Alaska Railroad

December 22, 2009 at 12:29 pm | Posted in Historical, politics straight up | Leave a comment
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Railroad ties layed ready for rails in Alaska, c.1915. (Library of Congress)

In 1903 a company called the Alaska Central Railroad began to build a rail line beginning at Seward, near the southern tip of the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska, northward. The company built 51 miles of track by 1909 and went into receivership. This route carried passengers, freight and mail to the upper Turnagain Arm. From there, goods were taken by boat at high tide, and by dog team or pack train to Eklutna and the Matanuska-Susitna Valley. In 1909, another company, the Alaska Northern Railroad Company, bought the rail line and extended it another 21 miles northward. From the new end, goods were floated down the Turnagain Arm in small boats. The Alaska Northern Railroad went into receivership in 1914.

About this time, the United States Government was planning a railroad route from Seward to the interior town of Fairbanks. In 1914, the government bought the Alaska Northern Railroad and moved its headquarters to “Ship Creek,” later called Anchorage. The government began to extend the rail line northward.

In 1917, the Tanana Valley Railroad in Fairbanks was heading into bankruptcy. It owned a small 45-mile 3 ft (narrow-gauge) line that serviced the towns of Fairbanks and the mining communities in the area as well as the boat docks on the Tanana River near Fairbanks.

President Warren G. Harding, painting a new house for Alaska R.R. employees; Willow, Alaska. 1923 July 31. (Library of Congress)

The government bought the Tanana Valley Railroad, principally for its terminal facilities. The government extended the south portion of the track to Nenana and later converted the extension to standard gauge.

In 1923 they built the 700-foot Mears Memorial Bridge across the Tanana River at Nenana. This was the final link in the Alaska Railroad and at the time, was the second longest single-span steel railroad bridge in the country. U. S. President Warren G. Harding drove the golden spike that completed the railroad on July 15, 1923 on the north side of the bridge.

Reforming health care to benefit many is “socialism,” because it cuts into corporate profits, but when tax dollars are spent to prop up the bottom line for a few it’s “limited government.”


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