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Anchorage Railroad Depot
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The Alaska Railroad (reporting mark ARR) is a Class II railroad[1][2] which extends from Seward andWhittier, in the south of the state of Alaska, in the United States, to Fairbanks (passing throughAnchorage), and beyond to Eielson Air Force Base and Fort Wainwright in the interior of that state. Uniquely (for the US), it carries both freight and passengers throughout its system, including Denali National Park. The railroad has a mainline over 470 miles (760 km) long and is well over 500 miles (800 km) including branch lines and siding tracks. It is currently owned by the state of Alaska. The railroad is connected to the lower 48 via three rail barges that sail between the Port of Whittier andHarbor Island in Seattle (the Alaska Railroad-owned Alaska Rail Marine,[3] from Whittier to Seattle, and the CN Rail-owned Aqua Train,[4] from Whittier to Prince Rupert, British Columbia) but does not currently have a direct, land-based connection with any other railroad lines on the North Americannetwork. In 2013, the company earned a profit of $14.3 million (up 14%) on revenues of $175.1 million (down 1%), $165.6 million of which was operating revenue (down 2%).[5]
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 Peninsulain Alaska, northward. The company built 51 miles (82 km) 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 (34 km) 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. The President, William Howard Taft, authorized a commission to survey a route in 1912. The line would be more than 470 miles (760 km) long and provide an all-weather route to the interior.[6] In 1914, the government bought the Alaska Northern Railroad and moved its headquarters to "Ship Creek," later calledAnchorage. 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 (72 km)3 ft (914 mm) (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.
The government bought the Tanana Valley Railroad, principally for its terminal facilities. The section betweenFairbanks and Happy was converted to dual gauge in order to complete the 4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gaugeline from Seward to Fairbanks. The government extended the south portion of the track to Nenana and later converted the extension to standard gauge. The Alaska Railroad continued to operate the remaining TVRR narrow gauge line as the Chatanika Branch, until decommissioning it in 1930.
In 1923 they built the 700-foot (213 m) 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. The railroad was part of the US Department of the Interior.
The Alaska Railroad's first diesel locomotive entered service in 1944. The railroad retired its last steam locomotive in 1966.
The railroad was greatly affected by the Good Friday earthquake which struck southern Alaska in 1964. The yard and trackage around Seward buckled and the trackage along Turnagain Arm was damaged by floodwaters and landslides. It took several months to restore full service along the line.[7]
In 1967, the railroad was transferred to the Federal Railroad Administration, an agency within the newly created US Department of Transportation.
In 1985, the state of Alaska bought the railroad from the U.S. government for $22.3 million, based on a valuation determined by the US Railway Association. The state immediately invested over $70 million on improvements and repairs that made up for years of deferred maintenance. The purchase agreement prohibits the Alaska Railroad from paying dividends or otherwise returning capital to the state of Alaska (unlike the other Alaska quasi-entities: Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation, Alaska Housing Finance Corporation (AHFC), and Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA)).
Proposed expansion in Alaska[edit]Northern Rail Extension to Delta Junction[edit]As of April 2010, an extension of the railroad from Fairbanks to Delta Junction is planned, having been proposed as early as 2009.[citation needed] Originally, the extension was to be completed by 2010,[8] but construction of a major bridge across the Tanana River has barely begun, and construction of track has not started. A proposed 2011 Alaska state budget would provide $40 million in funding for the bridge, which would initially be for vehicular use, but would support Alaska Railroad trains once construction of track to Delta Junction began. The United States Department of Defense would provide another $100 million in funds, as the bridge and subsequent rail line would provide year-round access to Fort Greely and the Joint Tanana Training Complex.[9] A groundbreaking ceremony for the Tanana River Bridge took place on September 28, 2011.[10]
Point MacKenzie Line[edit]On 21 November 2011, the Surface Transportation Board approved the construction of a new 25 miles (40 km) line between Port MacKenzie and the existing mainline at Houston, Alaska.[11]
Anchorage Commuter Rail Service[edit]There are plans to provide commuter rail service within the Anchorage metropolitan area (Anchorage to Mat-Su Valley via Eagle River, north Anchorage to south Anchorage) but that requires additional tracks be laid due to a heavy freight schedule.
A spur line was built to Ted Stevens International Airport in 2003, along with a depot at the airport, but the line never received scheduled service. It is not open to the public, but cruise lines can charter trains to the airport to bring passengers to cruise ships.[12] The Alaska Railroad currently leases the airport depot, officially named after Bill Sheffield, to citizens for private events including conferences, seminars, and corporate functions.[13]
Proposed connection to the contiguous 48 states[edit]The United States government during the Clinton administration formed an international commission to investigate the building of a rail link through theYukon to connect the Alaska railroads with the rest of the North American Rail Network; Canada was asked to be part of the commission, but the Chrétien(1993–2004), Martin (2004–2006), and Harper (2006-2015) governments did not choose to join the commission and commit funds for the study. The Yukon government is interested.
A June 2006 report by the commission has recommended Carmacks, Yukon, as a hub. A line would go northward to Delta Junction, Alaska (Alaska Railroad's northern end-of-track). Another line would go from Carmacks to Hazelton, British Columbia (which is served by the CN), and that line would go through Watson Lake, Yukon, and Dease Lake, British Columbia, along the way. The third line would go from Carmacks to either Haines or Skagway, Alaska (the latter by way of the vicinity of Whitehorse, Yukon,[14][15][16][17] which are both served by the 3 ft (914 mm) (narrow-gauge) White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad), although today the White Pass & Yukon only goes as far north as Carcross, Yukon, because the entire line was embargoed in 1982 and service has not been completely restored.
Following the demise of the ill-fated Keystone Pipeline, rail connections were revisited as an alternative. In November 2015, the National Post reported that a link between the southern provinces and the Alaska Railroad was again being considered by the new Trudeau government, this time routing toAlberta. In this scenario, the route would originate at Delta Junction, Alaska and use Carmacks, Yukon as a hub, like prior plans. The route would continue through Watson Lake, Yukon before entering British Columbia, where it would stop at Fort Nelson, British Columbia. It would continue to Peace River, Alberta, with its southern terminus at Fort McMurray. The route is endorsed by the Assembly of First Nations.[18][19] It is unclear whether this rail connection would ever be expanded to also serve passengers, like the Alaska Railroad.

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