Saturday, July 1, Anchorage and Seward.
We had several hours before the Grandview (formerly the Florida Fun Train) left the depot so we did what we do best, snoop around to see what we might find. At 9:00 a.m. we were photographing the Whittier train idling in front of the Anchorage depot. The lineup was GP-38 #2007, power car 1503, cafe car 300, and coaches 202, 204 and 205.
We entered the Anchorage yard at 10:00 a.m. and snatched a bunch of photographs of SD70MACs including the hanger queen, 4003. Since so many parts are required to keep the MACs running, 4003 has become a $2.2 million parts cabinet for the fleet. In the car shops, we saw (former Florida Fun Train) coach 553 getting a window replaced. Venturing further, we found several workers scrubbing down the glass and car bodies of the Grandview.
We then parked our car at the headquarters building and senior tour guide Rick gave us a ride to the car shop and awaiting Grandview train. It was very exciting stepping onboard the Grandview seeing its multi-colored seats and large glass windows. The crew was engineer Ed Alford, conductor Mike Rosso, fireman Roger Brown and brakeman Jerry Van Thomme. Since this was a dead train (positioning itself in Seward for cruise ship passengers), there were only 11 people onboard and we had the opportunity to help ourselves to sandwiches and drinks. Unfortunately, we stayed in the dark car shop for almost an hour while they replaced a relay on the lead locomotive 4007.
Conductor Mike Rosso approached both Randy and I and showed us a letter authorizing us for a ride in the locomotive's cab. Phenomenal! However, we decided to ride in the former Fun Train coaches for the first half of the trip and take the cab ride for the second half. Riding in the coaches was an opportunity too good to pass up entirely!
At 12:57 p.m., we finally emerged into the daylight and the enormous
windows started strutting their stuff. These windows begin at waist
height and continue well overhead, using only a thin frame between each
other so the passenger has an awesome 360 degree view. Once we hit
the scenic moutain/inlet sections of the trip, I became overwhelmed and
enchanted with the majesty of the views. It is virtually impossible
to describe this experience here except to say it would convince me to
take the cruise ship just for the train ride itself. Even better
was the fact I had the entire coach all to myself. Thank you Alaska
Railroad! Randy and I then went into the dining car for free
food and drinks and to hear Jerry's stories about being a junior brakeman.
As the train began to slow, Mike told us that it was time to head up front for the cab ride. He gave us ear and eye protection since we would be walking through power car 1503. Cool! Walking through the power car was indeed very noisy, smelly and greasy. What a great experience! I even stuck my head out one of the portholes. At 2:51 p.m. Randy and I emerged into the cab of SD70MAC 4007. Engineer Ed Alford spent a little time showing me the console and explaining how they worked. We even got to sit in the conductor's chair which provided some very nice photographs and views of bear and moose.
Sitting in the cab of an SD70MAC is indeed a extraordinary experience. The Whispercab feature
The ride ended much too soon. Rolling into Seward at 5:18 p.m., the engineer let us off near the depot so we could catch the returning Coastal Classic. We met Conductor Harry Ross and Brakeman Duane Frank at the depot and shared our excitement of riding the Grandview. The train departed at 6:09 p.m. and we spent the first couple of hours napping and taking in the views. At the end of the trip, Duane sat with us and told some of his favorite Alaska Railroad stories. We arrived at the depot at 10:08 p.m., snatched a few photos and then headed for the apartment. What an incredible day!
The Grandview lineup: SD70MAC #4007, power car 1503, dining car 351, snack car 352 (w/Tiki bar and palm trees) and coaches 551, 552 and 554
The Coastal Classic lineup: GP40 3009, baggage 111, Kenai Fjords dome
car 502, dining car 301, coaches 206 and 203 and dome car 523.
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