Alaska Railroad Highlights Audio Guide

The Alaska Railroad offers passenger service beginning in the town of Seward on the Kenai Peninsula, north to the town of Fairbanks in Alaska's Interior. This audio guide describes some of the highlights during the journey.

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Points of Interest

The City of Seward is the his­toric town where the Alas­ka Rail­road got its start. It was the orig­i­nal head­quar­ters of the Engi­neer­ing Com­mis­sion, those pio­neers that were tasked with the con­struc­tion of the rail line.

One of the most spec­tac­u­lar and acces­si­ble glac­i­ers along the rail line, Spencer Glac­i­er also has an inter­est­ing his­to­ry. Lis­ten to find out how it got it’s name and hear tales of what life was like for those who worked in the wilder­ness build­ing the rail line.

Built dur­ing WWII as a top-secret mil­i­tary project, today Whit­ti­er is a great jump­ing-off place to explore Prince William Sound. To con­nect Whit­ti­er with the rest of the Alas­ka Rail­road, dur­ing the war the mil­i­tary con­struct­ed a mas­sive tun­nel. Today the expand­ed tun­nel is the longest com­bined rail and high­way tun­nel in North America.

The Unit­ed States Con­gress want­ed to open the Ter­ri­to­ry of Alas­ka for eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment and rec­og­nized the only way that was going to occur was to con­struct a rail line. Pri­vate sec­tor com­pa­nies attempt­ed to build a rail line but went bank­rupt ear­ly in the process. There­fore, Con­gress adopt­ed the Enabling Act of 1914 which autho­rized the Pres­i­dent of Unit­ed States to locate, con­struct and oper­ate a 1,000 mile rail line in the Territory.

Anchor­age, Alaska’s cen­ter of com­merce, is the present day head­quar­ters for the Alas­ka Rail­road. The Rail­road was grant­ed the land by the US Con­gress and sold off most of the prop­er­ty in a land auc­tion in 1917. Today, the Rail­road has some 600 acres of land reserves remain­ing in the down­town area of the city. The City of Anchor­age exists because of the Railroad.

When the rail line was first con­struct­ed the engi­neer­ing com­mis­sion used riv­er rock as the sur­face under where they laid the tracks. Due to the heavy loads the rail­road car­ried, they even­tu­al­ly had to stop using riv­er rock and instead used gran­ite, which they mined in Eklut­na. Today the rail­road is replac­ing all the riv­er rock with gran­ite, which they mine from many loca­tions along the rail line.

This bridge is the con­nec­tion between south­cen­tral Alas­ka and the inte­ri­or of the Ter­ri­to­ry. The bridge rep­re­sents an engi­neer­ing mar­vel for the day and age it was con­struct­ed, and is as strong today as when it was con­struct­ed near­ly a cen­tu­ry ago.

The Alas­ka Rail­road was respon­si­ble for open­ing this nation­al park to the pub­lic since it pro­vid­ed the only access to the park for many years. The Rail­road owned and oper­at­ed the McKin­ley Park Hotel from its ear­ly begin­nings and even­tu­al­ly turned over to the Nation­al Park Ser­vice for oper­a­tions. After a fire destroyed the hotel, rail sleep­er cars pro­vid­ed a nov­el lodg­ing oppor­tu­ni­ty for visitors.

Nenana was the ter­mi­nus of the Alas­ka Rail­road in 1923 when Pres­i­dent Hard­ing trav­eled to Alas­ka in July 1923 to dri­ve the Gold Spike” sig­ni­fy­ing the com­ple­tion of con­struct­ing the rail­road. It is also the start­ing point for the river­boat oper­a­tion which was devel­oped and oper­at­ed by the Rail­road to ship mate­ri­als and sup­plies to rur­al vil­lages along the Yukon Riv­er. Although the last sur­viv­ing river­boat can be found on dis­play in…  ...more