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2013 NRHS Convention -- Anchorage to Seward Excursion ~ September 19th, 2013

by Elizabeth Guenzler

The previous days of this convention had traversed through some very scenic areas of Alaska but today's excursion from Anchorage to Seward was touted as the most scenic. This was most definitely the case, and was extremely memorable and special for me.

The day started early and after breakast, the car hosts gathered for the daily safety briefing led by Bart Jennings, then we all walked through the train to become familiar with the equipment since the consist was quite different than the previous days. Not only were the Gold Star cars part of today's train but also the Alaska Railroad's business car "Aurora" was to bring up the markers. I had been approached a couple of days before with an offer that I will never forget - to be one of two car hosts in the "Aurora", a passenger car with huge windows, seats just 30 and has a large rear platform. I was absolutely delighted to be asked and of course accepted on the spot.

I assisted passengers in boarding and the colour of one's ticket indicated if the seat was coach, dome, Gold Star or Aurora.

Promptly at 08:00, the train was closed and we left Anchorage bound for Seward. The Aurora was the only car that had any type of complimentary food service and I and the other car host handed out muffins, danishes and served and coffee and juice throughout the morning.

Kink Inlet in the early morning light.

We paralleled Turnagain Arm for several miles.

The train curving around Turnagain Arm.

I ventured onto the rear platform for the first of several times during the day.

Low clouds would give way to a beautiful autumnal day.

The view toward the front of the train.

I joined some of the other passengers on the rear platform as we neared a series of tunnels between MP 52.8 amd 51.9.

Views of, and in, the tunnels, which help the railway pass through the eastern slope of Spencer Mountain.

A deep ravine caused by glaciers; this near Spencer Glacier.

The Placer River at MP 51.8 which is crossed on a 133 foot deck truss plus two 14-foot wooden spans.

Views from inside the Aurora as we head to Moose Pass.

A mountain view.

Upper Trail Lake.

Moose Pass siding, 999 feet long. It was named in 1912 as a station on the Alaska Railroad and is reportedly derived from a postman's team of dogs that in 1903 had considerable trouble gaining the right-of-way from a moose. A photo runby was planned here but I stayed on board this time.

The view from the back platform during the reverse move. I went inside during the runby itself.

The Moose Pass runby as captured by Chris. Everyone reboarded for the trip to Seward.

Alaska Railroad GP40-2 3013 at Seward station.

Alaska Railroad SD70 4324.

THe NRHS convention special at Seward.

Some of the passenger cars of the NRHS convention train.

Two of the high-level Gold Star coaches.

Two of the more modern coaches with a former Northern Pacific dome car in the middle.

The observation platform on the upper level of the Gold Star coach.

I reboarded the train and went to the platform of the Aurora to have the best view of what was about to occur.

The switch was then thrown to reverse the train onto the Seward wye at MP 2.3.

6,969 feet of very rare mileage as the train made its way around the wye.

The photo line of passengers who chose to photograph this rare move.

Reversing to the end of the track.

Part of Seward yard.

We started the trip back on a section of extremely straight track.

Myself having the time of my life on the rear platform in the "Aurora" business car, as photogaphed by Chris.

A glacier in the mountains at Seward.

Scenery along the Placer River.I then walked through the train and went to the dome car.

Autumn scenery as the train made its way toward Grandview.

Curving along this very scenic route.

As we went through Portage, we passed a coal train.

The yard at Portage.

Beautiful scenery was everywhere along the route.

Looking directly down from the rear platform.

This mountain would soon have something added to it.

Snow-capped mountains.

This was the first rainbow I had seen in Alaska. We then came to the scenic highlight of the trip, the Grandview Loop. Grandview, at MP 44..9, is located in one of a number of narrow passes that the old Iditarod Trail used on its route between Seward and Nome.

Views as the train made its way slowly around the Grandview Loops. The huge windows of the "Aurora" made the vistas and experience just as spectacular from the inside as it was from the outside platform.

Another rainbow.

Scenery as we make our way back to Anchorage.

Bartlett Glacier and beautiful vistas. As the afternoon wore on, we passed through Bird Point and Turnagain Arm and I was amazed at the fantastic views that this part of the route afforded.

It was absolutely fantastic to be on the "Aurora" platform, taking in this incredible scenery in the late afternoon sun. I was completely enthralled by it all.

The waters of either Glacier or Kern Creek.

The swirling waters of Glacier Creek.

I could never tire of vistas such as this.

What a thrill it was for me to drink in all this scenery and the whole experience of the day.

It is now time to show you the interior views of this ultimate railcar, taken throughout the day.

The etched glass partitions.

A view down the length of the car. The train returned to Anchorage and everyone detrained. I made sure everything was cleaned and tidied up in the "Aurora" then gathered my things and reluctantly took my leave.

Alaska Railroad business car 2000 "Aurora" from the outside.

One last picture of the interior of this magnificent car. I walked back to the hotel, had dinner then helped Chris with his story to finish out the evening.

This day had been the "highlight of highlights" of the convention. Each day was a highlight in itself but my experiences today and car-hosting in the "Aurora" was beyond compare to anything I had ever done. I am eternally grateful to Bart Jennings for giving me this opportunity and it is a treasured memory.