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2013 NRHS Convention Palmer Branch and Anchorage Terminal Tour Excursion 9/20/2013

by Chris Guenzler

The morning started with my usual preparations but a different walk because Elizabeth and I had to go to the Hilton to sign up for a banquet table. We then went to the depot for the now-usual safety briefing before walking out to the train and opening the vestibule to start the loading of the passengers on this 37 degree morning in Anchorage.

The moon over the west end of the train.

The train at the station ready to load the passengers.

The west end of the train.

The east end of the train. Our train today had engines GP40-2 3011 and GP40-2 3013, baggage 102 (ex. Alaska Railroad 6306, nee Union Pacific 6306), Gold Star 652, Gold Star 653, coach 205 (built by Daewoo Heavy Industries in 1989), dome 523 (ex. Amtrak 9483, exx. Amtrak 9404, exxx. Burlington 4623, nee Northern Pacific 556), coach 209 (built by Daewoo Heavy Industries in 1989) and F40 31.

Elizabeth and an ARR emblem on the K-rail or jersey barrier.

At 8:00 AM we departed south to get to the lead to the Freight Line through the yard.

The tracks over which we would soon be riding.


Kinik Inlet as we reversed.

The train reached the switch and we waited for it to be thrown for our journey through the freight yard.

More views of the Kinik Inlet.

We started on the freight yard mainline.

The train crossed Ship Creek.

Ship Creek with the Hilton Hotel on the hill.

The line to the harbor trackage.

The train started by the shop complex.

Switching of passenger cars was occurring.

The shop complex which I toured on Wednesday.

The cars of the Wilderness Explorer.

Holland America.

The north end of the shop complex.

Alaska Railroad caboose 1084 built by Pacific Car and Foundry in 1948 and placed in service April 1949. It was later retired and donated to the United States Forestry Service for use as a cabin at Spencer.

The north end of the shop complex.

Freight units waiting for service.

Still rolling through the yards.

A mid-train unit in the yard.

Nearing the north end.

We have reached the north end of the yard.

Ready to exit at the north end.

We reached the mainline but our rare mileage did not stop, as we took the Elmendorf siding before going on to the main line. Regular passenger trains never use this siding either.

Later we crossed the Kinik River.

The train and the mountains.


The Matanuska River Flood Channel at MP 147.1.

The Matanuska River Flood Channel at MP 147.4.

The Matanuska River Flood Channel at MP 147.5.

A view looking north.

The Matanuska River MP 148.3.

Another view looking north.

View looking east.

View looking south.

The junction with the old line that we would come down later on the return trip.

At Matanuska this track would take us onto the Palmer Branch which we entered and waited for a gravel train to clear.

After that train passed and went left up on the branch, it was our turn to go up the Palmer Branch, which was completed in 1917 and known as the Matunuska Branch. The line initially served several coal mines supplying coal to the United States Navy as well as various communities around Alaska.

Pieces of a bridge along the Palmer Branch.

Milepost A3.

The gravel tipple on the Palmer Branch.

The mountains behind Palmer.

The state fairgrounds sign which signalled our arrival into Palmer.

Mountains standing guard behind Palmer. We unloaded for a static photo stop.

The first photo pose. The train was moved to get the fairground sign in front.

Bart Jennings spots the locomotive for the pictures.

The second photo pose. We reboarded the train with our next stop being the Anchorage Airport.

Click here for Part 2 of this story!