Wednesday, June 28th, Fairbanks and Talkeetna.
We were on the road by 7:50 a.m. after a quick thanks to Curt for a
great night's lodging. Stopping at Fred Meyer, we picked up donuts
and bananas (Randy) for breakfast. We caught the southbound passenger
train at Happy at 8:33 a.m. and chewed up some more film. We then
chased it to Nenana, but the train proved to be faster and thus denied
Further down the road, we popped out of the hazy smoke filled skies and into some real cloud cover for a change. At 12:33 p.m. we arrived at the Hurricane section house for a walk to Hurricane Gulch Bridge. To the south of the section house are trailers owned and inhabited by the section employees. These hard working folks supply their own housing (i.e. trailers) and food, receiving per diem and minimal wages. Close by was an old orange gas powered MOW car and several work crews on high rail trucks.
We began the three mile walk noticing the tracks looked great and the mosquitoes
did not. Note: walking on railroad tracks is considered trespassing and
is strictly prohibited. At milepost 282, we encountered an empty northbound
tank train terminated by caboose 1072. A northbound passenger train caught
us at milepost 283 and engineer Frank Sheppard gave us a friendly wave.
To round out our rail experience, a high rail truck passed us near the 284 milepost.
This made for a neat trip since we were encountering something every mile of
the hike. At 1:30 p.m. we finally arrived at Hurricane Gulch Bridge.
We checked out suitable sites to photograph the train crossing the 297 foot
high bridge. We munched on a box of Wheat Thins and guesstimated the train
would arrive between 3:00 and 3:30 p.m. Surprise! The southbound
passenger train arrived at 2:45 p.m. and I went sliding wildly down the dirt
hill to get to my chosen photo spot. The train was moving slowly to give
the passengers plenty of time to view and photograph the gulch which in turn
gave Randy and I ample time to get in half a dozen shots of our own. Having
accomplished one of Randy's lifetime goals, we headed back to the Hurricane
section house. We retrieved seven glass insulators from a fallen telegraph
pole and carried them out with us. At 3:58 p.m. we returned to the Hurricane
section house and were greeted by Roadmaster Steve Love. Steve was such
a well liked individual that his fellow employees choose him to represent them
in the driving of the golden spike at the 75th
anniversary ceremony. We took some last minute photos, stowed our
gear and headed to Talkeetna.
As soon as we arrived in Talkeetna, we headed to the depot and met Jack MacDonald, Talkeetna station agent. Also providing a friendly greeting was his depot dog, Beukeboon (named after a New York Ranger defenseman). Jack was a true Alaska Railroad employee, friendly and very laid back. We checked out his depot and found it to be incredibly neat, clean and well maintained. The hanging flower baskets at the front of the depot were so beautiful that they even caught my usually inattentive eye. I used the pay phone to call my wife to wish her a happy 20th anniversary and express regret for not being there with her to celebrate.
On Jack's recommendation, we got a pizza at Talkeetna Deli. Randy and I made a large one quickly disappear as we eavesdropped on two wrinkled ladies lamenting that they would no longer have someone to turn down their beds and place chocolate on their pillows. I spent some time watching the residents of this small village. In my eyes, it was as if the 1960s had found a permanent home here. Here was a land where people could live out their idiosyncrasies without interference from conservatives or government.
A bizillion MOW vehicles were buzzing around the Talkeetna section house and I captured seven images on my digital camera. The crew was obviously working on rail height as well as ballast spreading. They seemed unconcerned that it was almost 9:00 p.m. at night.
checked into the super elegant Talkeetna Alaska Lodge. Randy, the
man of many connections, had arranged for us to have a room for two nights
at a discount price. The lobby has a beautiful thirty foot fireplace,
natural wood ceilings, deck with a killer view of the mountains and a clothing
optional hot tub (just kidding). While on the deck, we saw a bolt
of lightning in the distance. Randy has lived in Alaska for almost
15 years and this was only the second time he has seen lightning.
After checking out the place, we returned to our room to catch up on paperwork
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