Trains and snow


I can't believe you read my journal all the way to the end! I did put a lot of time and effort into it. As a matter of fact, if I had been using the same amount of time in the workplace, I would have earned over $2,000 (but would not have had as much fun.) So, how about doing me a favor in return? Just drop me an e-note at and let me know you read it all the way through. I'd sure appreciate it! Also, please feel free to send all comments, criticisms, corrections, suggestions and additions to me and I will make changes as time permits.

As it turned out, I really, really did need just two more days! I did not get to visit the National Archives, where hundreds of linear feet of Alaska Railroad historical information reside. I did not visit a half dozen people that I promised to stop by and see. I was a little unhappy about all this until Frank Dewey made a very insightful statement, "You are just one man trying to doing a myriad of things." You know, he's right.

Now that I have experienced an Alaskan winter and viewed train service up close, I have a new respect for the Alaska Railroad worker. I have two points that illustrate this. First, when Jeff DeBroeck and I hiked back from Riley Creek Trestle, I trudged through six inches of snow and had a mighty arctic blast hitting me in the face and chilling my body. I said more than once, "I can't believe people can work under these conditions!" Second, I remember a story one of the old "heads" were telling from his railroad days gone by. It was about a brakeman who had to walk from the front to the back of a very long freight train through shoulder high snow. He spoke with contempt in his voice when he said the brakeman only made it half way before turning back. All the other old "hats" listening to the story laughed and commented on how green the person was. Remember my story about trying to get a photograph of Jordan Spreader 9? I was only up to my hips in snow. I was unable to lift my legs or feet. I had to dig my way through the snow for five minutes before I could get back to the spreader. let me tell you something - the people working for the railroad out on the rails day after day are a tough breed and they have earned my deepest respect.

I brought home a lot of photos, negatives, video, recorded audio, stories, historical information, charts and other items. It will be months before I get it all online. Please be patient.

I still have a multitude of things to do when I return with Randy Thompson in 2005, the most important of which is to extend the trip two more days.

John Combs

Chapter 11 | Index