Hired(?) by the Alaska Railroad

by Shane Stoddard

Saturday, Sept 12, 1998
Melanie (Shane's wife) sees an ad in the Ogden Standard Examiner Classified section. The Alaska Railroad is in town looking for people to work as locomotive electrician, machinists and carmen. I am definetly interested! The ad says they will be interviewing Monday, September14th.

Sunday, Sept.13, 1998
I call the High Country Inn on 12th street and ask them if the man from the Alaska Railroad is in. Sure enough he is. I give them a message to have him call me. I try a few more times to get a hold of him -- pay dirt! His name is Rich Dyson and he wants me there at 10:00 tomorrow morning. WOW! I bang on the door of room 242 and ask, " Is this the temporary office of the Alaska Railroad? <grin>" He says, "It is!" We talk about everything for about an hour or so. I try to sell myself and my experience as a U.P. certified engineer as best I can and I leave with this funny feeling. So I pick Melanie up and take her back to meet Rich. He asks her if she would like to live in Alaska. "Do reindeer fly?" or something like that was the answer. Great! Does April sound good? OOOOhhhhh yaaahhh! We are goin' to Alaska, buddies. For the next couple of days I walk around in a daze. Melanie and I are looking at each other and wondering if this is for real.

Wednesday, Sept. 16, 1998
We get an E-mail from Rich. It is all go!

Columbus Day, Oct. 12, 1998
We spend the day cleaning out the shed and getting rid of a lot of junk.

Thursday, Oct. 15, 1998
We sold our home. We will have to be out by February 15th. We leave for Alaska on the 28th of February. In the mean time I have a major model railroad to take down, about 8000$ worth. I am glad that I modularized it as it will be going into storage until we can get a home found up there.

Sunday, Oct. 18, 1998
We decided some time ago that we would drive up to Alaska in our 94 T-bird. It is a really comfortable car. The engine doesn't use a drop of oil inspite of the fact it has 130,000 miles on it. We are going up with not much more than our clothes. I am going to take the generator. It is a Honda that is whisper quiet and it will fit in the trunk nicely. I will take the battery charger and the air compressor and a couple of cans of "fix a flat" too just in case we have a dead battery or a flat tire. The Alaska Highway is in pretty good shape in the winter from what I hear. We are going to put a set of Michelin 65054s on the car before we go. They have excellent snow treads plus we will have studs put on them and we will take chains. At the Canadian border they will make sure that we are well equipped for the AlCan. My biggest worry is hitting a large animal at speed, knocking his legs out from under him and putting him through the windshield.

Sunday, Nov. 15, 1998
We are now in the process of moving. They have upped the rent here in the court and we are not going to pay this ridiculous rate so we are going to go live with my Grandmother who's nearly 80 years old. She will need help with the winter snows and wants to enjoy the great-grand kids before they go to Alaska. Everything is still go for a March exodus, we are going to get a few things done to the car before we go. I am concerned about the strut bearings as I think they will need to be replaced. I have been able to take the model railroad down in sections and it appears that I will be able to save every inch of track, the scenery was not begun yet so this made it easier. There was 1000 feet of Atlas code 83 nickel-silver flex and I didn't want to destroy it so I am sectionalizing it and it is working out pretty well. I've got several Central Valley bridges that are now stored in steel boxes and a lot of signals that were custom built that were packed very carefully.

Wednesday, Nov. 25, 1998
It looks as if we will settle in Fairbanks, we have friends there and it is the low seniority end of the railroad. If I bid on the jobs at Fairbanks I can hold the board there as long as I want and this will allow us to get established a little faster. The real estate prices there are downright attractive. With all of these elements and the fact that there are only 32,000 people there it is looking more and more attractive all the time but we will not know for sure until we get there and see it first hand.

Thursday, Dec. 3, 1998

I talked with Rich Dyson yesterday and we straightened some things out. It looks as if the Asian Economic crisis has hit the Alaska Railroad hard. Their Suneel coal train is on its last legs as the Australians have started dumping cheap coal onto the Korean market. The expanded contract with MAPCO bit the dust too. So things are not looking real bright. When we first talked with Rich we felt real good about it, but as time progressed I started having some uneasy feelings about it especially after reading about the Chinook Salmon disaster this year. For some reason I don't feel bad though, it is almost a feeling of relief. The only beef that I have is that they most likely wouldn't have told me until after we had spent a thousand dollars going up there.
One, maybe two very good things came out of this. I made a good friend in Ohio and we were able to get out of that old trailer that was robbing us of every dime in repairs. I think that we will move up to Idaho. Melanie's dad has a lot of real estate and he has offered to carry us on a loan for some land. He wants me to work for him in the construction business too. Maybe something will work out with that. I will stay in touch with you and we can trade model railroad ideas and different things back and forth. We could even put some ideas on a model railroad web page and show people how to do things with less money.
There is a chance that things could improve up there but at this stage of the ball game I am not going to bank on it. If I don't have an absolute job offer, I absolutley will not go.



More to follow?


© 1998 Shane Stoddard