Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Knowing #557 would be headed to her restoration home in Wasilla today, I was up early and ate a quick breakfast. I pulled into the Anchorage yard just as it was beginning to rain. It was a good half hour before #557 began to roll and a KTUU TV video crew filmed her escape. I must admit it was fun chasing her down the highway. I would travel several miles past her and set up for a good shot. I would snap off a few photos as she cruised past and then hopped in the car to race to the next location. Although I have chased trains for years along the railroad, this was the first time I have ever chased one down a highway! Since it was a little uncertain if #557 would have enough clearance to pass safely under the overpasses, the truck would avoid them by taking each exit ramp and then immediately take the entrance ramp back on to the highway.

Knowing I am a big time chocoholic my kind hearted wife had secretly stuck chocolate in my suitcase. I discovered it my first night in Alaska as I was unpacking my bag and had put it in the car for future reference. I must admit it doesn't get much better than that, munching chocolate and chasing trains!

It was fun watching people's jaws drop open when they spotted the unusual cargo on the truck's flat bed. A jogger stopped dead in her tracks and gawked at #557 until she dropped completely out of sight. At one stop I encountered two railroad employees, one of whom is a good friend, in an Alaska Railroad company truck. They were overseeing the locomotive's movement, but by the twinkle in their eye, knew they were enjoying the moment as much as I was.

Soon after crossing the Palmer flats I set up for what I believed would be the best shot of the trip and waited for #557's arrival. And waited. And waited. Eventually, I began to wonder if I had somehow missed it. Long story short, railfan Bill Evans (who was also chasing and photographing #557) called me and said the crew had stopped at a rest area to fix a mechanical problem and to eat lunch. Whew!

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Leaving Anchorage Heading down an entrance ramp Near Birchwood. I love this shot!
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Putting it into low gear A mountainous backdrop I waited an hour and a half here!
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The load was able to clear newer overpasses Entering into beautiful downtown Wasilla.  


The moment #557 pulled into the parking lot of Kenai Builders Supply, the building became the Locomotive #557 Restoration House or just the "engine house" for short. Number 557 had made its journey without incident and now the Alaska Railroad and Lynden crews began the task of putting her to bed. Alaska Railroad employees built a ramp that would enable a Trackmobile to pull #557 off the flat bed and onto the tracks which lead into the engine house. It was an impressive feat and fun to watch as well. The KTUU TV videographer interviewed various people as well as recording #557's graceful movement into the building. Once #557 was inside, the railroad used the Trackmobile to pull the end of the rails inside the building. A mixture of liquid soap and water was used as the lubricant so the rails would slide easily across the concrete floor.

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Pulling in to her new home Videographer captured the moment Lynden donated their services for the move
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Rails are in place Trackmobile begins to pull #557 Halfway down the ramp
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In the home stretch Going.... going....
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Gone! In her new home Part of the southbound passenger train

As the crew was finishing up, the southbound passenger train appeared, complete with McKinley Explorer, Princess and Wilderness Express railcars. Most of us went out the back door to watch it roll by. As we re-entered the building the crew began to break up to head for home. I noticed the entrance to the building did not have an overhead door and asked Pat Durand about this. Pat said they had to remove the old door and a special replacement was on order. Art Chase would arrive later on and provide security for the facility and locomotive.

Even though it had been a long day I couldn't resist the urge to grab a few geocaches while in Wasilla. By the time I got back to the hotel and dumped my photos onto the laptop, it was pretty darned late. All in all, it had been a fantastic day!

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