When my wife Cynthia and I arrived at the depot, I was surprised at how many parking places were already full. The queue for the free train ride was already forming before the official start time. I dropped Cynthia off at the depot for her volunteer stint (11am to 1 pm) at around 10:30, then I went to park in the ARRC lot, (employees vehicles only), which was also impressively full.
The day was beautifully warm, as it has been since I arrived around 8 days ago, almost warmer than reasonable for this time of year. I saw a bit of shunting of Princess and McKinley explorer cars across Ship creek and the C st crossing. Probably did not do much for the truck drivers temper's, as they had to wait a long time... (no shots of this). Obviously everyone is getting ready for the summer season, which has arrived early!
Over at the depot, it was getting crowded. The queue for the train ride stretched almost all the way around the depot at one point. People were swarming the giveaway table to pickup postcards, button pins, bookmarks and to fill in the door prize tickets.
Conductor Warren was promoting the Hurricane Turn train wonderfully, he was often knee deep in children, and obviously loving it. The door prize there was a golden spike for the kids!
Other attractions were special tour/train pricing, tattoos for the kids (I did see at least one adult getting one!), and apparently, thousands of blue ARRC balloons (many escaped, they will be finding them for days in the Anchorage area I suspect. Look at the ceiling of the depot in one pic). [Cynthia comment: 1 in 3 people visiting the giveaway desk had green eyes! I'll leave it to editorial discretion on whether to publish that!].
Of course the Operation Lifesaver table was also being well attended, and I hope everyone was learning to be safe around trains, as we don't need any accidents for many many many good reasons.
The gift shop was very busy too. Lot's of good stuff for sale.
Outside, the 557 Locomotive restoration company was set up under the actual cab of 557, selling J Craig Thorpe's wonderful print of "557 Extra Returning" (I have print # 59). The night before at (more or less) 5:57 PM, there was a nice event where Mr Thorpe explained his process and the train of events that led to the production of the print. Pat Durand explained progress of the restoration, and presented special prints numbers to the wonderful benefactors of the project. Pat's report is that the print sales have exceeded the "break even" point, and are into profit. By the way things looked to me, they will be sold out soon, and the follow up print may also be published. ( no shots of this, sorry, but some were being taken by others)
The "Travel Train" display, was great. A full set of very modern MOW gear was on display, as well as basically every type of passenger car in the ARR fleet. A special treat for the children was the chance to actually get into the CAB of a SD-70MAC! (50+ year children like me!).
I was really, really impressed by the patience that the people of Alaska showed in getting that free train ride! I suppose they could only get 300-400 people onto the train at once, and while I was there, it ran 3-4 times, and they were still queued up for what I'd estimate were 3 more loads! I think this shows that there is a lot of interest in the railroad, and what it offers the people of Alaska, and the world. I am a bit more optimistic than I have been, given the news about the Flint Hill refinery. I hope they mention the importance of the ARR to Alaska to our legislators, when we vote in November (I sure will).
Now, John, I'm sure you don't care, but guess what locomotive was heading up the free trains ride? (hint, look at the photo's).The magician is in the shot's, as is a Moose and Eagle, lot's of children, some of us older type, but a great day I think.
- Terry Douglas
|Ballast spreader||Spike puller||Tamper||Tie remover|
|Hurricane Turn table||SD70MAC cab||Bald Eagle||The free train ride queue|
|Guess which locomotive!||Mobile Magician entertains kids||No. 557 and J. Craig Thorpe booth||Action at the giveaway table|
|Moose||Crowd in the depot|
Do you suppose if free trains rides were offered, would anyone show up?
GP-40 number 3015 headed up the free train rides.
© 2014 Terry Douglas, Matt Leistico, Jim Somerville and Stewart Sterling