Facebook Page
Alaska Railroad Glacier Discovery Page 3

Alaska Railroad Glacier Discovery Page 3

Story and Photographs copyright 2004 by Richard Elgenson


The cruise train is the ex-Florida Fun Train.  The Alaska Railroad picked up seven beautiful passenger cars at auction about 4 years ago.  These cars have some of the most colorful leather seats I have ever seen.  ARR takes good care of their passenger cars.


On the brief commute to Portage, we met the cruise train heading south to Seward.  At Portage, we received 2 passengers to take back to Spencer Lake for the float trip.



This day there were no passengers to take to Grandview, MP 45 so the crew ran the train as far as Tunnel, MP 51, to search for the bear that the cruise train had announced to our train via radio.  We crept up the grade at about 5 mph which allowed us to look for our friend whom we did not spot.  We were able to see the one float tour boat out on Spencer Lake.   The track ascends several hundred feet towards Tunnel running above a river and through 5 tunnels.


The train was stopped at Tunnel for about 15 minutes.  The crew directed me to depart the train and walk over towards the river bluff.  The fireman walked over with binoculars and chatted as we looked for the bear until the engineer blew the whistle. We departed going northbound through the tunnels and down the grade back to pick up the float passengers.


Between two tunnels, one can see that Spencer Glacier has melted back at least a mile from the 1920's.


The train proceeded to Portage, then to Whittier to pick up the Prince William Sound glacier boat passengers for their return to Anchorage.  We had just enough time to get some food "to go" at Varly's Switfwater Seafood Cafe.  Having eaten there several times, the fried seafood is good and hot!  The owners, Don & Margaret Varlamos, are very friendly and remember their customers.   The walls are decorated with black and white photographs of ships which plied the Alaskan waters in years past.  Margaret looked at me and said that I looked familiar. When I travel to Whittier in 2004, I will dine at Varly's again.


2004 marks the return of cruise ships to Whittier as Carnival and Princess will call there.  Ship passengers could potentially take an afternoon train ride, depending on their sail departure time.  Otherwise, one could take the train to or from the ship to Anchorage.
Departing Whittier, the train passed through the two long tunnels on the Whittier branch, through Portage and back to Anchorage.

Glacier Discovery Page 4