Amherst Railway Society - meeting - September, 2019Date: Wednesday, September 11, 2019
Railroading ...off the grid
The Alaska Railroad is somewhat unique for American railroads in that it carries both freight and passengers throughout its approximately 500-mile system. And, Phil Johnson has ridden on every one of those miles. On Wednesday, September 11, 2019, Phil will discuss his broad experience with Alaska’s Railroads, supported by many photos from two trips. “I guess if I had to sum up the Alaska Railroad, it would be that this is one tough railroad,” says Johnson. “They deal with vast, mostly desolate terrain, often in difficult weather conditions. And, they are really good at it.” In addition, the Alaska Railroad is land-locked - it has no land-based connection to the rest of North America. Freight moves by barge between Whittier, Alaska and Seattle or Prince Rupert, British Columbia. Passengers arrive by air or cruise ship. And, the railroad has built a vital part of its business providing tourists with a rail experience worthy of the spectacular state they operate in. “Alaska’s passenger trains are kind of the face of the railroad. They use contemporary equipment, they look good, and they provide tourists with a great Alaska experience,” says Johnson. “But few people realize how important the railroad is to residents who choose to live off-the-grid. For them, the train is a vital connection to civilization, and the Alaska Railroad respects their responsibility to the citizens of Alaska.” The other railroad in Alaska is the narrow gage White Pass and Yukon, which ran up into Yukon Territory to bring the miners to the gold fields. Today, it only runs to the Canadian border, and carries hikers and tourists from the cruise ships. Phil Johnson is the author of The Hampden Railroad - the Greatest Railroad That Never Ran, and frequently contributes photos to the ARS web site and newsletter. Amherst Railway Society meetings are open to the public.