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BlackDiamond

Streetcar Motorman
AU Supporting Member
Joined
Sep 2, 2021
Messages
2,273
Location
The Slate Belt
My wife and I are thinking of taking the Alaska RR from Anchorage to Fairbanks in March 2022 and spending a few days in Fairbanks to see the Northern Lights.

Interested in hearing anyone's experience with this train in winter. According to their web site the train does have a dining car. Wondering about what is offered is it like Amtrak traditional dining, flex dining or cafe service? I take it the dome doesn't run in winter, as they list adventure class only.
 
Here's a video from Jeb Brooks. He's taking the trip from Fairbanks to Anchorage. I hope this helps.
That's Gold Star, their premium service which I believe is only available in summer.

Here's a video of the winter service by the excellent Simply Railway channel:

 
Just a note about the dining car. The food looks good, but they do serve it on paper plates with plastic cutlery. No 4-star dining experience here!
I traveled from Anchorage to Fairbanks in May 2017 and ate in the dining car. I found the food and service excellent (as was the local beer). I did not notice paper plates. I found my photos and it appears that there were real coffee cups and real plates and silverware for breakfast.
IMG_1006.JPG
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However, I seem to recall the dining car and/or "first class" may not be available in the winter.
 
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I traveled from Anchorage to Fairbanks in May 2017 and ate in the dining car. I found the food and service excellent (as was the local beer). I did not notice paper plates. I found my photos and it appears that there were real coffee cups and real plates and silverware for breakfast.
View attachment 25519
View attachment 25520


However, I seem to recall the dining car may not be available in the winter and/or "first class."
Could also be due to service reductions that came with COVID.
 
Alaska Railroad website:

Alaska Railroad | Alaskan Tours & Vacations | Train Packages

Call and get the gospel scoop of what service is available.

The main attraction in the summer is the cruise related travel both on the Alaska Railway rolling stock
and the Princess and Holland-America equipment towed at the end of the Denali Star trains.
The Bi-Level cars are the ones with the superb glass dome viewing outdoor vestible platform and restaurant service.
The summer trains run daily - the winter trains less frequently more like once a week.
The premium "Gold Star" class offers complimentary beverages and meal service - the Aventure class is ala carte.

For the full she-bang the Denali Star train is way to go - 350 miles 12 hours (8am-8pm) either direction from
Anchorage to Fairbanks
Others are the Glacier Express - Anchorage to Whittier/Portage and the Coastal Classic - Anchorage to Seward
Passenger operation is pretty much in full swing in the summer in the winter the train stops in the middle of
no where to pick-up and drop off remote wilderness residents.
During the dead of night and all winter freight movement is the game - railroad ferries bring the cars to
Whittier from the lower 48 and supply Alaska with a plethora of goods to sustain Alaska living

At any time year round the Alaska Railroad is an experience not to be missed for railroad buffs !
Note during the winter be prepared for down right sub zero temperatures in Fairbanks while in Anchorage the weather can be very mild.

Flights from the many cities in the lower 48 go to from Anchorage - Fairbanks in the winter only to from Anchorage & Seattle.

Your research here and on other forums will be richly rewarded a treasured experience - Hope "The Mountain is Out" for you !
 
Here's a video of the winter service by the excellent Simply Railway channel:

Interesting video. It has really grown! In the years I lived in Fairbanks (ending during the winter of 2010-11), if I ever saw the winter train, it consisted of a single baggage car and coach, and I had the impression you could typically count the passengers on your fingers.
 
The Alaska Railroad is fantastic I did it this last June/July. The winter train does not include their regular vista domes either. The Alaska Railroad rosters a handful of Budd Vista domes built for the North Coast Limited, and Empire Builder, as well as a handful of Union Pacific domes off the City of trains.

As far as the scenery the Denali Star is nowhere near as good as the Coastal Classic or Glacier Discovery Train south out of Anchorage. Going south of Anchorage is absolutely amazing.

If you go in the summer definitely do the Glacier Discovery Train and you can purchase add on tours to go with it which is fun. I'll probably go back just to do the rafting one I missed out on.
 
The winter train is designed to favor the pick-up and drop off remote wilderness residents.
Think of the train as your SUV to go to the market for supplies and living essentials.

Of the three trains (Seaboard92) mentioned the Coastal Classic going from Anchorage to the Port of Seward is perhaps the highlight of Alaska
ruggedness tunnels and grade u-turns looking down into waterfalls viewing glaciers (from a distance) and occasional critter photo opts.
The Glacier Discovery does some of this and winds up at the Port Whittier - longest tunnel in Alaska shared with motor vehicles ***
*** was built by the railroad to move freight traffic from the lower 48 into the Alaska interior - automobiles were first loaded on flat cars
to transit the tunnel - this went on for several years and the railroad bed was paved over for shared traffic in the tunnel alternately.
The tunnel is the Anton Anderson tunnel:

anton anderson tunnel ak - Bing

The Denali Star could be a tunda express - the scenic highpoint is the Fairbanks side from Denali Park - the Healy Canyon - the train descends
the canyon from Denali Park going to Fairbanks.
 
Your research here and on other forums will be richly rewarded a treasured experience - Hope "The Mountain is Out" for you !
It was for us. Not only in the park but after leaving it and stopping at a viewing site along the road. Moreover, Mirror Lake in Denali was perfectly calm and we got a wonderful view of the mountain there.

It was our 40th Anniversary so after hearing 'Hope "The Mountain is Out" for you !' so many times, we were thrilled to be so lucky.
 
Thanks for posting, videos, etc. This trip has been on my bucket list for quite some time :)
 
Alaska Railroad is fantastic I did it this last June/July. The winter train does not include their regular vista domes either. The Alaska Railroad rosters a handful of Budd Vista domes built for the North Coast Limited, and Empire Builder, as well as a handful of Union Pacific domes off the City of trains.

Sounds awesome.

How did they get all of those cars up there? They don't have tracks from the lower 48.
 
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Sounds awesome.

Hiw did they get all of those cars up there? They don't have tracks from the lower 48.
Ferry. There is a freight car ferry that used to operate and maybe still does. But there still are facilities to move cars by boat I believe.
 
Everything arrives via the ferry in Whitier. The Alaska Railroad bought a lot of equipment from the defunct Florida Fun Train so the normal cafe cars on those trains are actually from that service.
 
Alaska Railroad website:

Alaska Railroad | Alaskan Tours & Vacations | Train Packages

Call and get the gospel scoop of what service is available.

The main attraction in the summer is the cruise related travel both on the Alaska Railway rolling stock
and the Princess and Holland-America equipment towed at the end of the Denali Star trains.
The Bi-Level cars are the ones with the superb glass dome viewing outdoor vestible platform and restaurant service.
The summer trains run daily - the winter trains less frequently more like once a week.
The premium "Gold Star" class offers complimentary beverages and meal service - the Aventure class is ala carte.

For the full she-bang the Denali Star train is way to go - 350 miles 12 hours (8am-8pm) either direction from
Anchorage to Fairbanks
Others are the Glacier Express - Anchorage to Whittier/Portage and the Coastal Classic - Anchorage to Seward
Passenger operation is pretty much in full swing in the summer in the winter the train stops in the middle of
no where to pick-up and drop off remote wilderness residents.
During the dead of night and all winter freight movement is the game - railroad ferries bring the cars to
Whittier from the lower 48 and supply Alaska with a plethora of goods to sustain Alaska living

At any time year round the Alaska Railroad is an experience not to be missed for railroad buffs !
Note during the winter be prepared for down right sub zero temperatures in Fairbanks while in Anchorage the weather can be very mild.

Flights from the many cities in the lower 48 go to from Anchorage - Fairbanks in the winter only to from Anchorage & Seattle.

Your research here and on other forums will be richly rewarded a treasured experience - Hope "The Mountain is Out" for you !
Hi,

I have some questions on the Alaska Railroad.

1. Are there any discussion groups on this railroad?

2. Are there any web sites or pictures on the net to see.

3. What is their interchange like with other railways via rail barge. Or is it mostly
in house traffic.

4. When will the new SD70MAC'S be ready for deliver and how many? will they have flared
rads?

Sorry for all the questions!
 
Hi,

I have some questions on the Alaska Railroad.

1. Are there any discussion groups on this railroad?
Google: "Alaska railroad discussion group" and browse away
2. Are there any web sites or pictures on the net to see.
Browsing around - Answer to question 1 may result in sites pictures and a whole lot more
and reading this forum readers response and shared photos
3. What is their interchange like with other railways via rail barge. Or is it mostly
in house traffic.
You would have to contact Alaska RR for the answer:
https://www.alaskarailroad.com/
4. When will the new SD70MAC'S be ready for deliver and how many? will they have flared
rads?
Same answer as to question 3
Sorry for all the questions!
Don't be sorry - AU may have the answers or direction to browse further
Something of interest the cruise lines Princess & Holland-America (part of Carnival)
have a considerable vested interest in Alaska rail travel (they even have their own cars)
Norwegian is in this mix too using Alaska RR stock.
Of note Amtrak could sure use a lesson in crowd people pleasing Observation cars ---
Those Alaska RR Gold Star dome cars are viewing par excellence !
One customer pleasing feature is when something of interest - mountain glacier view -
critter (moose-bear-elk-etc.) train slows and may even stop to offer photo opts.
Also out of fairness Alaska RR passenger travel and freight are never in conflict -
Passenger rail during daytime hours and freight during the dead of night
 
Of note Amtrak could sure use a lesson in crowd people pleasing Observation cars ---
Those Alaska RR Gold Star dome cars are viewing par excellence !

They are an example of just how easy it is to make good bilevel designs if you're allowed to go to 17 feet tall. Which works on almost all US mainline routes (double-stacked containers are 18 to 20 feet)... but not in Chicago Union Station. I was disappointed that lowering the tracks by 1 foot was not even considered, in the recent Union Station track relocation/redesign planning.
 
Barges between Washington and Alaska carry a lot of non-railroad traffic too. A company I worked for shipped a palette from China to Tacoma to Alaska. It was easy, since the distributor was in Tacoma and explained to us how to set it up. Thrice weekly barges if I recall.

The US Postal Service used to have exceptionally good deals sending stuff to Alaska, but then I think it implemented zones. Before that, a geology grad student I knew was on a summer project that shipped everything by USPS.
 
I've ridden all of the Alaska Railroad trains and routes (except the winter train- same route but different service) in both Adventure Class (Coach) and Gold Class (the Bi-level ultra domes). If anyone has any specific questions on the service ask away.

Alaska Railroad is a great example of how a State Run railway can serve freight, local passengers, and tourists.
 
They are an example of just how easy it is to make good bilevel designs if you're allowed to go to 17 feet tall. Which works on almost all US mainline routes (double-stacked containers are 18 to 20 feet)... but not in Chicago Union Station. I was disappointed that lowering the tracks by 1 foot was not even considered, in the recent Union Station track relocation/redesign planning.
Another example of superb bilevel cars are the Rocky Mountaineer (Gold Leaf class) used exclusively in Canada
 
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