Monday, July 29, 2002

At 7:00 a.m. I heard the unwelcome sound of my alarm.  The hot shower water helped to pry my eyes open and the cereal and toast helped to get me moving.  While ever faithful Don packed our lunches, I did a quick load of laundry.  And then I had a fabulous realization: It was Monday and I'm not at work!

One of the Alaska Railroad employees had given me a 20" x 30" engineering drawing of the Loop District (showing both old and new routes) so we stopped by a print shop to have copies made.  Our next errand was a stop at the Cook Inlet Book Company.  I hate going into Alaskan bookstores because the end result is almost equivalent to having my paycheck sent directly to them.  However, this time I put on blinders and set a direct course for the music CD section.  With a little help from the clerk, I found Hobo Jim's Alaska through Story and Song CD containing the selection The Great Alaskan Railroad.  I also got a copy of Get Mear's, the story of Frederick Mears, the chief builder behind the Alaska Railroad.  I was doing fine until Randy pointed out some beautiful postcards.  Hey, they were four for a dollar and I really needed to send a few home to the Combs Family Unit (CFU) so I bought eight.  As I left the postcard racks, I spotted a beautiful photo book on Alaska animals which had a price tag that was more than the birth of my son (which was $14 incidentally).  Collecting every bit of resolve I had, I passed up the temptations, paid for my items and quickly departed the store.

The south bound Whittier shuttle was idling impatiently at the Anchorage depot.  Randy went out to grab a few photos while I called Robert Krol from the pay phone.  Although I was carrying my cellular phone, the $3.50 per call roaming charge and 69 cents per minute fee made me intimate friends with pay phones throughout Alaska.  I connected with Robert and discovered he was just up the hill delivering a large truck load of luggage for Princess Tours.  He wrangled a work break and arrived at the depot a few minutes later.  It is always great meeting someone who you have spent several years swapping emails with, for the very first time.  The real kicker was the small box Robert handed to me.  It contained a detailed custom painted HO scale GP49 number 2805.  I was just about speechless!

RDCsPutting our yard pass to good use, we spent over an hour taking pictures of locomotives and freight.  Our luck continued to hold as all four Rail Diesel Cars (RDCs) were present.

For beginners only: The Budd Co. constructed 404 Rail Diesel Cars (RDC) for 27 railroads and 4 foreign countries from 1949 to 1962.  The Alaska Railroad has four RDCs numbered 701, 702, 711 and 712.  They basically are a passenger car with its own motor.  The Alaska Railroad typically uses these for runs from Talkeetna MP 227 to Hurricane MP 283.  The RDCs don't supplement the passenger service, but instead provide access for the people that camp, fish or have cabins in the road less area between Talkeetna and Hurricane.  There is also a year round once a month RDC Passenger run from Anchorage to Hurricane. This allows the cabin people to come to town for extended time for shopping,

3015Robert Krol called my cell phone and left a message.  I returned to the Anchorage depot pay phone and returned his call.  I'm glad I did!  He told me GP40 no. 3015 would be pulling a north bound passenger train into the Anchorage depot very soon.  For those of you who don't know, no. 3015 is my favorite of all the Alaska Railroad locomotives.  When my wife and I rode the rails in 1986, it was no. 3015 that pulled us to Denali National Park.  When my Scout troop took the train from Anchorage to Seward in 2000, again it was no. 3015 doing the job.  Since that time, she had been rebuilt and repainted and I just had to see her.  At 11:30 a.m., she proudly pulled into the depot.  From the photo at right, you can see she is a real beauty.

Duane FrankJust as we were preparing to leave, a work train came roaring past the depot.  On the point was conductor and friend Duane Frank waving to me.  Duane is a third generation Alaska Railroad employee and is very well liked.  We photographed the work train as it roared past.  Two GP40s nos. 3004 and 3007 in their traditional black and yellow paint scheme were providing the power.  I sure hope top level management leaves the colors of these freight service locomotives as is.  I have developed a real affection for it over the years.  Bringing up the rear was work caboose 1074.  I went back my buddy the pay phone and called engineer Bob Yost to arrange a tour of his home.  As luck would have it, he was home and available.

Gold Creek wreckBob Yost's house is divided into two sections.  The first section is his wife's Indian art collection while the other is his railroad collection.  We spent almost all of our time drooling over the railroad collection section.  As you entered the door, you'll find two steam locomotive bells refurbished to mint condition.  In the den is the original track signs from Honolulu and Rainbow.  He has antique glass insulators, builder's plates and widgets of every shape and size.  a majority of our time was spent going through his extensive Alaska Railroad photograph collection.  Bob was kind enough to let me borrow 50 of his photos to take home and scan. One of his photos from the Gold Creek tank car wreck is shown at right.

Our next stop was Anchorage Sand and Gravel, the King of Alaska gravel companies.  If you visit me on the job back home, you'd either find me in a windowless vault or an evil twisted little cubicle with seven foot high walls.  So you can imagine the pleasure I felt as I ate Don's lunch while watching gravel train operations under a blue Alaska sky.  As an added bonus, the relatively new caboose 1091 sat right in front of us.

Next on our "to do" list was to visit HobbyCraft.  We talked with manager and friend Tim Fachko about the HO scale Overland caboose controversy.  Although there were several things about the model that did not match the prototype, the worst one was the roof should be blue and yellow, not solid blue.  Tim was returning all his cabeese to have them corrected.

Pat and Nancy Durand's home in Eagle River is one of our favorite stops.  They treat you like family plus Pat and Casey have an awesome collection of Alaska Railroad stuff.  Soon after we arrived, Nancy had a dinner of meat loaf, potatoes, salad and rhubarb cake ready for us.  This was my first home cooked meal in about a week.  We shared stories about our travels and Pat was particularly interested in our venture into the Buckner building.  We asked him questions about the layout of the building and this grew into a festival of stories about his boyhood days in Whittier from 1957 to 1960.

Nenana DepotAdjourning to the basement, we took a look at Pat and Casey's custom made HO scale Alaska Railroad models.  These two are master craftsmen extraordinaire and detail down to the very rivet and seam.  We saw a parade of locomotives such as 1201, 1300, 2401 and 1510 in bicentennial colors.  Then Pat brought out his current masterpiece, the laser cut wood Nenana depot complete with detailed interior and working lights.  What a gift he has!  Next, we browsed his ARR memorabilia as well as his extensive photo collection.  He was even kind enough to give me an Extra South Roster and some ARR photos taken by Clayton Tinkham in World War II.

Even with all this excitement, our eyes were getting fairly heavy.  We headed to bed at 11:15 p.m. thus ending another 16 hour day.

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