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2013 NRHS Convention Alaska Railroad Charter Train one-way from Fairbanks to Denali Park 9/16/2013

by Chris Guenzler

Up early and ready to go, Elizabeth and I had to pay for breakfast this morning. After a good meal it was out to the crew bus, a safety briefing then the bus ride to the train. I worked the same car as yesterday, this time with Elizabeth assisting me. We opened our car and started loading passengers then I sent Elizabeth to the gift shop then the head end for her pictures of the train.

The Fairbanks station built in 1005.

Our train at the Fairbanks station.

A neat moment at the station. Once Elizabeth returned, I walked to the front end of our train.

The front of the train at Fairbanks.

Alaska Railroad SD70MAC 4324 built by Electro-Motive Division in 2004.

Alaska Railroad GP40-2 3013 built by Electro-Motive Division in 1978.

Our train at sunrise.

One more view of our train at Fairbanks. Our consist was Alaska Railroad SD70MAC 4324 and GP40-2 3013, Goldstar 653, dining car 301 (built by Daewoo Heavy Industries in 1989), dome 521 (ex. Amtrak 9486, exx. Burlington Northern 4626, nee Spokane, Portland and Seattle 559), coach 210 (built by Daewoos Heavy Industries in 1989), dome 523 (ex. Amtrak 9483, exx. Burlington Northern 4623, nee Northern Pacific 556) coach 204 (nee Union Pacific 5424), dome 522 (ex. Amtrak 9482, ex. Burlington Northern 4622, nee Northern Pacific 555), dome 501 (nee Union Pacific 7008).

I walked back to my door and Bart had me leave it open until the last passengers boarded before I buttoned up my car. We departed Fairbanks at 7:58 AM, headed east to the balloon track and it was at this point that my camera started giving me problems.

We headed east to get to the lead for the balloon track, giving me a bit of new rail mileage today as this track was not here on my first trip to Fairbanks in 1999.

Taking the first curve of the balloon track.

Views on the east side.

Now we started our running along the south side of the Alaska Railroad yard.

Looking back to the Alaska Railroad station we just had left.

A freight train in the yard.

Alaska Railroad SD70MAC 4007 built by Electro-Motive Division in 2000.

Alaska Railroad GP40-2 3006 nee Alaska Railroad 3000, built by Electro-Motive Division in 1975.

A pair of yard pictures before we headed out of Fairbanks.

Autumn colors were everywhere.

A lake only makes the scene better.

I worked on my stories as we headed to Nenana, our first stop of the day.

The train crossed the Mears Memorial Bridge, MP 413.7, which marked the completion of the Alaska Railroad in 1923 and the Golden Spike was driven by President Warren Harding on July 25, 1923.

Crossing the Tanana River on the Mears Memorial Bridge. It includes a 704 foot steel through truss span, the largest of its type in the world when constructed, 60 foot deck plate girder spans and four 30 foot deck plate girder span and a 118 foot deck truss span. The bridge was designed by Modjeski and Angier and was fabricated and built by the American Bridge Company. When built, the south end also featured a long timber trestle which created the curved, climbing approach that is now a large fill. The bridge is named for Frederick Mears, head of the Alaska Engineering Commission that built the railroad.

Looking down into Nenana.

The Nenana siding.

The train took a curve through the autumn colors here.

More autumn colors at Nenana.

Alaska Railroad 6-3 sleeping car 90 "Mount Susitina", nee "Raphael" built by Pullman in 1925, one of three Pullman cars purchased in 1955 to be used in overnight service between Anchorage and Fairbanks.

Alaska Railroad 6-3 sleeping car 91 "Mt. Iliamna", nee "Flotow" built by Pullman in 1924, one of three Pullman cars purchased in 1955 to be used in overnight service between Anchorage and Fairbanks.

The church and a beautiful tree.

The Nenana station built in 1923, Milepost 411.7. I then had that dreaded camera message "Error Press Shutter Release Button Again". I tried everything I could think of to get it to work but no luck. We arrived in Nenana and unloaded our train then walked to the grade crossing to let the train clear before walking to the banks of the Nenana River for a photo runby.

All pictures from here point to the end of this story were taken by Chris Parker, with many thanks from me for saving my story.

Bart Jennings, convention chairman, and the lower photo line.

The train came out onto the Mears Memorial Bridge.

The train on the Mears Memorial Bridge with the lower photo line at Nenana.

The upper photo line.

The train returned to Nenana and since we would be here for over an hour, I walked to the store and bought a 20 ounce bottle of Coca-Cola at a really good price.

Elizabeth was running to city hall to get a municipal pin but they were closed for lunch. She will have to come back or mail them to get it. I then went through the Nenana Railroad Museum before returning to the train and standing by my door. I called Randy Jackson and after telling him about the convention and camera problems, felt much better about everything. Our passengers returned and soon we departed.

The train took one of the curves as we crossed the low hills before reaching the Alaska Range.

Later we reached the Alaska Range.

There was a coal train loading at the Usibelli Tipple as we went by on our trip south.

The electrical plant outside of Healy. From here we went into Nenana River Canyon.

The train went through the Nenana River Canyon which was beautiful as we travelled through it. We went under the Moody highway bridge and made a big turn to where we came to a large open area on the left and stopped for a photo runby. I unloaded my car then buttoned it up before we reversed for the photo runby which we did four times.

Photo runby 1 at the Moody Highway Bridge at Healy Canyon, MP 353.5.

Photo runby 2.

Photo runby 3. We reboarded our passengers before continuing though the rest of the Nenana River Canyon.

Great peaks could be seen from the train as we travelled deeper into the Alaska Range.

The train took more curves before we reached our overnight stop at Denali Park and upon arrival, we unloaded our passengers and luggage before closing up our car then took a school-type bus, with overhead luggage racks, to the McKinley Chalet Resort. Chris Parker stayed for a photo runby on the platform which is shown below.

The reverse move.

The photo runby.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth and I were taken to the McKinley Chalet Resort, waited in line until we reached the front counter and were given our room keys and a map. We were in Cabin V. We walked the long walk downhill as far as we could possibly go, then took the path to Cabin V, walking past all the upstairs rooms before taking a staircase down and we found our two-bedroom suite. After getting on-line and leaving Brian an e-mail to fix Filezilla (the program I use to upload stories to the Internet), we hiked back up the hill to Subway and sat outside with some of our NRHS friends. We had a good walk back to our room and after a second attempt, Brian fixed the problem and we tested it to make sure. I then uploaded Days 1 and 2 of this convention so Winston Walker could proof them for me before we called it a night.

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