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How about a train to Alaska? Talk about experiential!

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railiner

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Mechanisation and modern technology have vastly reduced the need for armies of labor in construction. Being a railway, solves most of the supply issues.
 

jiml

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Mechanisation and modern technology have vastly reduced the need for armies of labor in construction. Being a railway, solves most of the supply issues.
Even allowing for that, once you factor in a dramatically shortened building season and the topography over which almost 1000 miles of railroad track must be laid, we're talking a project on a scale not seen in a very long time. It may take armies of labor if there's any hope of completing it in a reasonable time. Of course I'm one who believes it's not going to happen. 😁
 

JC_620

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So, how would the route be built from Alaska and into Eastern Russia/Siberia? A railroad bridge across the water?
 

Siegmund

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So, how would the route be built from Alaska and into Eastern Russia/Siberia? A railroad bridge across the water?
Tunnel is a lot more likely than bridge. It is really hard to build bridges that can withstand icebergs. (More likely in the epsilon vs. epsilon/10 sense - if we can't build a tunnel between Los Angeles and Bakersfield it's gonna be a long time before we build one in the middle of nowhere.)

Even allowing for that, once you factor in a dramatically shortened building season....
"Building season" for roadbed and oil drilling platforms is often winter -- when the ground is frozen hard enough to drive the dozers and heavy trucks across it without having them sink out of sight into the mud.
Things like paving still have to be done in summer.

It's been a while since anyone tried to build a railroad that far north, winter or summer, so I don't really know what approach they plan to take.

I have my doubts this project will get off the ground. That said, there IS money for big projects in Alberta... as we've seen on this side of the border, with the Keystone XL pipeline being built pretty much entirely with Canadian money.
 

jiml

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"Building season" for roadbed and oil drilling platforms is often winter -- when the ground is frozen hard enough to drive the dozers and heavy trucks across it without having them sink out of sight into the mud.
Things like paving still have to be done in summer.

It's been a while since anyone tried to build a railroad that far north, winter or summer, so I don't really know what approach they plan to take.
And therein is the quandary. You're entirely correct, but that's also why many sections of the Alaska Highway were not paved until the '90's when paving technology caught up to the freeze and thaw cycles. Before then it was a simpler matter to regrade gravel when frost heaving occurred. Oil platforms require a supporting framework that descends below the frost line, but not in the continuous manner that hundreds miles of track would. The closest parallel I could find was the construction of some of the northern railway lines in the UK by George Stephenson. North American tundra is not dissimilar to the boggy terrain they had to cross, minus the total freezing component. It was still unstable and prone to seasonal heaving. The solution found was to sink timber pilings attached to bales of cotton many feet into the ground all the way along the right of way. It must have worked since some of those lines are still in use over a hundred years later. The document posted earlier from the NWT government states that capital investment is continually required by CN Rail to operate and maintain the portion already in place to Hay River, "especially over sections underlain by permafrost, making it one of the most costly subdivisions to operate in CN Rail’s system" in addition to speed and weight restrictions. Multiply that over the distance of the extension.

Here is an excerpt from the CN timetable illustrating those points, including the higher weight limits in winter and the restricted speeds:
 

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me_little_me

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if we can't build a tunnel between Los Angeles and Bakersfield it's gonna be a long time before we build one in the middle of nowhere.)
Two biggest problems with those kind of projects are ecology and NIMBY. The latter wouldn't seem to be the problem in Alaska and Alberta as it would be in L.A. so that would leave the ecology which could be a big issue.
 

JC_620

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Can someone detail how they believe that the route might go from Canada and where the stops in Alaska also might be (provided we are talking about passenger services as well as freight)?

Certainly there might be (notice that key word again: might) a very profitable amount of money to be made in the summer months as that is when the Alaska tour season is.
 

daybeers

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I think a train going all that way in the middle of nowhere is fantasy. That land is some of the most remote and harshest in the world, affecting not only construction but maintenance and operations as mentioned. The land disruption would be immense through lots of nature sanctuary, and let's be honest, it's gonna cost an awful lot to use lightweight equipment and make sure it can still run when land inevitably floods.

I think it's a cool idea and I agree, I would be on the first train but the obstacles and harm are too great for too little reward and benefit.
 

WWW

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Two biggest problems with those kind of projects are ecology and NIMBY. The latter wouldn't seem to be the problem in Alaska and Alberta as it would be in L.A. so that would leave the ecology which could be a big issue.
We won't be building a tunnel thru an earthquake fault zone -
Just the thought of building one would trigger the movement -

Really there are other satisfactory solutions to going from point "A" to "B"
Bridges to nowhere (Ketchikan Alaska) - well how did that work out - no tunnel (channel too deep) - no bridge - simple ferry taxi suffices

There are huge ships carrying over 5000 modular containers at a wack -
there are just so many train consists to move this volume on the limited track available -
Then watch the train delays on the Amtrak LD trains -

Panama Canal has been widen for the PanaMax container ships -
Slow moving huge ships probably a good idea - just the right amount of supply meeting the demand -

Air Cargo very expensive - perhaps just right for the absolutely positively needed overnight stuff -

And in the current state of affairs need to think of DIY manufacturing things here locally in the USA (JOBS !)
then we don't need to think of ways to move imported goods across the country !

Well I think I will be off fighting windmills if that will help - solar may even be of some help here !
 

Siegmund

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Can someone detail how they believe that the route might go from Canada and where the stops in Alaska also might be (provided we are talking about passenger services as well as freight)?

Certainly there might be (notice that key word again: might) a very profitable amount of money to be made in the summer months as that is when the Alaska tour season is.
Details on the proposal are at https://a2arail.com; maps at a2arail.com/resources/

New track is proposed to run Fairbanks - Delta Junction - Tok - Carmacks (YT) - Watson Lake - Fort Liard (NWT) and intersect the existing line to Hay River somewhere around High Level or Meander River (AB), about 450 miles NW of Edmonton, and then to continue across northern Alberta to a 2nd connection with existing track somewhere around Fort McMurray. IMO there must be some high value export that they think they are going to ship from the Lake Athabasca region to China. (And this suggests that, when financing falls through, they will build the part from their new mine to Fort McMurray, ship it to Prince Rupert or Vancouver via CN, and forget about the connection to Alaska.)

Compared to a coastal or through-northern-BC route the scenery will not have much to recommend it (yes, it's pretty, forested rolling hills, but its not what people "go to Alaska for."
 
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WWW

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Details on the proposal are at https://a2arail.com; maps at a2arail.com/resources/

New track is proposed to run Fairbanks - Delta Junction - Tok - Carmacks (YT) - Watson Lake - Fort Liard (NWT) and intersect the existing line to Hay River somewhere around High Level or Meander River (AB), about 450 miles NW of Edmonton, and then to continue across northern Alberta to a 2nd connection with existing track somewhere around Fort McMurray. IMO there must be some high value export that they think they are going to ship from the Lake Athabasca region to China. (And this suggests that, when financing falls through, they will build the part from their new mine to Fort McMurray, ship it to Prince Rupert or Vancouver via CN, and forget about the connection to Alaska.)

Compared to a coastal or through-northern-BC route the scenery will not have much to recommend it (yes, it's pretty, forested rolling hills, but its not what people "go to Alaska for."
Perhaps could compare it to the rail service from Winnipeg to Churchill - nothing touristy till at the destination (viewing Polar bears).
From a passenger service point of view - a night sleeper train to get to Alaska without flying there.
Not even a casual mention of extending the White Pass and Yukon RR or a connection although not in the same league.

Interesting viewing the (https://a2arail.com; maps at a2arail.com/resources/) link:
The A2A is supposed to save 4 days shipping time by routing traffic thru Valdez-Whittier-Seward to the Alaska interior Fairbanks
connecting with the proposed A2A service
Having taken the Alaska RR from Seward and also Whittier to Anchorage and thence to Fairbanks the travel times:
Seward to Anchorage - around 4.5 hours
Whittier to Anchorage - around 2+ hours
Anchorage to Fairbanks - 12 hours
Of course the trains can move rain or shine night or day unlike the Alaska RR daylight scenic tourist trains Denali Star Coastal Classic

Thinking of imported goods arriving this way - would the return trips be taking exported agri-products (soy wheat other etc.)
different rail cars - logistics of that equation - there is a limit to empty rolling stock making money !
 

Siegmund

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Not even a casual mention of extending the White Pass and Yukon RR or a connection although not in the same league.
The 1970s proposal included extending the White Pass from Whitehorse to Carmacks to connect with the new Canada-to-Alaska line.

The big traffic driver 1969-82 was the huge mine at Faro east of Carmacks, which trucked ore to Whitehorse then loaded it onto the railroad to be taken south. I don't recall offhand whether the proposal was for Whitehorse-Carmacks to be narrow gauge or standard gauge; a one-car ride would be desirable but I don't recall anybody wanting to widen the White Pass.

The closure of that mine was the end of the White Pass as anything other than a tourist operation... I daresay that it was probably a signficant nail in the coffin of the larger Alaska-Canada project too (and the reduced likelihood of a bunch of similar mines opening along the route.)
 

cocojacoby

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So, how would the route be built from Alaska and into Eastern Russia/Siberia? A railroad bridge across the water?
Some info for you:


 

neroden

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The closest parallel I could find was the construction of some of the northern railway lines in the UK by George Stephenson. North American tundra is not dissimilar to the boggy terrain they had to cross, minus the total freezing component. It was still unstable and prone to seasonal heaving. The solution found was to sink timber pilings attached to bales of cotton many feet into the ground all the way along the right of way. It must have worked since some of those lines are still in use over a hundred years later.
That design's called a "land bridge", and was also proposed for the railroad line from Madison, WI to Milwaukee which almost got built (dammit Scott Walker). Obviously we use somewhat more modern piling systems, but the idea is the same. It works.
 

WWW

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That design's called a "land bridge", and was also proposed for the railroad line from Madison, WI to Milwaukee which almost got built (dammit Scott Walker). Obviously we use somewhat more modern piling systems, but the idea is the same. It works.
Obviously something got into the fray - politics money and a host of other issues.
Something radically wrong with the routing of the EB bypassing Madison (WI Capitol City) and going rural Portage Columbus and thence motor coach
aka "THE BUS" ! The portion from Madison to the EB at Portage was made but as noted the Madison Milwaukee left hanging. Trains work best when
there is a volume of passenger traffic between city centers not between rural outposts - and bus connections - DAH !

On another note what happen with the 7 day EB service between Chicago and Minneapolis/St.Paul - so it is operating 3 days for its entire length Seattle to
Chicago - one thing trains 7 & 8 could operate on time between Chicago and MSP without the delays and interruptions in the Dakotas and Montana.
There was some discussion about operating an additional Chicago MSP trip again some bone headed decision - politics money and issues holding it up.
There are 4 or more airlines operating air service from MSP to ORD - MDW daily - should be room to make money and offer people pleasing travel
between the cites and those along the route - not exactly a time savings but fewer hassels than air travel and its restrictions and no darn middle seats !

Not my job to run a railroad but if it doesn't make a profit run on time guess who catches h-e-ll and suffers - the consumer traveling public.

Maybe the new administration can tweak the rail service for better results and crowd pleasing service ?
 
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