Thursday, August 16, 2012

With no pressing plans, I decided to sleep in a bit. I am not as young as I used to be and the time zone difference was kicking me in the head. I also wanted to take a little extra time to look my best as today was a very important day.

About two months ago I saw there was a message on my cell phone from someone in Alaska. When I played the message back I almost had my eyes pop out of their sockets. "John, This is Chris Aadnesen, President and CEO of the Alaska Railroad. I am calling to invite you to be on the Board of Directors of the Engine 557 Restoration Company." Wow! Of course I accepted this honor immediately. To add to my excitement, Pat Durand, Alaska and ARR historian, later contacted me to ask if I would host web pages for the #557 restoration effort as part of my responsibilities of serving on the board.

imageSo today was be the first board meeting for the Engine 557 Restoration Company. I spent the rest of the morning reviewing the board meeting agenda and all the proposed resolutions. At 12:30 PM I entered the Alaska Railroad headquarters building, received my visitors badge and was escorted to the executive conference room. As the various members of the board entered the room I had the distinct feeling I was walking among giants. There were more ARR vice presidents, heads of corporations and company directors then you could shake a stick at. I felt very honored to be sitting among those individuals today.

The meeting itself was pretty standard stuff. The restoration company was stood up and #557 was transferred to it. Lots of business practice resolutions were voted on and passed unanimously. Pat Durand spoke on the restoration process and added that Robert Franzen of Steam Services of America was scheduled to arrive soon to inspect the locomotive and make recommendations. Once this was completed, an open house would be held for viewing the locomotive and encouraging donations. The final discussion focused on fund raising and it was announced the Rassmussen foundation had pledged $350,000 of matching donations. [Webmaster's note: Have you made your donation yet? Every donation of $25 or more will qualify for matching funds. Click here now to donate to this awesome project!]

Once the meeting adjourned, Chris Aadnesen came over and introduced himself to me. I enjoyed his likeable, down-to-earth style and presented him with one of my "John's Alaska Railroad Web Pages" magnets. He informed me he didn't know where in his office he could put it and asked me to accompany him there to find a place. I was speechless. We entered his office and he quickly located a spot for the magnet. We spent several minutes talking about ARRC posters/paintings, locomotive #557 fund raising and train operations in general. He finished our visit by presenting me with an ARRC hat. You could have knocked me over with a feather!

After grabbing a quick bite to eat at Wendy's I headed to the Royal Celebrity Tours car shops. Casey Durand, ARR railfan and modeler, had agreed to take me on a private tour of his workplace as well as the railcars themselves. Now how could I pass that up?

The Wilderness Express is comprised of four of the world's largest and most accessible dome rail cars. Each car is over 18 feet in height, 85 feet in length and boast "the most dome glass of any double-deck rail cars in the world." The cars are also equipped with dome-level ADA-complaint seating, allowing physically challenged travelers to access both levels which was a first in the industry.

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Royal Celebrity's three Colorado Railcar train cars The lower level is used for dining Kitchen
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Power supply unit Very comfortable seating and enormous domes Jean (Casey's companion) entering the car shop
Maintenance area for train cars    

After my tour we made a brief drive through the yard looking for various items of interest. Among other things, I noticed baggage car 110 was renumbered to 90110. Casey explained this was due to the fact that it was now being using for Maintenance of Way instead of passenger service. Apparently this makes things easier when sorting items on a spreadsheet while still retaining its original number. I also caught a glimpse of #3015 thus confirming she is indeed stalking me! All in all, the yard was pretty empty of locomotives as they were out earning their keep.

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MOW #90110 It appears #3015 is stalking me!

Next, we went to Casey and Jean's home to view Casey's current modeling projects. Casey is a master craftsmen extraordinaire and details his HO scale models down to the very rivet and seam. What a gift he has! I must admit I am extremely envious of his work and his creativity. Below are photos of his current projects.

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SD70MAC-Tier 1 is underway. Note the custom canted radiators. A pair of Princess cars....nice decals! I can't wait to see the decals for his Wilderness Express railcars!
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No. 652 GoldStar mouth is watering! Aurora #2000
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Flat car and load Part of Casey's skull collection


To cap off the day we went down to the Anchorage yard to do a little night photography. The evening passenger train had come in and we hoped to get a good shot or two. I did not bring my tripod to Alaska with me so I put my camera on top of Casey's (borrowed) SUV. The shots were a tad blurry, but they were good enough for who they were for.

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The Denali being prepped for a special charter F40 #32
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Number 3009 takes a rest in preparation for another long day tomorrow. Cleaning the glass domes on the Wilderness Explorer

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