The Alaska Railroad Holiday Train to Seward

by Jane Shue

On Saturday, December 1, 2007, we arrived at the Anchorage Depot of the Alaska Railroad, at 6 a.m. as requested. The depot was already full of people. I mentioned to a railroad employee about the amount of people already there and he said there was a long line waiting when the depot doors opened at 5:30 a.m.

We received our boarding passes, vouchers for breakfast and dinner, and raffle tickets for prizes on the return trip. As we left the depot, we were given a small bag of KettleKorn.

The train consisted of two engines, coaches A & B, the Gift Shop, coaches C & D, the Bistro coach (where food could be purchased, coffee, water, soda, beer and wine), coaches E & F, the Tiki Bar (mixed drinks), and the final engine. We rode in coach E. Each coach had two "elves" to assist the passengers.

The "elves" handed out gift bags to the children at the beginning of the trip. Each bag contained a stuffed toy, an ornament filled with candy and a small bag of KettleKorn.

The train left the Anchorage depot at 7 a.m. It was still dark. We visited with other passengers sitting around us. At the Potter Marsh Section house the train stopped to pick up "three (3) special guests;" Santa, Mrs. Claus and an elf.

The train moved on down the tracks toward Girdwood where more passengers came onboard. Santa, Mrs. Claus and the elf moved through the train coaches, greeting the passengers, and having (Polaroid) pictures made with the children onboard. My husband had his picture made with Mrs. Claus, while Santa visited with the 3-year-old at our table.

We took our breakfast vouchers to the Bistro coach for boxes containing a Breakfast Burrito (scrambled eggs and reindeer sausage), package of trail mix and bottle of juice each. The children’s meals were the same.

The coach E "elves" handed out cards for the little ones to decorate and to hold the picture of them with Santa. They also handed out tape, paper chains, paper stars and paper snowmen projects to construct. Most items were taped to the windows of each coach.

After the train started through the mountains, it began to get daylight. We tried to get some good photos of the light sky and mountain outlines, and Spencer Glacier. After going through the five (yes, 5) tunnels, we saw that a lot of snow had fallen, as there were banks on each side of the tracks where it had been plowed. The trip on into Seward brought much beautiful scenery. We even saw a moose.

Before arrival in Seward, we were given "Passport" booklets (a contest). We were to visited downtown businesses, tour their shops and get their validation stamp or signature. There were eighteen businesses listed, and seven or more validations were required to enter.

We arrived in Seward at 11:30 a.m. The weather was warm, no snow or wind, however a little icy in places. Shuttle buses were waiting to take the people to the downtown shops and the Alaska Sealife Center. The shuttle buses could be flagged down anywhere along the route. We rode the shuttle bus to the Alaska Sealife Center and started visiting shops to get the validations. At noon, we happened to be walking in front of the fire station when the ‘Noon Siren’ sounded. Boy, was it loud!

We flagged down a shuttle bus and rode to the Seward Harbor area to get more validations. While there we stopped by the True Value store and bought a warm hat, then stopped by the Breeze Inn restaurant for validations and a hamburger lunch. After our final validations down the street at the Holiday Express Inn, we flagged down another shuttle bus to go to the Cruise Ship terminal.

A crafts show was being held in the Cruise Ship terminal, with about 35 booths of various items for sale. We walked around, viewing the items and visiting with the vendors. There were nice wooden benches down the middle of the building where we could sit and rest.

Finally, it was 4 p.m. and time to board the train for the trip back to Anchorage. After a busy day, the children were tired. Some of them were asleep already and some fussed and cried, especially one little baby whose parents walked the isle to try to quiet the baby.

By 5 p.m. it was dark. The train had to turn around, before we headed out of Seward back to Anchorage. The trip was pretty uneventful, as we could not see outside.

We took our dinner vouchers to the Bistro coach for our box dinners. We chose the Beef Stroganoff, small salad with Vinaigrette dressing, roll and butter, drink and small pastry. The other option was Stuffed Cornish hen, also with the salad, roll, drink and pastry. The children’s dinner consisted of a hamburger, chips, cookie and drink.

The "elves" handed out coloring pages to anyone who wanted to enter. They even created an "adult" category in our coach, so the adults could participate. Two passengers near us placed second and third in that category, and the first place winner was toward the front of the coach.

The second place winner was seated across from us. Amanda Palma was with her husband and 21⁄2-year-old son. In the summer, Amanda, along with her dad, races Legend cars at the Northstar Nascar track near Wasilla.

As the train climbed up and through the mountains, one "elf" read a story over the intercom while the other "elf" carried the book through the coach, showing the pictures to the passengers.

We arrived back in Anchorage at 9:30 p.m. When we got to our vehicle, it was covered with thick frost, so, like everyone else, we scrapped the windows before pulling out of the parking lot.

Overall, it was a great day. We had a very good time and had the opportunity to meet very interesting people.
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Amanda and Evan Karina and her chain Karina and an Elf Ken and Jane
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Ken and Mrs. Claus Santa - the main man! Santa, Karina and mom Santa's elf
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  Train coach elf Train  


© 2007 Jane Shue