GoldStar cars for people to explore. The fourth picture is of guests exploring the second level of the DMU."
05/30 Unknown I love aerial photographs. They give me a vision of how everything is laid out and how one area interacts with another. These four images show the dock area in Seward including the barges and pipe ship that were currently docked there. (1, 2, 3, 4) 5/25/11
06/06 Pat Durand Spring has arrived on the southern end of the Alaska Railroad as of April 12, 2011. MoW equipment was staged all along the railroad from Bird Point siding to Moose Pass. Looks like major tie replacement and bridge maintenance is in order. This excavator with thumb can be used for many projects including picking up and placing ties along the line. The track mobile, flat and gondola were parked along the Seward Highway on the Bird Point siding. There was an extreme low tide and the mud flats were littered with the dwindling ice flow chunks left high and dry in the back ground.
06/13 Jaz "We should have taken the train to Seward yesterday, but we road motorcycles instead. The day was wet, but we found SD70MAC #4326 heading up a passenger train with GP40 #3014 as number two. The photos are bracketed shots and layered together with computer software....enjoy!"
06/20 Pat Durand

In the far end of the yard a string of support cars was out of reach except with the long lens. When older cars like gons and flats are assigned to MOW or E service they are usually renumbered as evidenced by some of these photos. These 4O ft gons arrived on the Alaska Railroad in 1948. (1, 2, 3, 4)

The mill gon is dedicated to hauling bundles of ties as evidenced by the Center of Tie marks along the top rail. Flat 97874 carries the pile driver attachment for LC107 and a portion of the following flat provides idler space for the overhang of the mast.

All these are interesting loads for the model builder.

06/27 NARA

John, here are the photos (1, 2) to your heart's delight. They had in the same file with them a letter saying "here are some photos" dated 1917, from AEC. However, since the M-107 is marked Alaska Railroad, these photos must be after mid of 1923 when the Secretary of Interior named it the ARR. Who are the people? Was it the congressional investigating commission? I do not know cars, but maybe some one else can date it that way.

The Fairbanks depot looks new, no grass growing around it. No scratches in the paint. Note, three rail track, I think. From foliage on trees the two pictures appear to be in the same general period, but at different times. One can just see the "0" on the front of the M-107 in the people photo. Note that in both photos the eight window is open, and the 3/4 view a person is hanging out of the M-107. It's not muddy in either photo, so that with the trees and leaves, my guess is June, or late August. However, I lean towards early June given the nature of the leaves on the Balsam Popular trees. I think the stripped down model T, is the same on the right side of both photos, but the second has the stakes in the flat bed. - Daniel Osborne

07/04 Dave Blazejewski The nightly freight from Fairbanks to Anchorage has dropped off the 1.25% grade of Wasilla hill and is accelerating through the Palmer Hay Flats just north of Matanuska Junction and just about an hour north of it's final terminal. The moderately sized train of 4344 ft and 6731 trailing tons heavy with jet fuel from Flint Hills Resources in North Pole destined for the Anchorage International Airport. The Talkeetna Mountains rise in the background and here in the foreground is a replica of a trappers cache which was used to keep furs and meat inaccessible from wolves, bears, and assorted other four legged wilderness raiders. May 6, 2011
07/11 Frank Keller It is 90 degrees and pretty humid here at home. Since I couldn't find any popsicles in the freezer I chose to beat the heat by viewing this chilling little item. Frank Keller says of his photo, "MP 88 Indian: On a clear but incredibly cold day an Alaska Railroad export coal train bound for Seward winds itself around Turnagain Arm in a 3+3+1 configuration. While the railroad is basically flat here all that horsepower will be needed to make the climb up Grandview and Divide Hills. It wasn't that long ago that the railroad had to double Grandview Hill." January 2011
07/18 Terry Douglas

Strangest thing on rails: One thing we did on our trip was the raft trip from the Spencer Whistle stop. We jumped on at Portage. The DMU # 751 was doing the run this day with the #111 baggage car, (sporting a "75th Anniversary" logo). It came into Portage, baggage car forward (both times).

I was very curious about how they were running this odd arrangement with the baggage car forward! After getting off at Portage, I took a peek in #111. Seeing nothing unusual, I spoke to the conductor. He was not a happy man! Apparently he had to sit on a "broken bar stool", radio in hand peering through the door at the front end of this curious train, passing instruction to the engineer in #751! June 2011

07/25 Pat Durand Portage siding was the staging point for LC109 and her crew April 12, 2011. The crew is standing well in the clear away from the track while the southbound Healy to Seward unit coal train passed on the main. Three MAC 70's on the front, three more in the middle and a single unit on the rear with a bonus car for delivery to an MOW crew. The flat on the rear with an excavator added an interesting note to the operation of this train. Sorry about the lighting, but in deference to the Alaska Railroad's right of way I did not cross to the sunny side. (1, 2, 3)
08/01 Dave Blazejewski

Oh my gosh! Dave Blazejewski has finally obtained the pinnacle of Alaska Railroad photographs. He has lived out a dream I've had for over ten years - to photograph from a distant ridge a passenger train crossing Hurricane Gulch. I am just green with envy. At the end of his commentary he asks if it was worth it. Absolutely! Thanks Dave!

Big Land - Big Mountains - Big Bridge - Little Train - The quintessential Alaskan train ride The Hurricane Turn crawls out on to the Hurricane Gulch bridge affording the passengers a stunning view of the Chulitna River and the Alaska Range to the west and the namesake creek in the chasm far below. The little train runs Thursday-Sunday from Talkeetna through the wilderness to this point where it turns around. It is the last true flag stop train in American and affords a conveyance into the wilderness for cabin owners, homesteaders, hunters, fishermen, campers, outlaws and anyone else with a hankering just to get away from it all. This bridge spans 918 ft and rises 296 ft above the floor below. It is the signature location on the entire ARR mainline and was the most expensive and difficult engineering project on the entirety of the line. The American Bridge Company started construction in early 1921, erected steel in June and finished in August. To construct the bridge, they strung an aerial tram across the gulch and construction proceeded from both sides. The first passenger train crossed Hurricane Gulch Bridge on August 15, 1921 culminating the $1,200,000 project. While easily the most spectacular point on the mainline between Anchorage and Fairbanks it is rarely photographed except from the train itself. This is because it is virtually inaccessible. I've lived in Alaska more than four years and have longed to figure out how to make this happen....Saturday's in summer are the best days to try, because if successful I knew I would have four different passenger trains cross it in the span of about 2 1/2 hrs. To access this shot, however, took a great deal of planning and not the least little bit of nerve. After driving three hours from my home in Anchorage I had to make my best guess as to how to access this vantage point. It took two hours of climbing, crawling and slogging and endless whacks with a machete to bushwhack through to the ridge affording this broadside view. I had a shotgun and bear spray just in case but fortunately they weren't needed...at least not for bears. After finding this vantage I needed to cut down a fair amount of trees and brush to open it up suitably. At one point I was holding on to a branch and leaning over a 200 ft drop to hack a tree clear, however there was one stubborn 4 inch diameter tree I could not reach safely. Then I remembered the shotgun and wondered if just like in the movies when they shoot locks on doors if maybe there wasn't a solution here. Well, it took every round I had, but on the eighth shot the tree top tumbled to bottom of the gorge and the results are here before you. So in the end it was 6 hrs of driving, 4 hrs of hiking, 8 shotgun shells, soaking wet pants and feet, and a cut and swollen hand....was it worth it? Well you decide....(7/23/11)

08/08 Robert Krol

Bear Valley is known for its weather extremes. On a bad day there could be 100 mile an hour winds and temperatures that would give old man winter a severe case of frostbite. However, Friday, June 17, 2011 is warm, bright and features a friendly little passenger train. On the front is GP40 #3009 which looks as if its paint needs a wee bit of touching up. Bringing up the rear is the DMU, Chugach Explorer, which is beginning its third year of operation. Doesn't this scene make you want to hop aboard and ride it into Whittier?

Here is an incredible coincidence. When I work on the computer I typically play music on its MP3 player. As I was creating this Picture of the Week the song "The Great Alaska Railorad" by Hobo Jim began playing. Pretty exciting, eh?

08/15   For the first time in 14 years I blew it. I forgot to put up a Picture of the Week. I was on vacation in Ontario, Canada and it totally slipped my mind. My apologies to all who came here and experienced disappointment.
08/22 Sherman Stebbins Recently, Everett Mosley contacted me and asked if it would be possible to show pictures of the progress that is being made on the construction of the new bridge at Salcha. I contacted Sherman Stebbins and he was only to happy to help out. "I tracked down the river crossing. It is located right off the Old Richardson Highway. Not much to see. Lots of engineer stakes and areas where the forest has been cleared for equipment yards and materials storage by the river. I have a good friend who is a pilot and I already discussed with him a photo log starting next summer. I think I will fly once a month when the construction starts and take an aerial photo. So I guess no big construction this winter." 8/18/11
08/22 Matt Leistico Matt Leistico sent me a photo of this "home gate" used as an access to the back garden. The location was along the costal bike trial, in the region to the East of Earthquake park, and near the ball fields at "Lynn Ary Park". 8/17/11
08/22 Pat Durand As of April 12, 2011, you have to be serious about tracking down a caboose on the Alaska Railroad. Assigned to the Engineering Department here are two parked on the siding and a stub track at Moose Pass. 1093 is a traditional while 1043 E is one of two former Troop Kitchens converted long ago to work train service. Here she is attending Ohio Crane LC107.
08/29 Terry Douglas Who can name my favorite locomotive? Yes, you there in the third row. You are correct! GP40 #3015. It lead my first Alaska Railroad trip in 1985 and ever since has been stalking me on each of my trips. Well, Terry Douglas knew it was my fav when he captured the photo below. Terry says of his photo, "I know you have some attachment to ARR # 3015. Early this season it seems to have been assigned to Cruise train duties. I saw it several times between Anchorage and Seward, including the attached case, where it had just pulled out of the Beluga siding, after letting the Glacier Discovery pass southbound."
08/29 Steve Kalmbach Steve Kalmbach says of his photo, "I took these photos on July 21, 2011 during a short visit to the state. This was the only train ride I made from Anchorage to Seward and back. I was riding in the GoldStar at the head of the train. The year before last when I rode this train the weather was not very cooperative. This time there was clear and blue skies all the way there and back. If you ever have a chance to ride the train again the extra cost of the GoldStar service is well worth it. I have been fortunate to ride the trains in Alaska at least once a year for about the last 10 years. I have ridden from Anchorage to Fairbanks and back numerous times. It is a very enjoyable ride."
09/05 Ted Spencer

Last night's severe thunderstorms killed my Internet connectivity. I don't know how long until it will be up and running so I uploaded this week's edition from the Wi-Fi hot spot at my local McDonald's. Ted Spencer sent me three nice photos so I deiced to just post them all for you. Enjoy!

1. Along Turnagain Arm. June 2010
2. Hy-rail at Whittier tunnel. April 2011
3. DMU coming out of the tunnel at Whittier. September 2010

09/12 Randy Thompson As indicated in my news section the Alaska Railroad acquired seventy used hoppers, builder Johnstown, year built 1999/2000, aluminum, quad hopper bottom discharge, rotary, 3770 cubic foot capacity. Randy Thompson was in Seattle on September 7, 2011 and was able to get some photos of them as they were being loaded onto the barge bound for Alaska. (1, 2, 3, 4)
09/19 Sherman Stebbins Sherman Stebbins says of his photos, "These are pictures from my trip on Labor Day Weekend. Healy Canyon was gorgeous ! Fall colors at their peak. The leaves are starting to drop now and winter is settling in ! The Dall Sheep were awesome. Down to nearly eye level with the train through Healy Canyon. I have to say the Alaska Railroad is TRULY at your service ! The ARR security agent was walking down the train as we all boarded. He was holding up a child's toy that had been dropped in the depot attempting to locate its owner on the train. I hope that youngster got his toy dinosaur back!
09/26 Dave Blazejewski As you may recall, on August 1 I posted photos that Dave Blazejewski had taken at Hurricane Gulch. He spent "two hours of climbing, crawling and slogging and endless whacks with a machete to bushwhack through to the ridge affording this broadside view." Well Dave returned to this spot again to catch the train in blazing fall colors. In Dave's words, "I bagged four trains in four hours yesterday. In chronological order: The southbound Star, northbound DEX, Hurricane Turn, and southbound export coal." Here are three (1, 2, 3) of the twelve photos he sent me. Enjoy!
10/03 Anonymous Last year the Alaska Railroad and Lynden each funded $2 million for the installation of the new hydraulic ramp system. This replaced the twin towers which used weights to raise and lower the loading ramp. A new all-weather control shack was installed as well. The entire freight barge slip rehabilitation also included new mooring fenders, sheet pile wall, decking, slip pass-pass, camels and dolphins. (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) Photographer anonymous, Spring 2011.
10/10 Dave Blazejewski

How beautifully leaves grow old. How full of light and color are their last days. ~John Burroughs

If one of Mr. Blazejewski photos doesn't wind up as your screen saver or desktop photo then it may be time for me to check you for a pulse. Dave was out doing a photo shoot for the railroad and captured a colorful DMU #751 in some very remote yet stunningly beautiful backdrops. (1, 2, 3, 4) September 2011

10/17 Terry Douglas I've put this on my "to do" list - take the Susitna River jet boat by Mahay's (conveniently booked through the ARR). Terry Douglas took this trip in June of 2011 and had a great time! He also spied a Maintenance of Way train just south of Curry dumping rock to reinforce the river side track. Even more interesting is poor old RDC #701 reduced to caboose duty on the end of the train. Terry also got a decent shot of the Susitna River bridge. Anyone want to join me on this venture in the summer of 2012? (1, 2, 3, 4)
10/24 Robert Krol

Here are two photos taken by Robert Krol in Whittier on July 18, 2011.

Yes, I confess to using this photo due to the fact it has GP40 #3015 (my favorite locomotive) smack dab in the middle of it. Additionally, it is a classic "Princess tour shot" as it shows the Denali Express Princess Cruise Train (DEX) with the MS Zaandam.

The Zaandam is a cruise ship which is owned and operated by Holland America Line. It was christened by the Olsen twins, Mary-Kate and Ashley, in May 2000 and features a musical theme. Items on board are a Baroque-style Dutch pipe organ, guitars signed by the Rolling Stones, Carlos Santana and Queen and a saxophone signed by former US President Bill Clinton. The Zaandam sails out of Alaska during the summer and spends its winters sailing around Australia/New Zealand and South Pacific.

The Genco Picardy is a 2005-built Supramax vessel owned by Genco Shipping and Trading Limited. Coal from Usibelli Coal Mine was brought to the Seward Coal Terminal via the Alaska Railroad. It is then loaded into the Genco Picardy via a conveyor belt at the rate of 12,000 to 15,000 metric tons per day.

10/31 Dave Blazejewski End of the Line - What we have here is a rather unique and fascinating operation. Flint Hills Resources operates a large refinery in North Pole, Alaska and they lease a fleet of nearly 450 tank cars that are handled between Fairbanks and Anchorage by the Alaska Railroad (FHR is the ARR's single largest customer). Recently FHR decided not to renew the lease on 118 cars owned by GE Capital due to fatigue issues (many cars were suffering from cracked center sills). GE elected not to ship the cars to the lower 48 for repair and instead arranged for their scrapping in Alaska. After the cars were cleaned they were sold to Schnitzer Steel for disassembly. On this date the first 29 cars were removed from their wheels in a ballet of efficiency. The first car took about 20 minutes but once they got into their groove it took less than 6 minutes per car! Here's how it worked. A wheel car was spotted at the very end of a spur track inside the North Star Terminal on the Port of Anchorage. Then an ARR geep shoved a long string of tank cars onto that same spur. The crew would cut away from the last car about 10 feet and then a longshoreman would torch the brake rigging. Once that was done another operator in a heavy lift forklift would lift the tank body off the trucks leaving them on the rails (look beneath the green sheer and you'll see a tank car up in the air). Then a large crane mounted magnet would lift the truck side frames and spring package off the rail and deposited them in a side dump truck. Wheels that were marked to be kept (the ARR purchased some) were loaded onto the wheel car (or staged next to the track once it was full as can be seen to the left of this image). While the magnet did its thing the forklift ran down toward the dock face where they were making a giant pile of tank car bodies. By the time the forklift returned all the wheel and truck components were off the rail and another tank car was in position and ready for its turn. This was truly a fascinating ballet to watch.... Ultimately, the tank bodies are going to be piled high on a barge for shipment to the Puget Sound area where they will be processed for recycling. North Star Terminal, Anchorage, September 28, 2011. (1, 2)
11/07 Dale Greth

Try me then buy me - With the introduction of the 7101 and 7102 in 2008, EMD rolled out a line of low and medium 710-based repower options, complete with microprocessor controls and automatic start/stop option. The offering is basically EMD’s answer to the genset craze (from NRE, Railpower, etc). EMD claims fuel savings of up to 25%, reductions in lube oil of up to 50% and reduction in emissions up to 70%. Dale Greth's October 3, 2008 photo shows the unit EMD sent to the Alaska Railroad for free testing. The railroad used it for approximately 90 days in yard service in Anchorage and also to and from Whittier. At that time it was determined that engine replacements in all GP 38 and GP 40 locomotives would cost the railroad approximately $1 million each.

When it was all said and done, three-quarters (78%) of ARRC’s locomotives (43 out of 55) were equipped with idle reduction system. The first SD70MACs had Auto Engine Start Stop (AESS) installed as part of a fuel reduction effort. The railroad had EcoTrans installed on 7 GP 38s and 3 GP 40s and Hot Start installed on one GP 38. Go green!

11/14 Ken Cringan

While growing up I could have cared less about history. For example, did you know it costs more to buy a new car today in the United States than it cost Christopher Columbus to equip and undertake three voyages to and from the New World? Me neither, but then again, who cares? In later years as an adult, I paid a little more attention to history, but not much more. April 2012 will mark 15 years that I have been maintaining this website. When I started this site I could have cared less about Alaska Railroad history. I was just looking for more HO scale ARR models. Today I am the frequent repository source for Alaska Railroad information including that which is historical in nature. Lambert's 714th Railway Operating Battalion photo album, Combs' 1964 earthquake featurette, and the anonymous All in a Day's work photo collection are just a few of the historical gems you'll find on the site. My suggestion is to dig deeper. You'll never know what you just might find.

Many times I get historical questions from people all over the world. I can only answer a few of them. Most of the time I enlist my ARR history wizards to assist. In July 2011 I got this question from Ken Cringan, "In June I drove into McCarthy to visit the Kennecott mill and to my surprise found a steel boxcar sitting on original track beside the former McCarthy depot. I say in my photo caption that it is 'of Probable Pullman / US Army ancestry'. The car has unusual ends. Are you able to tell me its history and when it was taken to its present location?" Honestly, I hadn't a clue. So I consulted Patrick Durand, one of the top Alaska Railroad historians on the planet.

Pat replied, "Mr. Ken Cringan, your photo from McCarthy features one of the 400 odd former Pullman troop sleepers and kitchens from WWII that were rebuilt in about 1947-48 by Chicago Car and Foundry for the Alaska Railroad. They became both box cars and reefer/heater cars. Only a very few remain in MOW service now. Your example is a troop sleeper as indicated by the plated over window locations. Reefers had smaller higher windows. If they had not painted over the original car number we could have got the original as built number in my cross reference file. The car was trucked to McCarthy and set on the trucks which are not the original Allied full cushion trucks. This link will take you to a brief article with some history and prototype photos of some of the various paint schemes and modifications these went under on the Alaska Railroad. If you have other questions please let me know. The ends are sheeted down the middle where there was originally a set of collision posts with diaphram and doors."

Pretty interesting stuff, eh? You'll find those boxcars scattered all over Alaska as people bought them surplus for storage sheds, homes and livestock shelters. The largest concentration of reused ARR boxcars I have ever seen is in Seward. There is thirty or more being used as storage sheds. So do you find all this interesting? You must have as you read all the way to the end of this!

11/21 Chris Nuthall Under low cloud and drizzle, GP9 #1802 waits for the loading of the shuttle to conclude at Whittier before heading off to Portage on August 15, 1985. The photographer was lucky to get a return cab ride in 1802 from Portage, as the railroad was the only land transport able to access Whittier at the time. The boat carrying contraption was an added bonus!
11/28 Dave Blazejewski A photographer leans out an open vestibule dutch door to snap a few more shots on this glorious Friday evening. The classic domes and the warm hospitality (while riding in dutch doors is shunned on most roads, on the ARR it is encouraged) are but a couple of the innumerable great things about the Alaska Railroad's passenger service. He and the rest of his fellow passengers only have about 10 miles and as many minutes left to go in their journey on the southbound Denali Star. This particular spot is deep on confines of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in an area that is little photographed. In the foreground is a tangle of Tufted Vetch, which is beautiful to look at and photograph but is a non-native invasive species. In the distance rise the high peaks of the Chugach Mountains. Note: the photographer is a railroad employee with permission to be on the property and was wearing all required PPE while taking this photograph. MP 123.6, 7/22/11
12/05 Pete Wester I gotta tell ya, I love following our ladies around. I do my best to track down their lives after they leave the Alaska Railroad. In the case of GP49 numbers 2802 and 2809, they took on a new life with Frontier Rail's Lake Railway which operates from Lakeview, Oregon to Alturas, California. Pete Wester's photo shows GP49 #2809 in Alturus, CA on June 15, 2011. I must admit I prefer the blue and gold to the new black and white color scheme!
12/12 James DeBroeck

Webmaster's note: My email mailbox is so deluged with messages that I can't even begin to read them all. If you have not heard, Alaska Railroad steam locomotive #557 is coming back to Alaska. Stayed tuned and I'll put more information online as soon as I can sort through all the stuff I've received.


Locomotive 557 was the last steam locomotive in regular service on the Alaska Railroad and was finally retired and moved south in 1965. It was purchased by Monte Holm and displayed at his museum in Moses Lake, Washington. The locomotive was purchased from Monte's estate and generously donated to The Alaska Railroad Corporation with the provision that it be returned to operation in Alaska. Formal announcement of the 557 Homecoming will be made upon her arrival back in Alaska at the Port of Whittier.

To complete the assembly of appropriate heritage equipment, the Museum of Alaska Transportation and Industry, in Wasilla has donated United States Transportation Corp tender ARR #0039M to accompany s-160 557 in restoration. This combination of equipment will return 557 to her appearance when she headed up the Alaska State Fair Special trains in 1957.- Pat Durand



My family and I met Monte Holm on July 17, 2001 at his business in Moses Lake, Washington. Before getting the tour of the locomotive, we walked through his multi-million dollar museum of collections. The man greeted us warmly and immediately offered us a handful of Werther candies. One of his workers actually gave us the tour. Then we wandered back and talked to Monte a bit and purchased one of his autobiographies. He gave the kids and my wife Terry each a Susan B. Anthony coin telling us not to spend it but to hold on to it for luck. Pictured here is Monte with his license plate, "IOWNARR." - John Combs

12/19 John Combs Collection

F7 1506 and 1508 were purchased from the Alaska Railroad in 1986. Both were leased to Western Railroad Builders for operation on an industrial railroad near Soda Springs, Idaho in spring 1988. The 1506 was wrecked by WRB and scrapped at that location. The 1508 was sold to Tom Carver, who was one of the three owners of MDT. Tom moved the 1508 to Utica, New York where it remains today on the Adirondack Scenic Railroad

Photo below: Dry Valley Railroad using Alaska Railroad numbers 1506 and 1508. The engines are moving downgrade to Maybe Mine to move a second cut of cars on 10/3/88.

12/26 Jonathan Fischer This train was used in the movie "Runaway Train." Jonathan Fischer says of his photo, "This slide had an April 1985 date, so I'm assuming that I must have taken it in March of that year. We (Mark Hemphill and I) had known about the train for a couple of weeks, but the weather had been more grim than usual. So finally, since filming was to conclude soon, I made the trek down to Portage anyway. I can still feel the snow/rain/sleet/freezing rain and the ever present wind when I look at these pictures. I found the train sitting on the Whittier branch. There were a bunch of trailers for the movie folks in the parking lot."

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Page created 1/3/11 and last updated 12/26/11
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