A large wooden trestle was built in this region so early trains could pull their loads up the steep grade. The trestle looped over itself thus reducing the incline. The loop was touted as an engineering marvel, but was also a high maintenance item. The Alaska Railroad also had to maintain a heating plant and two watchmen at Tunnel for the loop.
In 1951 a $1,000,000 line relocation project eliminated the famous loop between miles 47.5 and 50.8 since the new diesel locomotives were able to pull loads up the steeper grade. This also reduced maintenance costs due to constant trestle repair as well as taking the mainline away from a snowslide area.. On November 6, the last rail was dropped in place at 11:06 a.m. and the final spike was driven by Colonel J.P. Johnson at 11:30 a.m.
Today, Tunnel is a section house that is
manned year round. Wintertime can be especially brutal with fridged winds
and temperatures that dip well below zero degrees. Caterpillars are kept
ready to clear out the many avalanches. Just north of Tunnel is a series
of six tunnels encompassed within
one mile and the workers do whatever is necessary to keep these clear of ice
and snow. Living conditions are harsh, but section workers make the best
of it. In their off hours, they can be seen running their snowmobiles
across the countryside or crouched by an icy river panning for gold.
|Tunnel #1 and the bridge located at mile
post 51.8. The gorge under this bridge is
deep and very steep.
|The north portal of tunnel #6. A hi-rail
shop truck is on the right and an avalanche
caterpiller is on the left.
|The section house for the workers. The
grade on the rail is 2.2% and the coal train
typically doubles the hill in this area.
Page created 12/1/99 and last updated 8/3/05