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How about a train to Alaska? Talk about experiential!

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cocojacoby

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President Donald Trump said late Friday that he expected to issue a permit for a rail line connecting Alaska and Canada, citing the influence of two members of Alaska’s congressional delegation on his decision.

“Based on the strong recommendation of @SenDanSullivan and @repdonyoung of the Great State of Alaska, it is my honor to inform you that I will be issuing a Presidential Permit for the A2A Cross-Border Rail between Alaska & Canada. Congratulations to the people of Alaska & Canada!” the president tweeted Friday around 8 p.m. Alaska time.
 

west point

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A 4 - 5 day trip one way. If by Deanease Lake then start in Seattle. The old BC rail line no picnic. If by Fort Nelson ( more likely ) then Jasper to Seattle or Edmonton ( good Via servicing ) then on to CHI ?
Then there is the problem of enough reliable Amtrak equipment.
I would not like to dispatch train without at least 4 preferrably 6 P-42s that would be winterized. That includes fuel tank heaters for diesel and DEF. Passenger cars with protected water systems. Cars built to scandavaniation winter protocols, VIA type HEP distribution system. Real dinning meals for all passengers.
 

jruff001

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Won't happen in my lifetime but it may some day (especially as global warming makes the Far North more inhabitable). If it ever does the purpose will be as a N. America - Asia freight bridge to ship cheap Asian junk to U.S. and Canadian consumers and wheat / soybeans / oil to China. So it would likely (at least at first) be an inland alignment, Edmonton - Ft Nelson - Watson Lake - Pelly River valley - Faro - Stewart Crossing - Yukon River valley to around Koyukuk - Seward Peninsula - Bering Sea crossing at the Diomedes - Siberia - China.

Secondarily, maybe later or as a branch, it might include Fairbanks, via a branch at Tanana from the west, or maybe east from Fairbanks via the Tanana valley - Tok - Whitehorse - Watson Valley (to Edmonton as above) or BC. But I see this as primarily an Asian - N. American freight link so it will not go out of its way to include Seattle, Vancouver, Fairbanks or Anchorage. Routings to include those locations would involve much more difficult engineering; and those areas already have major ports with good sea connections to Asia (except Fairbanks but there isn't a big enough market there to make a difference).

I don't see any type of regular passenger trains as being viable on such a route, at least for a long time, so not part of Amtrak; but I could definitely see an American Orient Express type of thing as a novelty to do for the rich which could happen occasionally during the summer.
 
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jiml

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This has been proposed and discussed many times. CN owns trackage all the way to Hay River, NWT, through northern Alberta (former NAR). The top portion of this route has changed hands many times, but was reacquired by CN in 2006. I believe the tracks are still in place, but have no idea what shape they're in - certainly not up to passenger train standards. However, this would be the logical starting point of an Alaskan connection. Some of the land this route and any extension crosses is unstable and would require creative construction methods. (The existing tracks used to require special lightweight locomotives at certain times of the year.) Costly and environmentally-unfriendly construction methods are not likely to win approval from the Canadian government nor native groups whose land would have to be crossed. The thought of 200-car oil trains traversing this pristine wilderness doesn't really paint an acceptable 2020 picture for most people.

You can pretty much exclude from the discussion extending the existing line from Dawson Creek, BC. British Columbia is California North, where environmental concerns and aboriginal land issues have even more traction. Alberta and the NWT would be much friendlier to job-creating development if it ever gets that far. My guess is it won't.
 

jiml

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A 4 - 5 day trip one way. If by Deanease Lake then start in Seattle. The old BC rail line no picnic. If by Fort Nelson ( more likely ) then Jasper to Seattle or Edmonton ( good Via servicing ) then on to CHI ?
Then there is the problem of enough reliable Amtrak equipment.
I would not like to dispatch train without at least 4 preferrably 6 P-42s that would be winterized. That includes fuel tank heaters for diesel and DEF. Passenger cars with protected water systems. Cars built to scandavaniation winter protocols, VIA type HEP distribution system. Real dinning meals for all passengers.
P-42's don't work in cold weather. Just ask VIA. All long-distance passenger trains in Canada run with reliable GM locomotives. ;)
 

Dakota 400

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“Based on the strong recommendation of @SenDanSullivan and @repdonyoung of the Great State of Alaska, it is my honor to inform you that I will be issuing a Presidential Permit for the A2A Cross-Border Rail between Alaska & Canada. Congratulations to the people of Alaska & Canada!” the president tweeted Friday around 8 p.m. Alaska time.
Since both Senator Sullivan and Representative Young are on the ballot for November 3rd, this Tweet doesn't amount to much. Never have heard of a "Presidential Permit". What's that all about?

We can't get Cleveland-Columbus-Dayton-Cincinnati rail service. Rail service to/from Alaska and the USA? 🤣
 

jis

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President Donald Trump said late Friday that he expected to issue a permit for a rail line connecting Alaska and Canada, citing the influence of two members of Alaska’s congressional delegation on his decision.

“Based on the strong recommendation of @SenDanSullivan and @repdonyoung of the Great State of Alaska, it is my honor to inform you that I will be issuing a Presidential Permit for the A2A Cross-Border Rail between Alaska & Canada. Congratulations to the people of Alaska & Canada!” the president tweeted Friday around 8 p.m. Alaska time.
More Presidential BS. 🤪

I'll believe it is not BS when he signs a bill with funding for realizing it. It is quite easy to scribble you John Hancock on any piece of crap, and get a picture taken doing so. But that does not mean anything without real money and plan behind it.
 
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WICT106

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This effort to connect Alaska with the rest of the North American railroad network has been proposed time and again. Just to get to Alaska would require building track across 1500 miles or so of very sparsely settled land. Then there is the construction across ground that is permafrost. Then one would have to ask what was to be shipped. Tough going, all around.
 

jiml

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I stand by my prediction this won't happen, but after doing more research I realized this has more momentum than I originally thought. Some of the approvals have apparently been obtained and it would be the route I detailed above from Hay River, NWT. The original proposal was made in 2015 and has support from some native groups whose land is involved. The primary purpose would be to move Alberta oil to Alaska. It's still a monumental undertaking that requires approval from a Canadian government that tries to look "green". Right now that government is in a minority position - held in power by the socialist NDP party and the official Green party. I don't think anyone realistically expects approval of a major infrastructure project with environmental overtones. A change in Washington in November would likely bring this discussion to the same end as the controversial Keystone XL pipeline - previously vetoed by the Obama White House.

As an aside, the discussion of passenger service on this route is fascinating. I think some are visualizing something like the Trans-Siberian Railway with equipment like the Alaska Railroad's summer services or the Rocky Mountaineer. It's important to note that for the majority of this route there is no scenery. It is flat, boring tundra with almost no population enroute. Other than railfans recording rare-mileage runs there is no realistic market for passenger service. Here is a shot of the last passenger train to run on the existing tracks:

NAR passenger.jpg
 

WWW

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This is NOT a build it and they will come !
The existing rail service - Marine Car Ferry to the port of Whittier and thence Alaska RR to the interior works fine.
Passenger Service is best served by airplanes getting into places only Swiss RR engineers building multiple tunnels and loop arounds
to get over and through mountains.
And the Weather - there is a reason the Cruise ships only visit in the Summer.

Any rail service with Canada best consider high speed rail with sleeper accommodations for the 1500 mile non-scenic RockyMountaineer trip.

Sort of compare it to the service from Winnipeg to Churchill - track laid over boggy permafrost and with global warming
engineers best plan for an elevated rail causeway.

Is there really an interior railroad service of this magnitude necessary ?
 

me_little_me

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The Alaska ferry provides this service. Rooms available; decent food; nice scenery.

They could probably offer a bundle that included food in the price.
 

Palmetto

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The Alaska ferry provides this service. Rooms available; decent food; nice scenery.

They could probably offer a bundle that included food in the price.

Put the word "rooms" in quotes. They are quite spartan, and basically contain bunks.☺
 

Anderson

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I posted this elsewhere, but basically I don't see this actually panning out unless there's a serious push on the Bering Strait project. Otherwise, I'd have to question there being enough freight coming out of Alaska to really justify this.

I don't see "regular" passenger service on the line, but I could see an occasional/semi-regular excursion service.
 

jiml

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Here is one of many Financial Post articles on the subject: Trump-backed Canadian railway to Alaska could free landlocked oil, faces high hurdles

This seems to confirm that the primary purpose of the line would be to move Alberta oil to Alaskan ports, rather than freight in the other direction. It sounds like supplementary freight traffic would just be a bonus. While this article is more positive than most, there's certainly a consensus that the political and physical obstacles might be insurmountable. If the US election in November brings a more environmentally conscious government, whether through the Legislature or at the top, this project is so dead.
 

ehbowen

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IMO the Bering Strait connection is a non-starter; it's just too remote and there's not nearly enough traffic. It would take nearly as long for freight trains to take the roundabout route from China through Siberia to the Strait and down through Alaska and Canada as it would to send a fast container ship direct from Asia to Seattle...and ocean shipping is dirt cheap. Passenger transit is an even more blue-sky idea; you'd get more travelers by putting a couple of dozen passenger cabins on those container freighters.

On the other hand, having a rail connection capable of operating through winter to the 49th state is a worthwhile goal from a public policy standpoint in and of itself, and if it can mostly pay for itself by transferring oil from our good friend and ally to existing infrastructure (pipeline/Valdez terminal) in Alaska then so much the better. Believe me, I'm all for it; I'm just skeptical that there's enough will to do it to sustain it until completion.
 

jis

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IMO the Bering Strait connection is a non-starter; it's just too remote and there's not nearly enough traffic. It would take nearly as long for freight trains to take the roundabout route from China through Siberia to the Strait and down through Alaska and Canada as it would to send a fast container ship direct from Asia to Seattle...and ocean shipping is dirt cheap. Passenger transit is an even more blue-sky idea; you'd get more travelers by putting a couple of dozen passenger cabins on those container freighters.

On the other hand, having a rail connection capable of operating through winter to the 49th state is a worthwhile goal from a public policy standpoint in and of itself, and if it can mostly pay for itself by transferring oil from our good friend and ally to existing infrastructure (pipeline/Valdez terminal) in Alaska then so much the better. Believe me, I'm all for it; I'm just skeptical that there's enough will to do it to sustain it until completion.
Good observations @ehbowen, and given the mindset in the US, I am almost convinced that a rail link to Alaska will probably never happen.

If this was Russia, China or India, this would be considered a strategic link project and no one would demand that it pay for itself. It would be built and run as a strategic link (sort of like the intterstate system is in the US). China really does not expect the Tibet link to pay for itself, and India does not expect the Kashmir Rail Link to pay for itself, as Russia did not for building the northern trans-Siberia route.
 

Siegmund

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I will be amazed to see any progress on it. It had a good chance in the 70s and a semi-decent chance once in the 90s.

The state of the Alaska economy (worse now than at any time in the past 50 years) is going to be a sizable part of the problem - I can't imagine the Alaska Railroad being given money to build or operate the within-Alaska portion of the line. That's pretty much the same thing that happened in the 70s, Canada started building their part, we didn't build ours. If I were the Canadian prime minister I would want to see people with shovels digging in Alaska before did a thing.
 
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