An Alaska Railroad passenger excursion train at Spencer Glacier.
|Dates of operation||1914–Present|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) (standard gauge)|
|Length||470 mi (760 km)|
The Alaska Railroad (reporting mark ARR) is a Class II railroad which extends from Seward and Whittier, in the south of the state of Alaska, in the United States, to Fairbanks (passing through Anchorage), and beyond to Eielson Air Force Base and Fort Wainwright in the interior of that state. Uniquely (for America), it carries both freight and passengers throughout its system, including Denali National Park (most other intercity passenger rail in the U.S.A. is carried on the federal Amtrak system). The railroad has a mainline over 470 miles (760 km) long and is well over 500 miles (800 km) including branch lines and sidings. 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 Rupert, British Columbia) but does not currently have a direct, land-based connection with any other railroad lines on the North American network. In 2011, the company earned a profit of $4.9 million (down 11%) on revenues of $161.5 million (up 8.5%), $121.5 million of which was operating revenue (up 11.9%).
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 51 miles (82 km) 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 Matanuska-Susitna Valley. In 1909, another company, the Alaska Northern Railroad Company, bought the rail line and extended it another 21 miles (34 km) 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. President Taft authorized a commission to survey a route in 1912. The line would be more than 470 miles long and provide an all-weather route to the interior. In 1914, the government bought the Alaska Northern Railroad and moved its headquarters to "Ship Creek," later called Anchorage. The government began to extend the rail line northward.
In 1917, the Tanana Valley Railroad in Fairbanks was heading into bankruptcy. It owned a small 45-mile (72 km) 3 ft (914 mm) (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 near Fairbanks.
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 standard gauge.
In 1923 they built the 700-foot (213 m) Mears Memorial Bridge 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, on the north side of the bridge. The railroad was part of the US Department of the Interior.
The railroad was greatly affected by the Good Friday Earthquake which struck 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.
In 1967, the railroad was transferred to the Federal Railroad Administration, an agency within the newly created US Department of Transportation.
In 1985, the state of Alaska bought the railroad from the U.S. government for $22.3 million, based on a valuation determined by the US Railway Association. 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 Corporation, Alaska Housing Finance Corporation (AHFC), and Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA)).
Proposed expansion in Alaska 
As of April 2010, an extension of the railroad from Fairbanks to Delta Junction is planned, having been proposed as early as 2009. Originally, the extension was to be completed by 2010, but construction of a major bridge across the Tanana River has barely begun, and construction of track has not started. A proposed 2011 Alaska state budget would provide $40 million in funding for the bridge, which would initially be for vehicular use, but would support Alaska Railroad trains once construction of track to Delta Junction began. The United States Department of Defense would provide another $100 million in funds, as the bridge and subsequent rail line would provide year-round access to Fort Greely and the Joint Tanana Training Complex. A groundbreaking ceremony for the Tanana River Bridge took place on September 28, 2011.
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 in 2010.
Possible Connection to the Lower 48 
The 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 (2004–2006) governments did not choose to join the commission and commit funds for the study. The Harper government 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). Another 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 3 ft (914 mm) (narrow-gauge) White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad), although today the White Pass & Yukon only goes as far north as Carcross, Yukon, because the entire line was embargoed in 1982 and service has not been completely restored.
General managers under federal ownership 
- Col. Frederick Mears, 1919-1923 (was originally head of the railroad as chairman of the Alaska Engineering Commission)
- Col. James Gordon Steese, 1923-1923
- Lee H. Landis, 1923–1924
- Noel W. Smith, 1924–1928
- Col. Otto F. Ohlson, 1928–1945
- Col. John P. Johnson, 1946–1953
- Frank E. Kalbaugh, 1953–1955
- Reginald N. Whitman, 1955–1956
- John H. Lloyd, 1956–1958
- Robert H. Anderson, 1958–1960
- Donald J. Smith, 1960–1962
- John E. Manley, 1962–1971
- Walker S. Johnston, 1971-1975
- William L. Dorcy, 1975–1979
- Steven R. Ditmeyer (Acting) 1979-1980
- Frank H. Jones, 1980–1985
Presidents under state ownership 
Routes and Tourism 
The railroad is a major tourist attraction in the summer. Coach cars feature wide windows and domes for this reason. Private cars owned by the major cruise companies are towed behind the Alaska Railroad's own cars, and trips are included with various cruise packages.
- 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 356 miles (573 km), 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 114-mile (183 km) journey takes around four and a half hours due to some slow trackage as the line winds its way over the mountains.
- The 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 evening.
- 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.
- A 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.
Rolling Stock 
Active Locomotives 
Retired Locomotives 
The historic Alaska Railroad station in Anchorage, Alaska.
The Alaska Railroad station in Fairbanks, Alaska.
An Alaska Railroad excursion train with an EMD GP40-2 leading.
In 2011 the Alaska Railroad reacquired ARR 557, the last steam locomotive used by the railroad, with the intent to refurbish it and begin operating it in early 2012 as a special tourist train between Anchorage and Girdwood.
A type "2-8-0 Consolidation" engine built in 1943 by Baldwin Locomotive Works, 557 was originally coal-fired, but was converted to oil in 1955. In operated until 1964, when it was sold to the House of Poverty Museum in Moses Lake, Washington.
Jim and Vic Jansen bought 557 from the museum and returned to the Alaska Railroad on the condition it be restored to operation and put into service.
In popular culture 
- The Alaska Railroad was prominently featured in the movie Runaway Train.
- The Simpson family rides the Alaska Railroad in The Simpsons Movie, although the colors and configuration of cars and engines are inaccurate. They also ride the train from Alaska to Seattle, Wash. which is not possible as there is no railroad link from Alaska to Canada and the southern 48 states.
- The railroad is mentioned in the 1995 film Balto.
- The railroad is briefly seen in the opening of the 2007 film Into the Wild.
See also 
- Alaska Engineering Commission, the Federal agency which constructed the Alaska railways
- Transportation in North America
- Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel
- "Commuter Rail Safety Study". Office of Safety and Security, Federal Transit Administration, United States Department of Transportation. November 2006. Retrieved 2008-07-31.
- "FTA-MA-26-0052-04-1 Rails-with-Trails: Lessons Learned". Federal Highway Administration, Federal Railroad Administration, Federal Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Federal Transit Administration; United States Department of Transportation. August 2002. Retrieved 2008-07-31.
- Alaska Rail Marine
- Aqua train
- Cohen, Stan (1981). The Forgotten War: A Pictorial History of World War II in Alaska and Northwestern Canada. Missoula, Montana: Pictorial Histories Publishing Co., Inc. ISBN 0-933126-13-1, p. 61
- McCulloch, David S.; Manuel G. Bonilla (1971). The Great Alaska Earthquake Of 1964, Vol 1, Part 2: Effects On The Alaska Railroad. Washington: National Academy of Sciences. pp. 543–640. ISBN 978-0-309-01601-8. Retrieved 2009-08-14.
- "Alaska Railroad extension moves forward". Trains Magazine. 16 April 2010. Retrieved 18 April 2010.
- "Alaska Railroad begins to build Tanana River Bridge". Progressive Railroading. 27 September 2011. Archived from the original on 29 September 2011. Retrieved 30 September 2011.
- "STB authorizes new Alaska Railroad line". Progressive Railroading. 22 November 2011. Archived from the original on 24 November 2011. Retrieved 24 November 2011.
- Atwood, Evangeline; DeArmond, Robert N. (1977). Who's Who in Alaskan Politics. Portland: Binford & Mort for the Alaska Historical Commission. p. 7 (of appendix).
- The Alaska Railroad - History, accessed October 2008
- "Alaska Railfan".
- "Old 557 Returns". Anchorage Daily News.
General references 
- Alaska Railroad
- "Northern Railbelt map" (PDF). Alaska Railroad. Retrieved 2008-07-17.[dead link]
- "Southern Railbelt map" (PDF). Alaska Railroad. Retrieved 2008-07-17.[dead link]
- "Media Kit". Alaska Railroad. Archived from the original on 28 August 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-17.
- "2008 Press Information" (PDF). Alaska Railroad. Retrieved 2008-07-17.
- "New for 2008" (PDF). Alaska Railroad. Retrieved 2008-07-17.
- Surface Transportation Board, ALASKA RAILROAD CORPORATION--CONSTRUCTION AND OPERATION EXEMPTION--RAIL LINE BETWEEN EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE (NORTH POLE) AND FORT GREELY (DELTA JUNCTION), AK, October 4, 2007
Historical References 
- Adams (ed.), Cyrus C. (1909). "Geographical Record: America, Railroads In Alaska". Bulletin of the American Geographical Society XLI (1): 28–29. Retrieved 2008-08-14.
- Alaskan Engineering Commission (1916). Reports of the Alaskan Engineering Commission: For The Period From March 12, 1914 to December 31, 1915. Washington: Government Printing Office. Retrieved 2009-08-13.
- Alaskan Engineering Commission (1917-1918). "Official Publication Of The Alaskan Engineering Commission". Alaska Railroad Record II (1-52). Retrieved 2009-08-13.
- Bernhardt, Joshua (1922). The Alaskan Engineering Commission: Its History, Activities And Organization. New York: D. Appleton and Company. Retrieved 2009-08-14.
- Mears, Frederick (1917). "The Alaska Railroad". Society of the Chagras, Year Book 1916-17: 193–200. Retrieved 2009-08-14.
- Steese, James Gordon (January 1914). "Transportation Conditions In Alaska". Review of Reviews XLIX (1): 58–64. Retrieved 2009-08-14.
- Taft, William Howard (1913). Railway Routes In Alaska: Message From The President Of The United States Transmitting Report Of Alaska Railroad Commission. Washington: Government Printing Office. Retrieved 2009-08-14.
- Tuttle, Charles R. (1914). Alaska: Its meaning To The World, Its Resources, Its Opportunities. Chapter XXI "Celebrating The Railway Victory". Seattle, Wash.: Frankline Shuey & Co. pp. 172–185. Retrieved 2009-08-14.
- Underwood, John Jasper (1913). Alaska, An Empire In The Making. Chapter XVI "Transportation and Communication". New York: Dodd, Mead and Company. pp. 198–221. Retrieved 2009-08-14.
- U.S. House of Representatives (1905). Railroads In Alaska: Hearings Before The Committee On The Territories, U.S. Congress, House Of RepresentativesOn The Bill H.R. 18526, To Construct A Railroad And Telegraph Line In The District Of Alaska, and The Bill H.R. 18533, To Aid In The Construction Of A Railroad And Telegraph And Telephone Line In The Territory Of Alaska, February 2, 6, and 9, 1905. Government Printing Office. Retrieved 2009-08-14.
- U.S. House of Representatives (1906). Railroads In Alaska: Hearings Before The Committee On The Territories, U.S. Congress, House Of Representatives, 59th Congress, 1st Session. Government Printing Office. Retrieved 2009-08-14.
- U.S. House of Representatives (1907). Railroads In Alaska: Hearings Before The Committee On The Territories, U.S. Congress, House of Representatives, January 24 and 29, 1907. Washington: Government Printing Office. Retrieved 2009-08-14.
- U.S. House of Representatives (1908). Railroads In Alaska: Hearings Before The Committee On The Territories, U.S. Congress, House of Representatives, 60th Congress, 1st Session. Washington: Government Printing Office. Retrieved 2009-08-14.
- U.S. House of Representatives (1913). The Building Of Railroads In Alaska: Hearings Before The Committee On The Territories, U.S. Congress, House of Representatives, Sixty-Third Congress, First Session, On Bills H.R. 1739, H.R. 1806 and H.R. 2145 (Part I). Washington: Government Printing Office. Retrieved 2009-08-14.
- U.S. House of Representatives (1919). Construction of Alaska Railroad: Hearings Before The Committee On The Territories, U.S. Congress, House of Representatives, Sixty-Sixth Congress, First Session On H.R. 7417. Washington: Government Printing Office. Retrieved 2009-08-14.
- U.S. Senate (1905-1907). Railroad And Telegraph And Telephone Lines In Alaska: Hearings Before The Committee On Territories, United States Senate, On The Bills S. 6937 and S. 6980, February 10, 1905, Bill S. 191, January 27, 1906, Bill H.R. 18891, January 25, 1907, And Senate Document No. 167, Fifty-Ninth Congress, First Session. Government Printing Office. Retrieved 2009-08-14.
- "The Alaska Railroad". Engineering & Mining Journal 98 (19): 846. November 7 1914. Retrieved 2009-08-14.
- Also see:
- 43 U.S.C. § 942-1 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
- 43 U.S.C. § 942-6 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
|RailPictures.Net – Alaska Railroad photographs at RailPictures.Net.|
|Railroad Picture Archives – Alaska Railroad photographs from Railroad Picture Archives.|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Alaska Railroad|
- Alaska Railroad – Official Website
- Alaska Railroad – A current route map for the ARR
- John's Alaska Railroad Web Page – Unofficial Informational Site