Picture of the Week
Archives Section

Welcome to the Alaska Railroad Picture of the Week archives. A photograph is truly worth a thousand words. The Picture of the Week page began on February 16, 1998 with Jeff Child's photo of the Alaska Railroad's first locomotive, number 1. Since that time, professional photographers, railfans, Alaska Railroad employees, historians and passengers have sent a multitude of prints, slides, scanned images and digital photographs. Unfortunately, I can only post a fraction of what I receive due to lack of time. Sit back, relax and enjoy!

Picture of the Week Archives: 1998 | 1999 | 2000 | 2001 | 2002 | 2003 | 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012

2013 Pictures of the Week
01/07 Chris Nuthall

Having attention to its drawgear, E9A #2402 sits inside the maintenance shed at Anchorage in August 1985.

E9A #2401 (former Amtrak 430/UP 957) and F7B 1503 stand outside of the ARR Workshops at Anchorage in August 1985.

01/14 Frank Keller Under the category of, "photos I wish I had taken," I submit this stunning entry. Frank Keller says of his photo, "A southbound coal train traverses the confines of treacherous Healy Canyon on what was a beautiful fall day. Fall is a great time to take photos in Alaska as often it is the best weather of the year." 9/11/12
01/21 Unknown The Fairbanks Coal Bunker was built by the Healy River Coal Corporation in 1932. The wooden structure was 54 feet high and 196 feet long and dispersed the coal via 26 chutes into trucks. Originally the hoppers were pushed into the structure where they would dump their coal. In 1962 the ramp was replaced with an electric conveyor system. The last load of coal was sold in December 1996 and the bunker was removed the next year. Photographer and date unknown.
01/28 Don Marenzi and Curt Fortenberry

As the railroad approaches it's 90th anniversary in July it got me to thinking about Alaska and its centennial celebration. So I decided to use the corresponding photos for this week's entry.

The photos are opposite ends (1, 2) of the exhibit train parked at the Anchorage International Airport during the Alaska Centennial Exhibition in 1967. Some of these cars are at the Museum of Alaska Transportation and Industry today. - Don Marenzi. Also see logo photo.

I was looking for something and I found this shot I had taken some years ago when I got close to one of the old 11700 reefers. This was the door decal that folks ask about. These were built with the AK Centennial coming up so the decal was relevant back then. - Curt Fortenberry

02/04 Unknown

Depot Seward Alaska - This photo dates to 1923 when the Seward Depot was in its original location further west along the water front between town and the railroad yard. With all the "Govenment Men" on the platform this is either the train that President Harding took North from Seward or the one he took South on leaving the Alaska Territory. It could also be a practice run for his security detail.

The observation car is the original SEWARD of the Alaska Engineering Commission as indicated on the letter board UNITED STATES. It is parked in front of the old Freight house.

Sig Vold was the Dodge Brothers dealer in Valdez and Fairbanks. He had new 1923 touring cars that he made available to the Presidential party when they were in Alaska. They were actually part of the taxi fleet he operated in Cordova, Valdez, McCarthy etc. One of those cars is in the Brown Family collection in Anchorage and another is restored operational and in the gallery of the Museum of Alaska Transportation and Industry in Wasilla, Alaska. I wonder if the one pictured here is the one at the Museum.

I drove the Dodge Brothers touring car in parades and to and from the Museum in traffic. The four cylinder engine has a combined electric starter/generator. She moved right along at 55 Mph and then I remembered she is on wood spoked bolted rim wheels, with only mechanical brakes on the rear axle. Very nice automobile for her day. - Pat Durand

02/11 Chris Paulhamus Good things come in threes. The Latin phrase, "omne trium perfectum" (everything that comes in threes is perfect, or, every set of three is complete) conveys the same idea as the rule of three. Examples of good things that comes in threes are three coins in the fountain, a three ringed circus and of course Larry, Curly and Moe. Chris Paulhamus' photo shows one more example of good things coming in threes. Of his photo Chris says, "An eventual Seward-bound freight pops and hisses in the -16°F morning temps, waiting for a crew to take it on the journey south out of Anchorage. There are few unobstructed views along the Anchorage Yard, but fortunately this train was parked in one of them!" 1/27/13
02/18 Dave Blazejewski This view looks south from the lead unit on the head end of a special 22 car passenger charter. The train left Anchorage (MP114) and has traveled here to MP 54 to afford passengers a view of Spencer Glacier which is just out of view to the left. This shot looks across the Placer River bridge toward the steep twisting climb through the "tunnel district" and the big curves to Grandview. But this is it for today, and in few moments the train will reverse direction and head back north. Note the large tent on the opposite side of the river. This houses one of the ARR's 105mm Howitzers used for shooting down controlled avalanches. It is one of three used by the railroad in its never ending battle against the Alaskan winter. Note: the photographer is a railroad employee with permission to be on the property and was wearing all required PPE while taking this photograph. 5/5/10
02/25 Jonathan Fischer

Jonathan Fischer says of his photos (1, 2, 3), "It was an incredibly brief encounter almost exactly 30 years ago.  I was out for a few minutes getting lunch and drove by the tracks to see if anything was going on. I saw a CN business car at the end of the joint ARR/CN train. So I had to drive home, get the camera, get the shots, and get back to work.  As it was I was a few minutes late getting back from lunch." Spring of 1983.

[Webmaster's note: I check with an expert and he believes the CN items are there in connection with the dedication of the new barges going into Prince Rupert-Whittier service.]

03/04 Chris Paulhamus The barges are in! Winter is a notoriously slow time for the Alaska Railroad which only sees a couple of movements south of Anchorage per week when the two weekly barges dock in either Whittier or Seward. On this particular Sunday morning, barges are waiting in both Whittier and Seward so the ARR ran two trains south to make the interchange. Here, a trio of Geeps leads a long train just north of Indian headed for Whittier. February 17, 2013
03/11 Jonathan Fischer Here's an image from my technologically challenged 2012 expedition.  In this view, the southbound Aurora is passing the parked Hurricane Turn (ARR 3011) at Hurricane. I particularly liked the dog in the picture. June 7, 2012. 
03/18 Bristol Weeden

In 1932 the Healy River Coal Corporation built the Fairbanks Coal Bunkers to facilitate dispersal of coal to various customers. The facility operated successfully for almost 65 years until oil brought its eventual demise. Today the Fairbanks Coal Bunkers continue to operate except on a much smaller scale; 1/168 scale to be exact! Yes, you will find this beautiful N-scale scratch built version at the home of Bristol Weeden. As Bristol doesn't have any oil rigs on his layout I'm sure his coal bunker will remain in business for many years to come. Click here for more information on the Fairbanks Coal Bunkers.

03/25 Frank Keller Alaska Railroad SD70MAC 4323 wheels an empty coal train north along the shores of Turnagain Arm. In about 45 minutes the train will be in Anchorage and will add a fresh crew for the trip north to Healy where the cycle will repeat itself. 2/21/13
04/01 Frank Keller In my opinion March has some of the best weather Alaska has to offer. Clear skies and moderate temperatures, by Alaska standards, make March a great month for photography. The summer months when many tourists arrive is the rainy season and it is often difficult to put together a string of good weather days. Not so in March where the weather is good and the daylight is plentiful with 12 hours of sunshine. At the end of the day a train of lumber from the barge in Seward with DPU 4002 bring up the rear heads into the setting sun at Beluga on a very nice winter's day. 3/17/13
04/08 Chris Paulhamus A matched trio of GP40-2s swings around the bend for a jaunt down the straight stretch leading to the siding at Brookman. This is what the first day of spring looks like in Alaska...yeah, we're still a ways away from the image one thinks of when hearing the term 'springtime'! 3/20/13
04/15 Shane Durand The southbound oil express yields in the siding at Sunshine for a northbound passenger train during a warm August day in 2004. Freight trains typically yield to passenger trains on the Alaska Railroad since, as one engineer told me, "Freight don't complain." As the passenger train passes conductor Darrel Zable gives it a roll-by inspection. You might wonder what such an inspection consists of. Alaska Railroad conductor Ian Frazier says, "That's is a very old photo you have there. The conductor on the ground has been retired for about 5 years. His name is Darrel Zable. He is waving to the conductor on the other train (I know this from what side of the motor he is sitting on). Anyway, the purpose of a 'roll by' is to look for any defects that might be on the passing train. We are looking for shifted loads, dragging chains, or any other safety issues that might cause problems with the train. We use our sense of smell and hearing as well to check for sticking brakes or problem bearings. If there are any problems we use the radio to notify the crew on the other train that there is an issue and have them stop to fix it. Most times there are no problems and we just report 'good roll by' ".
04/15 Jonathan Fischer In celebration of spring here are two bonus PotWs for you! These are images of ARR 14100 and 50493 taken on Harbor Island, in Seattle, Washington, during a momentary sun break on April 11, 2013.
04/22 Randy Thompson When I took my first Alaska Railroad railfan excursion back in 2000 it was spearheaded by email friend and railroad employee Randy Thompson. As the trip unfolded he proved to be the man of many connections and soon became my mentor as well. Even though Randy moved to Washington State we took three more trips together, the last of which was in 2005. Well Randy returned to Alaska this year as a summer employee at Denali for Aramark. I am so excited for him! After all these years he has returned to the land that he loved with so much passion. So fresh off his camera are four photos he took today (4/21/13) of a southbound passenger train going through Healy, the Healy canyon (1, 2) and across the Riley Creek trestle. Drop dead awesome!
04/29 Unknown

The caption on the back of the photo reads, "Port of Whittier, April 17, 1955, Embarking" Alaska Railroad historian Pat Durand provides some additional commentary - This photo was taken from the bow or stern of a ship tied up along the DeLong Pier.   DeLong was a floating pier design that was floated in and fixed permanently in place after the original ARR dock burned in 1952.  Some of the remains of the original dock can be seen to the right of this view looking West across Whittier. Guess is about 1955 as the new ARR dock is under construction from the false work where the crane is seen at middle right of the image. When I lived in Whittier there were four tugs operated by the Military Sea Transport Service.  Two ST small tugs at 50 foot and two LT Large tugs at 100 ft.  An St and Lt are berthed in the foreground of the photo. This is a typical troop train with the traditional 1948 style converted hospital cars in blue and gold probably with one or two of the new FP7 units on the far end past the depot.   In those days the Navy and MSTS provided troop transport to Alaska usually from the Oakland CA terminal.   The same ships were commonly then en-route to and from Korea.  Families on Permanent Change of Station were also transported with their household goods on the ships as well. The two 52 ft box cars are converted Troop Sleepers based on the window plugs. The new diesel power plant is at the extreme left and the old power plant is still in place.  Both Whittier Arms and the Buckner Building are complete.    Snow cover indicates anytime from November to May.

Pat's comment on the second photo is as follows - This is the only photo I have seen with the troop sleepers still in the Pullman paint being used as a troop train.  As a kid in Whittier from 1956 on I do not recall ever seeing this.   They used regular blue and yellow ARR passenger cars for the troop trains then.   A car buff can identify the car on the dock by year.  Is it a 56 ford? The large dark object hiding the last cars in the train is a large crane or shovel.  You can see the boom and shovel setting on the dock.   Likely Morrison Knutson equipment.

05/06 Frank Keller The first of three southbound freights scheduled an hour apart out of Anchorage is just a minute out of the small town of Indian and a few second shy of full sunshine. It is a rarity to catch three trains in such a short period of time on the Alaska Railroad add in a passenger charter and northbound freight and you have a pretty busy day by Alaska Railroad standards, especially in the winter. 5/2/13
05/13 Ted Smith-Peterson Running along the Turnagain Arm between Anchorage and Portage, an Alaska RR coal train from Healy to Seward continues its journey south on a chilly March morning. 3/11/13
05/20 Robert Krol Spring has arrived here in Clayton, Ohio. Actually, I wonder if summer snuck in a little too early as the temperatures reached 88 degrees today and will soar to the mid 90's tomorrow. Not true for parts of Alaska. As a matter of fact, Anchorage saw unseasonable snowfall Friday (5/17/13) and Saturday (5/18/13) which set a new record. The 2012-13 snow season is 232 days long as of Saturday, the longest on record for the city, according to a Weather Service statement. Robert Krol's photos (1, 2, 3) showed Whittier didn't fair any better with brisk winds and heavy snowfall. I could sure use a little blast of that coldness here!
05/27 Casey Durand

Leaving Fairbanks southbound the Denali Star is lead by 2000-HP GP38 #2005. Hey, wait a second!  A GP-38 can not pull a 15 car consist at speed, so what gives?

When spring comes to Alaska it can be a sudden occurrence.  Large ice flows can damn rivers and cause flooding and washouts.  With the typical pair of 4300-HP SD70MAC-HEP locomotives on the lead you could reasonably pass through water 18" over the rail at a reduced speed. 

But what happens with a load of passengers and tour groups operating on a tight schedule?  You need insurance!  The 2005 is being brought along as helper/cab unit.  If the Big MACs throw ground fault "short out in the water" it will be the duty of the loan GP to pull them back out to safety. 

There is always a creative answer to an Alaskan problem!

06/03 Frank Keller I just got my latest edition of the National Railway Historical Society's Bulletin and the entire magazine is devoted to railroad signals. It got me to thinking about what signals were still present on the Alaska Railroad. I believe Frank Keller's photo highlights this quite well. "A northbound coal train crosses beneath the only signal bridge of its kind on the Alaska Railroad just minutes from arrival in Anchorage." 4/28/13
06/10 Chris Paulhamus ARR 4002, The Spirit of Seward, is on gravel train duty, seen here on the Elmendorf Siding on the tail end of one of the two daily gravel trains that run during the summer. 5/19/13
06/17 Stewart Sterling

He used to carry his guitar in a gunny sack
Go sit beneath the tree by the railroad track
Oh, the engineers would see him sitting in the shade
Strumming with the rhythm that the drivers made

Except the drivers aren't making any noise right now as they've been removed! Yes, Alaska Railroad #557 has had its drivers (1, 2) removed! The restoration work continues to go full bore (pun intended) by a group of dedicated hard working volunteers as donations continue to pour in from around the world. Please take a minute right now and make a tax deductible contribution to help. Dream steam!

06/24 Jonathan Fischer

"The northbound Denali Star, powered by ARR 4326, crosses the Mears Bridge in Nenana, Alaska on June 7, 2013 at 6:14 PM.
"There were two road projects between Healy and Nenana. One was fairly short and was a flagger operation. But the other involved pilot cars that would periodically stop the convoy whilst heavy equipment moved about the construction site that was doubling as a highway. That was slow going, and for some reason that was the only spot where it consistently rained during the entire trip, reducing the area to a sea of muck and flying debris, turning the chase into a real foot race. It was drive, run, and climb the hill, surrounded by a ferocious posse of mosquitos to get this shot. That said, I beat the train from Healy to here by no more than three minutes. But I got the shot."

Nenana depot (center) and the Mears Memorial Bridge (left)

07/01 Jonathan Fischer

Moving my northern base of operations from Healy to Nenana was a real improvement, not that there was anything wrong with Healy. I was able to find a clean and convenient room in Nenana at the Denali View Lodge.  Check in is actually next door at the restaurant called Kristi’s Quisine. They serve fine food with a smile. The old Nenana Depot is across the street to the north. There is a grocery store to the south and a reasonably calm tavern on the east side of the street. Of course, the Alaska Railroad and the Mears Bridge are only a few steps away.

There is an advantage to being at Nenana at dawn, or dusk, as the case may be. It’s a reasonable probability that the northbound freight will arrive in the nascent hours of the day, with a number of photo opportunities present, depending on one’s level of ambition and bug tolerance. To the very fortunate a distant glimpse of Mt. McKinley can be had on rare occasions. There is also an opportunity of catching the night freight southbound on the Mears Bridge in the latest hours of Alaskan summer daylight. Not being a lighting engineer, I cannot tell you why the quality of light improves exponentially as we approach the extreme hours of sunlight in the day in summertime in the interior of Alaska. There is some unique and superb quality to the light that is unmatched.

My head had hit the pillow with ease on the evening of June 8, 2013. It had been another incredible day of photography of the Alaska Railroad. Timing, trains and weather were all in harmony from my first shot of the day at 5:31 AM until my last shot earlier that evening at 8:11 PM. Moments later, or so it seemed, I heard the horn for the grade crossing north of town. I scrambled out the door with the wrong shoes, the wrong lens and most importantly without my mosquito head netting. I quickly drove to ‘the spot’, only to have to wait for ten of the most intense bug minutes of my life. The late spring has made Nenana particularly buggy this year. I was literally wiping layers of bugs off of me as I waited. This was a delightfully entertaining development for the crew working on the river boat behind me. They got off work at 11 PM that night and headed straight for the bar across the street from where I was staying. After I got back to the room I listened to them for a little while through the open window in my room as they laughed about me as they drank the night away.

The train I had heard blowing for the grade crossing was the southbound night freight that had originated in Fairbanks. What I’ve learned is that there is more than one picture to be had in Nenana, and it doesn’t necessarily have to include the Mears Bridge. The Mears Bridge is so magnificent (it is eight feet long in HO scale!) that there is a natural inclination to go for bridge shots, which I freely admit to doing on every occasion possible. But in the extreme evening hours of daylight the bridge is no longer lit. The sun is like a distant spotlight shown down a long corridor, a pin prick of light in copper colored skies contrasting with the longest shadows on earth. The northern light illuminates the western curve of the Alaska Railroad as it turns south after paralleling the southern bank of the Tanana River along the Nenana waterfront. The darkened hills provide a backdrop to offset the silver spans of the Parks Highway Bridge as the southbound freight powered by the 4008 rounds the curve and rolls across the grade crossing entrance to the river boat service yard and launching facility located at the confluence of the Nenana and Tanana Rivers. This was the final and ultimate shot of the day at 10:48 PM.

07/08 Jonathan Fischer

Where do I begin when it comes to describing the greatest five days spent photographing the Alaska Railroad ever? Some guys go to Alaska to fill their freezer with moose meat; but I went to Alaska to fill my digital library full of pictures of the Alaska Railroad. While the contents of the freezer deteriorate with age, the new contents of my digital library will only appreciate with time, with much of this trip having been spent on once in a lifetime opportunities that I will be able to enjoy for many years to come. Having lived in Alaska for a time, and visiting thereafter, I must agree with the locals that the extra long weekend of June 7 through June 11, 2013 was one of the nicest stretches of weather in recent memory. Temperatures were in the 80's in the Mat-Su Valley over the weekend. Day after day was full sun for twenty plus hours a day. If the weather was like this all the time everyone would want to live in Alaska.

The attached photograph of Bear Valley was the second, and probably final, opportunity of a lifetime. It was certainly the most challenging photograph I took on the trip. Back in 1986 I had walked back here in winter and taken pictures of the Whittier Shuttle. There was no road back then, I walked in over frozen Portage Lake. On this trip I wanted to take some new pictures to complement the pictures I had taken years ago. A fair amount of effort went into planning this relatively short hike. This expedition was planned for the last day of the trip, Monday June 10, 2013.

This is a picture of the northbound Glacier Discovery train at Bear Valley station – MP 5.5 on the Whittier branch. It's on its way out of Whittier heading back toward Portage.

I was expecting an arduous journey and I was not disappointed in that regard. There were a number of natural and man made challenges to surmount. Wild animals were also a concern. Once I started climbing the snow field everything started looking familiar again and I was able to get to 'the spot' in short order.

Needless to say, I was pretty happy to get back to the car with these images safely in hand.

07/15 Danielo Napoliello

Many significant events took place in 1970. Paul McCartney announced the Beatles had disbanded, the Apollo 13 mission to the moon was abandoned and the Denver & Rio Grande Western coughed up a dozen F7 units to the Alaska Railroad. The railroad immediately put them in service and worried about repainting them later. Over the next five to eight years the units would be traded in to EMD or scrapped. Here a happy A-B-B-B-A ensemble sits in the yard in Fairbanks on August 27, 1971 in what must surely be one of the last beautiful days of summer.

Over the past sixteen years I have encountered a significant number of railroad buffs who are deeply in love with the F-unit era. Railfans lament about those magical days of yesteryear when diesel locomotives had a sense of grace and style and the prime mover played a powerful yet simple symphony. These units are sometimes referred to as covered wagons since the front of the unit looks similar to the canvas roof of a Conestoga wagon. When an F-unit locomotive is leading the consist would be called a wagon train.

07/22 Jerry VanThomme
Casey Durand

In 1972 the Idaho governor's office, Idaho Peace Officers and Union Pacific Railroad created Operation Lifesaver, a public awareness campaign designed to reduce grade crossing accidents. Fatalities dropped a whopping 43 percent. The campaign grew into a nationwide effort and since that time annual collisions between trains and motor vehicles have dropped from approximately 12,000 to 1,953. Operation Lifesaver provides educational material free of charge to schools and civic organizations and they actively recruit and train volunteers to speak on the subject of rail safety.

May 11, 2013 marked the ARRC's kick-off of a summer safety campaign to enhance the Operation Lifesaver rail safety program in Alaska. This week Alaska Railroad employees and railfans have spotted SD70MAC #4319 wearing the Operation Lifesaver logo. Photographers were wearing all required PPE while taking these photographs. (1, 2, 3, 4)

Additional note from Jerry VanThomme: "As the Northbound Fairbanks P train blows for its departure I'm reminded to let you know 4317 (on point with 4318 trailing) also has the Operation Lifesaver decals."

07/29 Robert Krol

Buses and trains work hand-in-hand to link tourists to their destinations or enable them to view the majestic beauty of Alaska. Robert Krol's first photo was taken June 27, 2013 and shows one of the new MCI buses Princess purchased to haul excited tours visiting the Great Land. This bus came to Alaska via the barge and will be delivered to Fairbanks.

Second photo: The Princess bus has the Princess Railcrew from the DEX (Denali Express) onboard, bringing them back to Anchorage after delivery their guest downs from Denali on the train next to them.  The DEX is making the reverse move to Portage to go around the wye & return to Anchorage for servicing.  They put up a headlight on the rear deck and a railroad crewman is outside being the engineers eyes for the trip to Portage. 5/18/13

08/05 Rocky Grimes I'm sure you've seen those vehicle bumper stickers which say, "I'd rather be fishing" or "I'd rather be biking." Well, mine would say, "I'd rather be riding the Alaska Railroad." Those awesome passenger trips provide the fun of riding the rails plus viewing stunning scenery and wildlife. Rocky Grimes says of his trip, "My wife and I went to Spencer Whistle Stop yesterday [7/22/13] on an incredibly gorgeous day. This is on the trip back to the Portage Station. We had just left Spencer Whistle Stop and were following along the Placer River and took this shot from the platform between cars.  Spencer is the first whistle stop and the second, Grandview, should be completed this summer."
08/12 Jonathan Fischer

Here are a couple images (1, 2) I hope you’ll enjoy. I arrived in Anchorage on the evening of June 5, 2013. Upon arrival I immediately drove down the Seward Highway in hopes of catching the northbound Glacier Discovery.

The result speaks for itself. Wow, I thought, at least I got one good shot on the trip. Little did I know what I was in for over the next few days.

On Monday June 10, 2013 I drove down from Anchorage to recapture my shot from the 1986 at Bear Valley. On the way, at Bird, there was a work train, so I stopped, took a few pictures and chatted for a few minutes with the crew. They were on their way to Indian to meet the southbound passenger trains. These Bird shots were bookends of an absolutely perfect trip.

While the siding has been renamed since I left Alaska, this location will always be Bird for me.

08/19 Randy Thompson Randy Thompson says of his photos, "I was out on my walk last night (8/13/13) and heard the wonderful sound of a train in the distance, so I ran down the trail to try and catch the action at Riley Creek. A southbound coal train with three SD70MAC's (1, 2) were crossing the trestle as I got there. Most images of this bridge show a passenger train (or Rich Holzapfel's work train) but here's some shots of a coal train."
08/26 Jonathan Fischer On Thursday, June 6, 2013 the southbound Hurricane Turn paused for a photographers stop at MP 239, near Chase. This is one of many of Jonathan Fischer's photos featured in this month's issue of Railroads Illustrated. Get your issue today!
08/26 Terry Douglas I could not resist throwing in this bonus photo of my favorite lady GP40 #3015 with the cruise train at the Anchorage airport on August 8, 2013.
09/02 Terry Douglas Terry Douglas was kind enough to send us his trip report from this past summer. For this photo he and his wife Cynthia are taking the Hurricane turn. Warren, the conductor, let everyone off during the trip back to Talkeetna at Twin Bridges. The thing to see there are the salmon in the river. Warren is very keen that everyone see the fish, so he brings along some pruning shears, and trims the willow, so that they can be easily seen by the tourists. Some of the passengers helped him with this task! To see more photos from his trip click here.
09/09 Jonathan Fischer Here's an old image from the previous millennium. ARR 3019 and 3020 are sitting on a BNSF ready track just south of the BNSF Stacy Street yard. Off to my right is the UP Argo yard. This is just south of downtown Seattle. The original (as in very first) Costco (since razed) is in the background. This picture was taken in July of 1998, so I'm assuming that these units have completed their service on the ARR and are off to a more uncertain future.
09/16 E.D. Motis Back in the late 1990s when I started this website a fair number of folks emerged from the Internet woodwork to share their love of the Alaska Railroad with me. Indeed their excitement was contagious! At that time I viewed many of those folks as mysterious, vibrant and larger than life characters who had visited far away places and captured the magic appetizingly on film. One of those mythical-like men was E. D. "Deane" Motis. Oh the photos he would send to display on my pages! Over time I lost contact with Deane, but recently reconnected in a minor project collaboration. Later he was kind enough to send me nine photos of F7 units to add to the rich history you'll find preserved here. I will get all of them online as time allows. However, for the meantime, here is F7 #1508 in all her glory in Fairbanks on May 15, 1984. So awesomely beautiful!
09/23 Frank Keller

The National Railway Historical Society was here and I couldn't help but to throw up a pair of Frank Keller photos which document one of the days in their tour.

"It was a beautiful day in Anchorage today, although the temps were only in the upper 30s it was still short sleeve weather as there was no breeze to speak of. Today the railroad ran a charter train for the NRHS so I managed to snag a shot as they met a loaded gravel train coming off the Palmer Branch. — in Palmer, AK. 9/21/13"

Here is a bonus photo of the NRHS train at the Matanuska junction.

09/23 Randy Thompson And finally one more photo of the NRHS train at Riley Creek showing that fall has once again returned to the Great state of Alaska.
09/30 Unknown This is a very early view of 501 in the rudimentary Whittier yard probably early June 1944 based on snow cover and the fact that 501 did not arrive on the railroad until September of 1943. The depot had not yet been built.  The ARR dock was completed in the summer of 1943 and is obscured by the plume of steam over the locomotive.    The Army river boats on the flat cars were bound for interior rivers at Nenana where they were off loaded on the Tanana River.   Then they went down river to the Yukon and were used in support of the Army Air Fields at Tanana, Galena and Fort Yukon. - Commentary by Pat Durand.
10/07 Chris Paulhamus

"A railgrinder (or rail grinder) is a maintenance of way vehicle or train used to restore the profile and remove irregularities from worn rail track to extend its life and to improve the ride of trains using the track." - From Wikipedia

Each fall the Alaska Railroad brings in a railgrinder to restore its rails from Seward to Whittier to Fairbanks. Loram LMIX #608 showed up on the barge last week in Whittier. It was self propelled out of Whittier last Friday (9/27/13) to Seward, in travel mode only. It began work Monday of this week Northbound, and will grind all curves Seward to Fairbanks. Chris Paulhamus was kind enough to provide us two (1, 2) dazzling photos of the unit as it sat idle in Seward on September 28, 2013.

If you like fireworks then check out this Loram rail grinder working at night. Finally, don't forget about ARRC Assistant Terminal Superintendent Richard Holzapfel's journal on his rail grinder operation.

10/14 Frank Keller Just in case your eyes haven't been paying close attention recently, autumn has once again spread its flaming colors across the Alaskan landscape. Tourists and mosquitoes have begun to thin out as the crisp cool temperatures announce an impending winter. Photographer Frank Keller was definitely in the right place at the right time as he catches an Anchorage Chamber of Commerce charter casting a cool reflection in a pond south of Girdwood on a fantastic fall day in the Last Frontier. 10/5/13
10/21 Sherman Stebbins

The Alaska Railroad is currently working on the Northern Rail Extension Project which will provide a rail link between Fairbanks/North Pole and Delta Junction. The line will ultimately provide improved transportation options for the U.S. military, mass transit, and freight movement. Phase one of the project establishes a crossing and an associated levee system of the Tanana River near Salcha.

We are truly indebted to Sherman Stebbins for hiring a pilot to fly him over the project and thus providing us with a series of photos (1, 2) showing the current status. I will add the other 24 photos sometime later this week. Sherman adds, "Hi John! Just got in the door from an aerial photo trip! I thought much more progress would have been made on the bridge. Looks as if just a few of the girder spans are in place. Hopefully they will be laying rails by this time next year! Hope everyone enjoys the photos!" 10/20/13

10/28 Bob Yarger Some pictures I took when we were working on the 1508, which is now on the Adirondack Scenic RR, since repainted.  Not sure they're in order here.  They had to hire a mobile crane as our overhead crane in the backshop could not lift high enough to clear an F unit carbody.  We used it to remove engines on GP9s and RS11s, but the lift on those was lower with the hoods off.  The engine had already been set into the carbody by someone else, but had the wrong flywheel to mate with the main generator, so it had to come out again to install the right flywheel.  The generator was realigned and we got it running again before it left. 1/6/87
11/04 Jonathan Fischer While sorting through some slides the other day I came across these images that had been long forgotten. They were part of a roll of slides that included a trip to the Camas Prairie Railroad in Grangeville, Idaho, so it took me a while to reconstruct the circumstances of how I could have such disparate images on the same roll of film.
These pictures (1, 2) were taken in July of 1983 on my third trip to Alaska following my move to Seattle in July of 1986. These were the last pictures taken on that trip, so that’s why they were the first images on a new roll of film. With the topic being primarily in Idaho this roll of film ended up separated from the rest of my ARR collection. That’s why I was so surprised to run across them again. Found pictures from the 90’s.
Back then the railroad really didn’t mind if you took pictures on the property. These were taken during the day, using my tripod and a time exposure. The Budd’s were sitting side by side on adjacent stalls of the engine house.
I remember that my new girlfriend came over to visit after I got back from Alaska. A year later, by this time in 1994, she was Mrs. Fischer, and nine months later she was the Mother of my first child. That’s why my next visit to Alaska was not until 2008.
And all I had asked her to do was to feed the cats.
Fond memories.
11/11 Frank Keller

Engineer Bill Bivins provides a friendly wave to the photographer on a beautiful day along Turnagain Arm. Who wouldn't be just a little bit jealous! Rainbow. 10/4/13

11/18 Frank Keller Recently, the Alaska Railroad hosted the Alyeska Halloween Train. Costumed passengers traveled from Anchorage to Girdwood, enjoyed a buffet dinner at the Hotel Alyeska and then worked off those calories at a zombie disco at the Daylodge. ARRC dispatcher Frank Keller is dressed as a fireman (is there a railroad pun in there somewhere?) while the engineer is wearing a railroad engineer's costume....I think.
11/25 Matt Leistico The last I knew the old McKeen car was under a white tent on Orca Avenue in Anchorage. However, railfan Matt Leistico's photo clearly shows old #108 is on the move. Matt captured this image at 100th and King streets in an open lot between a scrap yard and Target on 11/10/13. I heard the McKeen car was parked on Municipal property and had become a homeless camp so that prompted the move.
12/02 Jeffrey DeBroeck The restoration work on steam locomotive No. 557 in Wasilla continues at a feverish pitch. The latest development was the locomotive was jacked up and the drivers removed and primed. They were then put on special pallets and tied down for shipment to the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum. Why there? They have one of the only lathes that will turn 57-inch wheels plus Steam Services of America works regularly with them. 11/30/13
12/09 Deane Motis Collection "This attachment should make your day.  I have about 10 specific needs for the collection. Every year, I knock one or two off and at this time I am happy to report, another quest has fallen.  ARR FP7 in the original paint…. (An F7 would have been acceptable as well.)  I have no idea of the photographer’s name or the actual date.  All I know is the shot was made in Fairbanks, the process date was July of 1965, making this one of the oldest slides in my collection." - Deane Motis
12/16 Jonathan Fischer

Here in Clayton, Ohio we were hit by several major snow storms and received a total accumulation of about six inches of that fluffy white stuff. Bread and milk sold out at several stores, homeowners fired up their snow blowers and the kiddies got a few days off school. Of course those who live in Alaska would scoff at all this. A railfan in Anchorage reported there is at least 16" on the ground while another in Whittier reported 13" with much more on the way.

How does the railroad deal with all that snow? Through the use of locomotive plows, Jordan Spreaders, bull dozers and snow cats. Gone are the romantic days of the rotary plows. As a railfan I am saddened by this. I would love to see three locomotives pushing the rotary into a ten foot snow drift sending it flying a hundred feet through the air. Other railroads still make use of rotaries and you can view their usage through numerous videos like this one on YouTube. Jonathan Fischer's photos show pictures of ARR rotary #4 (1, 2, 3) in the Anchorage engine facility in June of 1986. For more info visit my snow fighting page here.

12/23 Mark Earnest Collection A couple of days ago my wife asked me what I wanted for Christmas. I told her I want the exact same thing I have wanted for the past sixteen years. I want the actual EMD GP40 #3015 in my backyard. Somehow I don't think neither she nor Santa are going to come through again this year. So in lieu of the real deal how about a photo of a snow kissed #3015 resting in the Fairbanks yard. Happy holidays!
12/30 Casey Durand Did you get any unusual gifts over the holidays? How about a pooping moose holiday scarf? Or a big bucks T-shirt? In the same spirit of things you will find some very unusual items hanging around the Alaska Railroad yard. How about a giant spool? Remember the days when you were poor and you found the wooden/cardboard spool beside the road. You'd be like, "Hey, it's coffee table time!" Well this spool would make one heck of a coffee table! Or how about this giant girder? Jeff DeBroeck says, "It is for the mainline at Houston over the little Susitna at the new junction for Pt. Mackenzie. I back that up with all the Salcha Girders entered the state at Valdez and were trucked to site. The car behind the one in the picture is carrying all the cross span bracing (not needed for a replacement), and the car is actually carrying two spans nestled back to back. Also the next day a special train took these cars to Houston to unload." Click here to see more unusual loads found on the Alaska Railroad.


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