Erling Nelson's photo collection provided this view of a homebuilt speeder on
the Alaska Railroad. Speeder N incorporated an early Ford radiator. Photographer
and location unknown but we can assume the date to be after 1934, the date of
From man powered hand cars, velocipedes, to Fairmont gas cars, converted automobiles
and home built speeders the ARR used rail mounted vehicles for maintenance up
and down the line. Prior to WWII revenue train "frequency" was dictated
by the arrival of ocean going ships at Seward, about every 10 days or as needed.
As a result, the fleet of Brill cars, or light rail vehicles were used as options
to regular passenger train movements. The boom of construction during the war
years required creative use of all these vehicles in addition to increased train
movements to meet the maintenance and revenue demands placed on the railroad.
The Alaska Railroad depended on rail mounted speeders to transport section
maintenance crews until the highway infrastructure expanded the Parks Highway
paralleling much of the railroad in 1967. A combination of increased train frequency
and the efficiency of using Hy-rail equipment to gain rail access from any grade
crossing, doomed the rail mounted speeder. A variety of ex Alaska Railroad Speeders
can be found at the Museum of Alaska Transportation and Industry.
Photo courtesy of the Erling Nelson collection