The construction of the Alaska Railroad took the influence of three Presidents and an Act of Congress to complete. It all started in Seward with the Ballaine brothers and a dream to connect a tidewater port with the rich resources of Alaska's Interior.
The town of Seward is just over 100 years old. The origin of the town has to do with past glacial presence. A Seattle newspaper man was determining a location for a railroad in Alaska that was convenient for steamship docking. Under consideration were the areas now known as Anchorage, Valdez, what is now Whittier, and Seward. The water off Anchorage freezes over in the winter and tremendous amounts of silt are deposited in Cook Inlet. Whittier had too many nearby glaciers as did Valdez. Seward had a long ago history of glaciers which had carved a bay so deep (600-1000’) that it never froze over in the winter time. Seward became John Ballaine’s chosen site for the start of the Alaska Central Railway. John sent his brother Frank ahead to work out the details of real estate.
On August 28, 1903, the Santa Ana arrived in Resurrection Bay with Frank Ballaine on board. This date is now associated as the birthday of the town. Construction of the railroad continued through 1909 with 71.5 miles completed. The Ballaines sold out to another private company who eventually sold out to the Federal Government who completed the railroad to Fairbanks in 1923—at which point Seward became a very important port for all of Alaska. It was the original headquarters of the Alaska Engineering Commission, which was eventually moved to Anchorage because of high real estate prices in Seward. Despite this move, Seward maintained its importance as the railroad's southern most terminus and only deep water port.