The Midnight Sun

by Stephen Sheldon

You might be interested to know that the ARR did have an overnight train with sleeping cars in the 50's and early 60's.  They ran it in the winter and called it the 'Midnight Sun'.  The AuRoRa ran in the summer.  My first Alaska Railroad trip was in 1956 (I was 9 years old) from Fairbanks to Anchorage on the overnight train.  We were moving to Anchorage for my father to take up his new job as PR man for the ARR.  The overnight service was very convenient because you could travel overnight, spend the day in Anchorage (or Fairbanks) and travel back that night, so you essentially lost only the day in the other town.  The sleeping car we travelled in was the Lake Minchumina.  It was a 12-section, 1 drawing room sleeper.  We rode in the drawing room.  When the Mount McKinley Hotel burned down in the early 70's, the old heavyweight sleeping cars along with some ones purchased from the UP, were moved to Mount McKinley as a replacement.  My wife and I stayed in the drawing room of the Lake Minchumina again!  The other 2 heavyweight sleepers had compartments and drawing rooms.

Added by Patrick Durand on 8/26/16: This was also called the Businessman’s Special. The consist was an FP7 plus a B unit, baggage, coach, dinner snack car and Pullman cars Mt. Susitna and Lake Minchumina.   The Lake Minchumina is at the Museum of Alaska Transportation and I think it has three compartments.  The last one was the conductors office and home away from home. The train left Anchorage late in afternoon on Sundays,  Tuesday, and Friday.  It returned in late afternoon on alternate days southbound from Fairbanks.   This allowed business people a full day in Fairbanks or Anchorage to conduct business and ride overnight. The fare started out at $45.00 round trip for coach. It only lasted until Alaska Airlines got its Convair 880 and charged $75.00 round trip for the 45 minute flight.  The Alaska Airlines Convair 880 came to service in August 1961.   That resulted in cancellation of the railroad winter overnight service.



© 1999 Stephen Sheldon and 2016 Patrick Durand