Alaska Railroad is a Class II railroad which extends from
Seward and Whittier, in the
south of the state of Alaska, in the
States, to Fairbanks (passing through Anchorage), and beyond to Eielson Air Force Base and Fort Wainwright
in the interior of that state. Uniquely, it carries
both freight and passengers throughout its system, including
National Park (most other intercity passenger rail in the U.S.A.
is carried on the Federal Amtrak
has a mainline
over long and is well over including branch
. It is currently owned
by the State of Alaska. The railroad is connected to the lower 48 via
three rail barges that sail between the
Port of Whittier and Harbor Island in Seattle (the Alaska
Railroad-owned Alaska Rail
Marine, from Whittier to Seattle, and the CN Rail-owned Aqua Train, from Whittier to Prince
Columbia) but does
not currently have a fixed land connection with any other railroad
lines on the North American
In 2008, the company earned a profit of $12.5
million (down 23%) on revenues of $158.7 million (up 6.9%), $121.7
million of which was operating revenue (up 5.2%).
In 1903 a
company called the Alaska Central Railroad began
to build a rail line beginning at Seward, near the
southern tip of the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska, northward.
The company built of
track by 1909 and went into receivership. This route carried
passengers, freight and mail to the upper Turnagain Arm. From there, goods were taken by boat at high
tide, and by dog team or pack train to Eklutna and the
In 1909, another company, the Alaska
Northern Railroad Company
, bought the rail line and
extended it another northward. From the new end, goods were floated
down the Turnagain Arm in small boats. The Alaska Northern Railroad
went into receivership in 1914.
About this time, the United States Government was planning a
railroad route from Seward to the interior town of Fairbanks.
the government bought the Alaska Northern Railroad and moved its
headquarters to "Ship Creek," later called Anchorage.
The government began to extend the rail
A 1915 photograph of the railroad
In 1917, the Tanana
in Fairbanks was heading into
bankruptcy. It owned a small (narrow-gauge
) line that serviced the towns of
Fairbanks and the mining communities in the area as well as the
boat docks on the Tanana River
The government bought the Tanana Valley Railroad, principally for
its terminal facilities. The government extended the south portion
of the track to Nenana and later converted the extension to
In 1923 they built the Mears
across the Tanana River at Nenana. This was the
final link in the Alaska Railroad and at the time, was the second
longest single-span steel railroad bridge in the country. U. S.
President Warren G. Harding
drove the golden spike
that completed the railroad on
July 15 1923
north side of the bridge.
The railroad was greatly impacted by the Good Friday Earthquake
southern Alaska in 1964. The yard and trackage around Seward
buckled and the trackage along Turnagain Arm was damaged by
floodwaters and landslides. It took several months to restore full
service along the line.
An Alaska Railroad passenger train
rolling between Anchorange, Denali National Park and
In 1985, the State of Alaska bought the railroad from the U.S.
government for $22.3 million. The state immediately invested over
$70 million on improvements and repairs that made up for years of
deferred maintenance. The purchase agreement prohibits the Alaska
Railroad from paying dividends or otherwise returning capital to
the State of Alaska (unlike the other Alaska quasi-entities:
Alaska Permanent Fund
, Alaska Housing Finance Corporation (AHFC), and
Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA)).
(as of August 26, 2009), there is an extension of the railroad from
Fairbanks to Delta Junction underway to handle the agricultural and
construction activity in that region to be completed sometime in
2010, although they're unsure of the exact date.
United States government during the Clinton
administration formed an international
commission to investigate the building of a rail link through the
Yukon to connect the Alaska railroads with the rest of the North
American Rail Network; Canada was asked to be part of the
commission, but the Chrétien
(1993–2004) and Martin
governments did not choose to join the commission and commit funds
for the study; the Harper
has not yet acted; the Yukon government is interested. A June 2006 report by
the commission has recommended Carmacks, Yukon as a hub. A line would go northward to Delta
Junction, Alaska (Alaska Railroad's northern end-of-track).
line would go from Carmacks to Hazelton,
British Columbia (which is served by the CN), and that line would go
through Watson Lake,
Yukon and Dease Lake, British Columbia along the way. The third line would
go from Carmacks to either Haines or Skagway,
Alaska (the latter by way of the vicinity of Whitehorse,
Yukon, which are both served by the (narrow-gauge) White Pass and Yukon Route
Railroad), although today the White Pass & Yukon only goes as
far north as Carcross,
Yukon, due to the fact that the entire line was abandoned
in 1982 and they have not yet completely restored service on the
There are plans to provide commuter rail
service (Anchorage to Mat-Su Valley via Eagle River, north
Anchorage to south Anchorage) but that requires additional tracks
be laid due to a heavy freight schedule.A spur line will be
built to Port Mackenzie, Alaska, a small port on the opposite side
of the Knik
Arm from Anchorage, and will be completed sometime
during the year 2010.
Presidents of the Alaska Railroad have included:
Routes and Tourism
The Alaska Railroad's "Glacier
The railroad is a major tourist attraction in the summer. The
Alaska railroad coach cars feature single-level seating throughout
the train, with dome cars which are available for any passenger to
enjoy. The wide windows on the cars and domes provide a great view
to enjoy the Alaskan scenery. The Alaska Railroad began featuring
in 2005 which provides plush, luxury
seating and dining for passengers willing to pay a moderate price.
Private cars owned by the major cruise companies are towed behind
the Alaska Railroad's own cars, and trips are included with various
Image:Anchorage RR depot.JPG|The historic
Alaska Railroad station in Anchorage, Alaska.Image:Fairbanks AK train station.jpg|The
Alaska Railroad station in Fairbanks, Alaska.
- The Denali Star runs from Anchorage to Fairbanks (12
hours one-way) and back with stops in Talkeetna and Denali National
Park, from which various flight and bus tours are available.
Although the trip is only about , it takes 12 hours to travel from
Anchorage to Fairbanks as the tracks wind through mountains and
valleys; the train's top speed is 59 miles per hour but sometimes
hovers closer to 30 miles per hour.
- The Coastal Classic winds its way south from Anchorage
along Turnagain Arm before turning south to the Kenai Peninsula,
eventually reaching Seward. This journey takes around four and a
half hours due to some slow trackage as the line winds its way over
Glacier Discovery provides a short (2 hour) journey south
from Anchorage to Whittier for a brief stop before reversing direction for a
stop at Grandview before returning to Anchorage in the
Hurricane Turn provides rail service to people living
between Talkeetna and the Hurricane area. This area has no
roads, and the railroad provides the lifeline for residents who
depend on the service to obtain food and supplies. One of the last
flag-stop railway routes in the United States, passengers can board
the Hurricane Turn anywhere along the route by waving a
large white flag or cloth.
- The Aurora is available in winter months (September 15
- May 15) on a reduced weekend schedule (Northbound, Saturday
mornings; Southbound, Sunday mornings) between Anchorage and
Fairbanks. It is a 12 hour ride and departs at 8:15 a.m.
spur providing service to the Ted Stevens Anchorage International
Airport is used during the summer season for cruise ship
service only. It was activated temporarily during the
Alaska Federation of
Natives (AFN) 2006 convention to provide airport-to-hotel mass
transit for delegates.
Image:Alaska Railroad Locomotive.jpg|An
Alaska Railroad excursion train with an EMD
leading.Image:Hurricane Gorge panorama.jpg|A view from
the Hurricane Gorge trestle into the valley below.
In popular culture
- The Alaska Railroad was prominently featured in the movie
- The Simpson family rides the Alaska Railroad in The Simpsons Movie, although the
colors and configuration of both cars and engines are
- Also see:
- Rights of way in Alaska; railroad rights of way; reservations;
water transportation connections; State title to submerged lands;
Federal repossession as trustee; "navigable waters" defined;
posting schedules of rates; changes in rates
- Rights of way for Alaskan wagon roads, wire rope, aerial, or
other tramways; reservations; filing preliminary survey and map of
locations; alteration, amendment, repeal, or grant of equal rights;
forfeiture of rights; reversion of grant; liens