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  Whittier, AK Time & Temp.
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Current Population: 220 (as of 2010)
Incorporation Type: 2nd Class City
Borough Located In: Unorganized
Taxes: Sales: 3% April - Sept.; Property: 5.0 mills; None
City: City of Whittier, P.O. Box 608, Whittier, AK 99693, Phone 907-472-2337 , Fax 907-472-2404

Whittier Overhead

Whittier is on the northeast shore of the Kenai Peninsula, at the head of Passage Canal. It is on the west side of Prince William Sound, 75 miles southeast of Anchorage.  The area encompasses 12 sq. miles of land and 7 sq. miles of water. Winter temperatures range from 17 to 28; summer temperatures average 49 to 63. Average annual precipitation includes 66 inches of rain and 80 inches of snowfall.

Be sure to read this great article entitled Pride and progress in Whittier

BTIThe city originated as a portage route for the Chugach Indians who were traveling from Prince William Sound to Turnagain Arm to fish.  Nearby Whittier Glacier was named for the American poet John Greenleaf Whittier, and was first published in 1915 by the U.S. Coast & Geodetic Survey.  By August 8, 1921 Whittier was becoming a bustling little town.  In November 1941, a port and railroad terminus project was undertaken by the U.S. Army for transport of fuel and other supplies into Alaska during World War II.  On December 7, 1941 the Japanese struck Pearl Harbor.  On November 20, 1942, the "holing through" ceremonies were held on the Whittier-cutoff.  The railroad spur was completed in 1943, and the Whittier Port became the entrance for troops and dependents of the Alaska Command.  The first passenger train was run through the Whittier tunnels on March 10, 1943.  The train backed through so guests could observe tunnels from the observation platform.  The Portage tunnel is 4,905 feet long and Whittier tunnel is 14,140 feet.

The Alaska Railroad's  first diesels numbers 1000 and 1001 arrived at Whittier on June 9, 1944.  They were standard 1000 HP switching locomotives built by the American Locomotive Company.

Under agreement with the Army, the Alaska Railroad took over operations at Whittier on December 17, 1945, replacing soldier forces there.  The Army also released 85 enlisted men for railroad employment as longshoreman.

BucknerThe huge buildings that dominate Whittier began construction in 1948. The Hodge Building (now Begich Towers) was built for Army bachelors quarters and family housing. The Buckner Building, completed in 1953, was once the largest building in Alaska, and was called the "city under one roof." The Port remained an active Army facility until 1960; at that time, the population was 1,200.  During the earthquake of 1964, Whittier, being the closest city to the epicenter, suffered incredible damage.    The Buckner Building was not repaired following the earthquake and stands unused.  The City was incorporated in 1969. The Begich Building is now a condominium, and house nearly all of Whittier's residents.  There's even an underground tunnel from the building to the school house so the children don't have to go outside during the winter.

During the April 1990 U.S. Census, there were 265 total housing units, and 153 of these were vacant. 126 jobs were estimated to be in the community. The official unemployment rate at that time was 8%. 37% of all adults were not in the work force. The median household income was $33,636, and 13% of residents were living below the poverty level.   The main economy of the town is generated by the small boat harbor mainly from commercial and sport fishing.

TunnelWhittier is an ice free port and a 70' city dock. A small boat harbor has slips for 360 fishing, recreation and charter vessels. It is served by the state ferry, barges, rail, and aircraft.  Prior to June 2000, the town was not accessible by road and the railway carried passengers, vehicles and cargo 12 miles to the Portage Station, east of Girdwood. Travelers then drove to Anchorage or Kenai on the Seward Highway.  An $80 million road connection project permitted vehicular traffic to share the 2.5 mile tunnel with the railroad.  Thus, the Whittier shuttle no longer accomodates vehicles riding on flat cars.

Two railroad related projects are currently underway in Whittier.  As of 2/21/2001 Crowley will no longer be providing barge services to the Alaska Railroad. In a bidding process conducted last year the ARRC decided to go with Lynden, Inc., which is in the process of building three new barges for the service plus a new barge dock in Whittier.  Secondly, the railroad is going to raze its old warehouse leaving only the section house.

Barge Section house Overhead view of the yard
Crowley will no longer bring barges 
into the port of Whittier
Only this part of the section house will 
remain.  The left section will be razed.
Overhead view of the rail yard as seen from
the Buckner building

The Alaska Railroad also maintains a large docking system in Whittier.

Click here to view the Whittier yard diagram

Also check out Mike's Whittier Forum

The Strangest Town in Alaska

A switch heater keeps ice
from building up in the points

Whittier Aerial Photos

Unauthorized use prohibited

1 These photos are proprietary. Do NOT use them for commercial purposes or distribute them
2 This is the east end of the yard (south if you're the ARRC). From top to bottom of the view along the water front are the following features:
- DeLong Dock (ARRC/City)
- Barge Ramp (ARRC)
- Marginal Warf (ARRC)
- Prince William Sound Cruises and Tours Dock (private - ARRC Lease)
- Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS) Terminal (State of Alaska)
- Ocean Dock (City)
- Whittier Small Boat Harbor (City)

This view is an oblique of the midsection of the yard, with the City's Small Boat Harbor in the background. From right to left, the primary waterfront features are:
- AMHS Terminal
- Ocean Dock
- Whittier Small Boat Harbor

Within the small boat harbor are the following features (r to l):
- East Boat Grid (upper right)
- East Boat Ramp
- East Access Trestle and Gangway
- West Bost Ramp
- Whittier Auxiliary Goast Guard (ex-ARR Caboose Number 1076, which was built by Pacific Car and Foundry of Renton, WA, in 1949)
- Harbor Office
- West Access Trestle and Gangway
- West Boat Grid
- City Dock (with boat travel lift on paved uplands)
- Fuel Dock (leased by City to Shoreside Petroleum, Inc.) Note: Shoreside Petroleum's Whittier facility marine fuels and petroleum products to the Prince William Sound fleet. The fuel dock is located in the small boat harbor. Tank truck deliveries are also available for the large vessels at the AMHS Ferry Dock and Alaska Railroad Dock.

The rail yard features, from right to left, are as follows:
- Shoreside Petroleum, Inc. fuel storage tanks.
- Three ARR Geeps working the yard.
- F1.2 Bridge—parallel 126-foot open timber trestle bridges that cross Whittier Creek) and a 3-track grade crossing.
- Seasonal ARR passenger facility. The ARR Glacier Discovery and Princess Tours charter trains load and offload passengers at this seasonal, tent-like structure across from the cruise ship terminal and marina.


Here is the more detailed view of the ARRC barge dock. From this view, you can get a better idea regarding container movements from the port ramp. Again, top to middle-left waterfront features are:
- DeLong Dock (truncated east end)
- Barge Dock (full view)
- Marginal Warf (east corner)

The large buildings are:
- Whittier Manor (elongated east-west building - upper left)
- Buckner Building (abandoned multi-story concrete building with window "holes" - center)
- ARRC Maintenence Shop (blue walls and white roof - lower left by tank cars)
- Anchor Store (multi-story white walls with red roof - bottom left)

Fun test: find the abandoned ex-army tank car (no trucks). Hint: it's hidden in plain view.


A view to the west (north, if you're the ARRC) from the small boat harbor to the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel. Included in this view is the Coral Princess docked at the private cruise ship dock. Also included is F1.2 Bridge—parallel 126-foot open timber trestle bridges that cross Whittier Creek and a 3-track grade crossing.

Seasonal ARR passenger facility. The ARR Glacier Discovery and Princess Tours charter trains load and offload passengers at this seasonal, tent-like structure across from the cruise ship terminal and marina.

6 This is probably the best overview of the main yard layout. It's an oblique, but straight down the primary sidings.




Page was created 12/1/99 and last updated 10/15/17