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"The Light at the end of the Tunnel, The Alaska Rail Road"
The Beginning Nome Alaska 1800's, The Future Pairs France 1999.
The Alaska Railroad was formed in 1914 when the failure of private companies made it clear that only the federal government was capable of building and maintaining a railroad in Alaska.
Construction began in 1915, building on routes laid out a decade earlier by the Alaska Central Railroad and the Alaska Northern Railroad (the failed successor to the bankrupt Alaska Central).
Anchorage, where the railroad's headquarters sit, got its start as a town in 1914 when the area became a construction camp along Ship Creek.
Some of the construction equipment and rolling stock previously was used to build the Panama Canal, most of which was finished in 1914.
Alaska Railroad July 15, 1923 President Warren G. Harding drives the golden spike in ceremonies at Nenana.
March 27, 1964 Damage from the earthquake to the railroad estimated at $30 million.
Jan. 5, 1985 The Alaska Railroad becomes the property of the State of Alaska.
North America's last full service railroad.
Provides scenic Alaskan train tours for travel, passenger services, and freight transportation in Alaska from Seward to Fairbanks.
The Congress finds that -
(1) the Alaska Railroad, which was built by the Federal Government to serve the transportation and development needs of the Territory of Alaska, presently is providing freight and passenger services that primarily benefit residents and businesses in the State of Alaska;
(2) many communities and individuals in Alaska are wholly or substantially dependent on the Alaska Railroad for freight and passenger service and provision of such service is an essential governmental function;
(3) continuation of services of the Alaska Railroad and the opportunity for future expansion of those services are necessary to achieve Federal, State, and private objectives; however, continued Federal control and financial support are no longer necessary to accomplish these objectives;
(4) the transfer of the Alaska Railroad and provision for its operation by the State in the manner contemplated by this chapter is made pursuant to the Federal goal and ongoing program of transferring appropriate activities to the States;
(5) the State's continued operation of the Alaska Railroad following the transfer contemplated by this chapter, together with such expansion of the railroad as may be necessary or convenient in the future, will constitute an appropriate public use of the rail system and associated properties, will provide an essential governmental service, and will promote the general welfare of Alaska's residents and visitors; and
(6) in order to give the State government the ability to determine the Alaska Railroad's role in serving the State's transportation needs in the future, including the opportunity to extend rail service, and to provide a savings to the Federal Government, the Federal Government should offer to transfer the railroad to the State, in accordance with the provisions of this chapter, in the same manner in which other Federal transportation functions (including highways and airports) have been transferred since Alaska became a State in 1959
Sec. 1208. - Future rights-of-way
(a) Access across Federal lands; application approval
After January 14, 1983, the State or State-owned railroad may request the Secretary of the Interior or the Secretary of Agriculture, as appropriate under law, to expeditiously approve an application for a right-of-way in order that the Alaska Railroad or State-owned railroad may have access across Federal lands for transportation and related purposes.
The State or State-owned railroad may also apply for a lease, permit, or conveyance of any necessary or convenient terminal and station grounds and material sites in the vicinity of the right-of-way for which an application has been submitted.
(b) Consultative requirements prior to approval of application; conformance of rights-of-way, etc.
Before approving a right-of-way application described in subsection (a) of this section, the Secretary of the Interior or the Secretary of Agriculture, as appropriate, shall consult with the Secretary. Approval of an application for a right-of-way, permit, lease, or conveyance described in subsection (a) of this section shall be pursuant to applicable law.
Rights-of-way, grounds, and sites granted pursuant to this section and other applicable law shall conform, to the extent possible, to the standards provided in the Act of March 12, 1914 (43 U.S.C. 975 et seq.) and section 1202(6) of this title. Such conformance shall not be affected by the repeal of such Act under section 615 of this title.
(c) Reversion to United States
Reversion to the United States of any portion of any right-of-way or exclusive-use easement granted to the State or State-owned railroad shall occur only as provided in section 1209 of this title. For purposes of such section, the date of the approval of any such right-of-way shall be deemed the ''date of transfer''
The state of Alaska bought the railroad, its real estate and its rolling stock from the federal government for $22.3 million in 1985.
The railroad hauls thousands of tourists a year -- 501,138 in 2000 and 460,173 in 2001 through September. After the tunnel to Whittier was opened to vehicle traffic, says passenger account exec Jeff Johnson, the railroad dropped its Portage-Whittier shuttle, accounting for the reduced passenger count. Anchorage-Whittier travel is still available.
Most of the passengers connect with cruise liners and the ferry system in Seward and with airports in Anchorage and Fairbanks. Many are bound for Denali National Park. The railroad is building a spur to Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport that will let it and tourism companies with private cars put customers directlyaboard trains bound for Denali or Seward.
Senator Murkowski's Proposal to Extend the Alaska Railroad
The Alaska Railroad's track stretches about 470 miles between Seward and Fairbanks, the southern and northern passenger terminals. Adding various spurs, yards and sidings, the tracks cover more than 600 miles.
Each of those miles, the railroad says, requires 3,250 ties and 19,000 spikes. That's 1.625 million ties and 9.5 million spikes.
Here are distances along the route
• Seward to Portage: 64 miles.
• Portage to Whittier spur: 12 miles.
• Anchorage to Portage: 50 miles.
• Seward to Anchorage: 114 miles.
• Anchorage to Talkeetna: 112 miles.
• Anchorage to Denali National Park: 234 miles.
• Denali to Fairbanks: 122 miles.
• Anchorage to Fairbanks: 356 miles.
Besides its passenger business, the railroad also carries freight. It delivers gravel from a quarry in Palmer
(the spur also is used to carry fairgoers to the state fairgrounds in August and September), coal from Healy and petroleum from the refinery in North Pole to Anchorage and Seward.
The North Pole leg adds 28 miles to the overall distance.
Alaska Railroad Web Links
The other Alaska Railroad
detailed community profiles for every community in Alaska
Alaska Web Shopping
Alaska Railroad photos in the Winter
Model Alaska Trains