Copper River and Northwestern Railway

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Copper River and Northwestern Railway
Crnwbridge.jpg
A disused CR&NW bridge along McCarthy Road
Copper River and Northwestern Railway is located in Alaska
Copper River and Northwestern Railway
Nearest city Chitina, Alaska
Coordinates 61°17′34″N 144°42′48″W / 61.29278°N 144.71333°W / 61.29278; -144.71333Coordinates: 61°17′34″N 144°42′48″W / 61.29278°N 144.71333°W / 61.29278; -144.71333
Area 0 acres (0 ha)
Architect Heney,Michael J.
Governing body Local
NRHP Reference #

73002275

[1]
Added to NRHP April 24, 1973

The Copper River and Northwestern Railway was a railroad, now defunct, built by the Kennecott Corporation between 1907 and 1911 to take copper ore from Kennicott, Alaska to Cordova, Alaska, a distance of 315 km (196 mi). The railroad was built by thousands of workers, who laid tracks around glaciers, across canyons and through deep snow and avalanche areas. Michael James Heney started building the railway from Cordova, Alaska. The town of Cordova, Alaska, was actually named by Heney on March 13, 1906.[2] Other businesses tried to build it first to gain access to the rich copper and coal mines. He got the farthest and his idea of using Cordova as a natural shelter harbor worked; the other town's break water - from which his competitor's railways started - was destroyed. He could not pay for the rest of the road, so he sold it to his rival's failed railways. He then retired, but returned to work for the railway when it encountered difficulties. He was in a shipwreck a year later and died of consumption a few months later in 1910, a year before the railway was completed. 129 bridges were built for the railway at a cost of U.S $2.5 million. The most expensive bridge was the Million Dollar Bridge, which cost $1.4 million. The total cost of the railway was $20 million. Telephone lines were strung at the same time as the rail lines.

The last spike in the construction, a copper spike, was driven on Wednesday, March 29, 1911, by Chief Engineer E. C. Hawkins and Superintendent Samuel Murchison at Kennicott. The railway was completed in 1911 so that the company could obtain some of the land beside the railroad tracks. In order to obtain the land, the railway had to be completed within four years.

The cost of the railway was justified because the mines produced $200 million worth of copper ore during their operation.

The good ore in the mines ran out and the last train ran on September 11, 1938. In 1941, the Kennecott Corporation donated the bridges and the land they owned around the tracks to the United States government as a highway route. 48 miles of the Copper River Highway were completed, from Cordova to the Million Dollar Bridge, but the damage to the bridge in the Good Friday Earthquake (1964) blocked further construction. The bridge has recently (2005) been repaired. The roadbed from Chitina to McCarthy now forms the McCarthy Road.

The railroad's nickname was "Can't Run and Never Will".

Historic designations[edit]

On April 24, 1973, the railway was added to the National Register of Historic Places. The railway's bunkhouse was also added to the register on December 5, 2002.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Tower, Elizabeth A. Big Mike Heney: Irish Prince of the Iron Trails. Anchorage, Alaska: Publication Consultants, 2003. 53. ISBN 1-59433-010-7

  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2009-03-13. 
  2. ^ Tower, 2003

External links[edit]