Stretching from Seward to Fairbanks, rising from tidewater up 2,360 feet to the Continental Divide, and running nonstop during sunless days and perpetual twilight, the Alaska Railroad is a hard-working operation that serves a land of extreme weather and incredible beauty. In the mid-1990s, filmmaker Patrick Hunstiger captured the fascination of the Alaska Railroad in a 3-part series now brought to you on DVD. Here is Volume 1: Steel Rails, Midnight Sun – Summer on the Alaska Railroad. In 1993, the Alaska Railroad could field up to 17 trains covering up to 3,300 train miles in any given 24-hour period. These included two passenger extras; overnight freights and freight expresses; oil tanker, unit coal, and rock trains; work extras; and others. The ARR’s all-GM locomotive fleet, which sported three different color schemes, was made up of GP40-2s, GP49s, GP38-2s, GP35s, GP7s, and MP15s. Cabooses could still be seen at the ends of some trains.
You’ll get plenty of opportunity to enjoy these trains at work! After a brief look at a derailment earlier that spring, you’ll follow the operations of the line starting at 7 AM on a busy June day and carry on into the evening, ending with a meet illuminated by the midnight sun at 1 AM. The trains are dispatched from Anchorage under Track Warrant Control and you’ll view the dispatcher’s display boards to see siding and train status in between catching the action at Eklunta, Matanuska, Talkeetna, Broad Pass, Healy, Clear Site, Nenana, and other locations. Highlights include a unit coal train pulled by 6 matched GP49s, a passenger extra at Denali Park, action on the tall trestle spanning Hurricane Gulch, and of course the incredible skylines of craggy, snow-capped mountains reaching up from floors of emerald green forests!