Rail Grinder Overhaul Technician

by John Caflisch

Back in 2007, I spent eight weeks on RG17, the Loram Railgrinder that worked the ARR for 5 years, my run being the second to last. I was on a specialty assignment as an overhaul technician, trained in rebuilding grinder assemblies and derailment repairs, never having actually ran a railgrinder before. We ran the entire mainline from Fairbanks to North Pole, back south through Anchorage to Seward, highballed back to Anchorage and tied it down in the yard. Unfortunately at the time, I knew absolutely nothing about the Alaska Railroad, and was oblivious to much of what I saw until many months later when I stumbled across your site. I did manage to get some pictures between a disposable camera (on the really windy days when grind dust would have destroyed my digital camera) and a basic Kodak Easyshare. Having a nice camera is a death sentence on a railgrinder, the dust destroys cameras. One of the other guys had a nice point and shoot and the grind dust ate it up.  I was happy getting what I could, almost the entire trip I was on the front catwalk of the long hood watching for track obstructions. There was no better place to be.

Also of note: We were changing grind stones on a siding way out in the middle of nowhere on a train delay. I happened to hear the horn blow and caught a look at what was coming... a lone engine pushing a rotary snowplow!!! I was crushed because not only had I never seen one in person before, but I didn't have time to grab a shot. I figured no one else had either, given the remoteness of the line and assuming there couldn't be railfans in Alaska. When I found several shots posted on your site, it was like Christmas came early. 

Your site has been a huge asset to me, and I've decided to model the ARR with a heavy emphasis on Maintenance of Way, which is my career field. The vast amount of equipment the ARR uses in MOW service is incredible, and with the collection of photos from your site I'm hoping to do them some justice.

John Caflisch
Assistant Roadmaster
Albany, GA 
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The refinery train northbound near Fort Wainwright. Same location Derelict crane lettered RC23. I have a shot of the faded lettering also.
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Passenger train coming off the mainline northbound at Matanuska Junction. Passenger train southbound on the mainline shortly after the northbound cleared. LC108 and work train north of Denali Park
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LC108 and work train north of Denali Park LC108 and work train north of Denali Park Grinding south of Healy
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Unique pony truss at the 355.2 Probably my favorite shot of all... at Curry, power for a work train Northbound work train at MP 119, #3008 bringing up the rear
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Southbound passenger train at MP 89 Old hopper in the river, in the days before environmental regulations this was how they built the roadbed back after a washout by shoring it up with retired freight cars. Seward Sub LC 109 at Tunnel siding with snow loaded side dumps


© 2014 John Caflisch