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2013 NRHS Convention -- Fairbanks to Denali and Denali to Anchorage ~ September 16th and 17th, 2013

by Elizabeth Guenzler

Today was the first of a two-day journey on the Alaska Railroad from Fairbanks to Denali, where we would be overnighting at the McKinley Chalet Resort before the rest of the trip down to Anchorage tomorrow. After an early breakfast and checking out, I joined the other car hosts and NRHS committee on the bus where we had a safety briefing before arriving at the train station. Since I was car hosting with Chris, we were able to spell each other off and there was time before our passengers started to arrive so I had an opportunity to visit the gift shop inside the station which was open early this day, then walk down to the front of the train some pictures.

Alaska Railroad SD70 4324 on the point of our train.

Our Alaska Railroad train for the next two days. I then returned and Chris went to take his photos while I looked after the approaching passengers. We departed Fairbanks two minutes early and were on our way. Fairbanks gave me many wonderful experiences and memories and is at the northenmost point in North America where trains operate.

We went through the railway's yard and left the station behind.

Passing an Alaska Railroad train on a siding in the early morning light. Chris and I took turns in making sure our passengers were enjoying themselves, answering questions and the like throughout the day.

Our crossing of the Tanana River was via Mears Memorial Bridge at MP 413.7. This was the last part of the railroad built between Seward and Fairbanks and marks the completion of the Alaska Railroad, which occurred on February 22nd, 1923. The Golden Spike was driven by President Harding on July 15th of that year.

Autumn colours and brilliant blue sky were the order of the day. A couple of miles later, we arrived at Nenana, MP 411.7. Everyone detrained and walked over to the bank of the Tanana River to form two photo lines for a runby over the Mears Bridge.

The 704' long steel through-truss bridge, built by the American Bridge Company.

The reverse move in preparation for the photo runby.

Alaska Railroad runby over the Mears Bridge in Nenana. There was plenty of time to look around so that is what I did.

Alaska Railroad sleeping car 90 "Mount Susitina".

Station sign on the Nenana station, giving the distance to Fairbanks and Seward. Nenana was originally an Indian village and was first known as Tortella, an interpretation of the Indian word Toghotthele which means "mountain that parallels the river".

The Alaska Railroad station, built in 1923 and houses the State Railroad Museum.

The sign for the Alaska Railroad Museum at Nenana Depot.

Outside the station was several plaques commemorating the Golden Spike and its occurence. Note this one is for the centennial which occurs in 2023 (this was taken in 2013, the 90th anniversary).

The 75th anniversary plaque.

The City of Nenana was the official transfer site of the Alaska Railroad from federal to state ownership.

Commemorating the first Presidential visit and the accompanying Golden Spike ceremony.

I then photographed our train which had been spotted beside the Nenana station.

The ticket office and freight window inside. There was plenty to see, and a few things to acquire, here.

I found that the City of Nenana offices were within easy walking distance, so I made my way there, only to find out they were closed, probably due to the lunch hour.

Alaska Railroad dome coach 522 at the rear of our train on a glorious autumn day with me on cloud nine as I was having the time of my life.

This area gets very cold and the river freezes over for many months. The Nenana Ice Classic takes place each winter. Bets are made on the exact day and time the river ice will break up. A four-legged 'quadpod' (tripod) is put into the river and is hooked up to GPS and other devices so that when it starts to move, the winner is chosen. The winnings exceed $200,000 and are usually split between multiple contestants. The contest began in 1917 among surveyors for the Alaska Railroad.

Everyone re-boarded and we continued on our way, passing the very scenic Nenana River Canyon. At the Moody Highway Bridge, those who wanted to detrain did so for a series of photo runbys here.

The Moody Highway Bridge at Healy Canyon, MP 353.5.

The fast-flowing Nenana River at Healy.

Photo runbys at Healy, MP 358.7 with autumn colours very prevalent.

Our train on one of the curves on the way to McKinley National Park. Everyone detrained and Chris and I finished our duties as car hosts before boarding the school bus with overhead luggage racks for everyone's luggage. We were taken to the McKinely Chalet Resort.

As we waited to check in, this doll sheep display was in the lobby.

A relief map showing the mountain ranges and Alaska Railroad route. I really needed some elevation to do this justice. Chris and I were in Cabin V which was at the far end of the property, so had rather a route march to get there. We then walked back to the main road and went to Subway for dinner as there was not much open since this was the end of the season. I wrote some postcards after dinner, caught up on the Internet then helped Chris with his travelogue from today. A special moment was shared before turning in for the night.

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