Matt Leistico's Whittier Trip Report

by Matt Leistico

Whittier trip – Sunday, September 11, 2005 – last trip of the year.

So in the middle of the year, my mom made the decree that she was coming to Alaska. As one of the 'Alaskan' things to do was one of the train trips from Anchorage. My wife and I had already taken her parents on the Seward trip and (nauseating) Kenai Fjords boat ride in 2003, then my wife and I took the Denali trip in 2004 so the Whittier trip was next up in the rotation. The trip was originally planned for the 10th, but due to scheduling issues got bumped to Sunday – to the joy of my wife, who then played the "Start of football season/and would prefer not to have another bad boat experience" card. (Denver still lost 34-10 to Miami).

Ordered the tickets on Thursday the 8th (really planning ahead here) and used the 'Northern Lights Coupon book to get buy one, get one free train tickets and 20% off the 26 glacier cruse'. Sparing no expense on this trip.

Got to the depot at 9:00 am for the 10:00 am departure. Consist was GP38-2 #2002, baggage #111, Montana Rockies Rail Tours dining car #353, coaches #210, #202 and RDC #711 on the rear.

3 Budd #711 in the morning sunlight.
image Loading the train, seemed to be a fair number of passengers on board. Also seemed to be a significant amount of Japanese tourists as well. – Later on the 26 Glacer cruise boat tour, they did the commentary in English as well as Japanese.
image Train consist
image Conductor Steve Culver doing his thing. (Why do railroads always check tickets once the train is moving? I have yet to see one person thrown from a moving train for not having a ticket)
image Passing equipment and railroad employees at the Potter siding.
image Image looking out the back window of the RDC.
image Same as above, but with the camera up against the back window.
image Our southbound Whittier train had to take the siding at Rainbow for a northbound train of cruise ship passengers to pass by.
image The RDC #711 at the end of the train also serves as the front of the train when making reverse moves, as well as being a 'mud room' where they load the rafters back into the train from the Grandview/Spencer glacier raft trip. On the first aid box is a little piece of taped up railroad art. Still snickering at the 'Exercise Program' at the top with the little stick figure.
image Standing at the rear of the train, looking at the RDC's rear view mirror, which is actually facing forward, showing the rest of the train going around some of the curves along Turnagain Arm. Took about ten shots of this and only two came out looking good.
image Going through Indian and passing more railroad work equipment along the siding.
image At the back of our coach was a collection of 'Alaskan Items' provided by the conductor for the passengers to look at including various critter parts, his personal photo albums, a Tupperware container of' ‘glacial silt' (take that home, smear it all over your car till it’s all a nice dull grey, and you have an authentic Alaskan automobile), and a collection of various railroad related books (that I need to get at the Title-wave book store.) Also, this is what happens to foxes when they become used to humans who feed them cheese crackers – tisk tisk, your not supposed to feed wildlife – end of stern talking to.
image Passing along a section of the tracks where the highway, and train tracks were shifted away from the mountains, and a new bike path was installed. To lessen the effect of avalanches have on the road and tracks.
image The train made a brief stop at Girdwood to pick up additional passengers. The image was taken from inside the train, but I saw that the white Girdwood sign can be seen in the windows reflection.
image At Portage the train then makes another quick stop to pick up the rafting guides and their gear.

Turning of the Seward mainline to Whittier. Hehe I'm in someone's picture.

image Passing the four track storage yard just outside Portage. Also in this storage yard (no picture of it) were several individuals in full hunting gear, with rifles, sitting on the flat car waving at the train going by…Yeah for increased security that only hits railfans in yards with cameras, and doesn't care about hunters with guns.
image Another sunny day in Whittier…
image A picture looking back at the departing Whittier train, taken from the 26 Glacier cruise boat.
image Otters
image Glacier named: (think fast, cant remember- Matt's Glacier)
image Looking down College Fjord.
image View of all the other tourists lined up on the other side of the boat.
image Series of photos showing glacier calving. This was also accompanied by much noise from the glacier – think icecube tray, but much, much larger.
image Otters on Ice.
image One of the many waterfalls seen throughout the area.
image Whittier, from the Klondike Express
image  Whittier, from the Klondike Express, showing the car float ramp.
image The deluxe Whittier railroad station. With plenty of fresh air.
image Gratuitous Geep shot.
image Looking at the end of track (passenger) and on into 'downtown' Whittier.
image End shot of the #711. With just a little reflective help from the camera's flash to help the colors stand out. Also little side note I learned a while ago about why you see piles of sand. When putting a train into emergency, the sanders kick on. So when the engineer stops the train here he may inadvertently put it into emergency which then leaves sand then needs to be dealt with.
image Returning back to Anchorage at the end of the season, it gets darker a lot earlier then mid season. This was a sunset shot along Turnagain arm, around 8ish pm.


© 2005 Matt Leistico