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Alaska Railroad Coastal Classic 8/31/2004

by Chris Guenzler

I made the walk down to the station under a full moon where I received my boarding passes for my round trip to Seward. My train on this morning was GP-40-2 3009, Power Car P-30, Baggage 111, Diner/Lounge 301, Dome 501 {ex UP 7008}, Coaches 209 and 204 along with Dome 502 {ex NP 556} painted with Wildlife Express and Kenai Fjord Tour across the side of the car. My trip would be new mileage from the station to the junction with the Airport Line and then from Portage to Seward. The Coastal Classic departed Anchorage on time at 6:45 AM.

We headed south joining the freight mainline as we slowly made our way along Anchorage Bay. The train passed the Westchester Lagoon on the east as it traveled into the Anchorage suburb of Spenard. Minutes later we reached the junction with the Airport Line as my new mileage comes to a brief end. The large Diamond Mall was passed again on the left and to my right was a huge car junk yard. Anchorage Sand And Gravel was on the right being a major part of the building process due to the permafrost conditions in Alaska. You must put down a layer of gravel under you foundation so your building won't sink into the ground. The Flying Crow Airstrip is a back yard airstrip for the residents who live there.

The Turnagain Arm of Cook Inlet came into view to the right on this predawn morning. The Rabbit Creek Rifle Range was off to the right prior to reaching the tidal flats near the Potter Marsh Bird Preserve. Our train then started the shoreline running of the Turnagain Arm. I rode up in the dome of 502 as the train made its way along the water. We saw Dall sheep high up on the cliff above the Seward Highway. There were interesting clouds above the Turnagain Arm. I went to the dining car for a breakfast of French Toast which really hit the spot on this very beautiful clear Alaska morning. While I was eating the train passed through Girdwood home of the Alyeska Ski Area, Alaska's largest. Across the highway was a gun mount for shooting down avalanches above the highway. The train entered the Chugach National Forest, the second largest in Alaska.

A Bald Eagle was on one of the earthquake affected trees right before we crossed Twenty Mile River which is fed by the Twenty Mile Glacier. We arrived at Portage which was covered in ground fog and reached the junction with the Whittier Line and once past the switch my new mileage started again.

The fog made for an interesting view to my left {east}.

Looking up the same valley minus the fog.

A view looking back towards Portage.

Beautiful views from both sides of the train as the train started to climb Moose Pass.

The train slowed for the Spencer Glacier.

The grade increased for our train.

A look back at the Turnagain Arm.

Icebergs out in Spencer Lake.

The first tunnel as we entered the Placer River Canyon.

One of the five tunnels.

The Placer River Canyon

The last tunnel and crossing the bridge across the Placer River.

Another high glacier.

The views get better and better. As we neared the loops and the Barlett Glacier my camera battery died as my camera was rewinding a roll a film. I had to run three cars forward to get the new batteries.

The Bartlett Glacier as we had climbed to the top of the loops.

The view looking back towards where we had climbed to. We reached our first summit of the Kenai Mountains at Grandview.

More peaks ahead of the train.

The Trail Glacier came into view down the mountain from the east.

More peaks loom to the east.

The view from dome 502 as we descended down Moose Pass.

More glaciers to the southeast.

I rode the rear dome through the fog along the Trail River.

The train crossed the Trail River at the start of Upper Trail Lake. The train ran along Upper Trail Lake. The train crossed the Trail River to enter the village of Moose Pass which is along Middle Trail Lake. Below that came Lower Trail Lake. Our train then crossed the Trail River for the last time.

A look back at where we had been.

The train ran along Kenai Lake for a while in the fog.

The train ran along Kenai Lake as the fog lifted.

Kenai Lake.

The peaks to the west end of Kenai Lake. The train left the fog as it rolled through the forest.

A nice view looking west.

The view looking back.

The train continued through the forest until it crossed the Snow River. It went under the highway before it climbed into the forest then under the highway again to reach Divide, the 694 foot summit of this branch of the Kenai Mountains.

As we made our descent towards Seward, we passed through another tunnel. Our train continued through the unspoiled forest. We rejoined the Seward Highway then crossed Bear Creek. A few miles later, we passed a yard limit sign as we closed in on Seward.

We crossed the Resurrection River and a great view looking southwest.

The Cruise Train was being kept here in Seward.

The train arrived at Seward at 11:10 AM.

A few pictures of our train before I boarded a bus for the Kenai Fjord Tour.

Click here for Part 9 of the story.