MWR - railfanning the Rocky Mountain West!
Anchorage to Denali, Alaska - July 6, 2000
This was my first trip to Alaska and definitely won't be my last!  My sister, Denise, and I spent the first day riding Alaska Railroad's "Denali Star" from Anchorage north to the station at Denali National Park.  I was hoping to find at least a few of Alaska Railroad's new SD70MACs and on this day I was not disappointed as you will see.  Geez, I was touring Alaska by train, how could I be disappointed!?!  Through out this section, I have linked to John Combs' excellent Alaska Railroad website.  He does a really good job of describing each of the locations.

ARR SD70MAC 4001 - Spirit of Alaska
Anchorage, Alaska

The northbound "Denali Star" departs Alaska's largest city promptly at 8:15 in the morning.  The train includes rail cars for the Alaska Railroad, Westours - Holland America "McKinley Explorer", and Princess Cruise Lines.  On this day, the train totaled 16 cars and an Alaska GP40-2 for HEP behind ARR 4001.
Alaska Railroad's corporate headquarters are located just west of the passenger station and are shown behind ARR 4001.  Sixteen new SD70MACs were delivered to the railroad this year and are being used on nearly every type of train.  Each of the new units are named after a location along the route.  ARR 4001 is named "Spirit of Alaska".
ARR 4001 & Alaska Railroad Corporate Headquarters

North of Anchorage

The Alaska Railroad weaves its way north from Anchorage between the Knik Arm of Cook Inlet and the Chugach Mountains.  When we first left Anchorage, you could see the houses in the "suburbs" but eventually we were surrounded by trees.

North of Wasilla, we met our first train led by a pair of Alaska SD70Ms.  This was a solid unit train of loaded tank cars with a caboose on the end.  I believe this was around the sidings of either Houston or Nancy.  In front of this train in the siding was a MOW gang and their equipment.  We saw MOW work at just about every point on the railroad on the trip up and back.
Meeting ARR 4004 south...

Crossing Hurricane Gulch...
Hurricane Gulch Bridge

The railroad crosses a 914 foot long trestle to get across Hurricane Gulch which is a little over 10 miles north of Chulitna.  The main span of this bridge is a 384 foot arch bridge which was completed in August of 1921.  At its deepest point, the creek is 296 feet below the bridge..  I don't think one can truly appreciate this bridge from the train because you can't really see it on the approaches from either side or from above.  John Combs has some nice shots of Hurricane Gulch Bridge on his website.

Colorado, Alaska

Our train met the southbound Denali Star at Colorado.  A little ritual takes place where ever the Denali Star passenger trains meet - the Alaska Railroad section exchanges tour guides.  The guides are high school and college age kids who are based in Anchorage or Fairbanks.  They switch trains on each trip so they are at home at the end of the time on duty.

At Colorado, Mt. McKinley is directly west but it was not visible this day.

The southbound Denali Star.

Approaching Cantwell, AK...
Cantwell, Alaska

This is the view from the front dome of the train as we approach Cantwell.  The structure in the distance is a high/wide detector.   The train has just passed through Summit which is the highest point on the ARR at 2363 feet above sea level.  Cantwell is located on the south eastern edge of Denali Nat'l Park.

The railroad follows the Nenana River from the summit until it reaches the Tanana River at Nenana.  In this shot, the river is on the right and Denali Nat'l Park is on the left.  We got off the train at Denali Park Station to spend a couple days touring the Park.
Along the Nenana...

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