Rare Rails

Alaska Rail­road of­fers rar­i­fied views of the Last Fron­tier

Where Alaska - - Content -

Travel in style.

The Alaska Rail­road — which now spans cities as Se­ward, Anchorage, Tal­keetna, De­nali Na­tional Park and Fair­banks — has a his­tory that dates back to 1903, more than 50 years be­fore Alaska be­came a state.

The orig­i­nal 51-mile track ex­tended through the moun­tain­ous Ke­nai Penin­sula ter­rain from Se­ward to Up­per Tur­na­gain Arm, just south of Anchorage. It is thanks to the ran­dom de­ci­sion to base a rail­road con­struc­tion camp for the Alaska En­gi­neer­ing Com­mis­sion in Ship Creek that the city of Anchorage was con­structed.

To­day, the 44- rail­car train sys­tem pro­vides reg­u­larly sched­uled pub­lic trans­porta­tion from the shores of the Pa­cific Ocean to the heart of In­te­rior Alaska. The Alaska Rail­road has three main pas­sen­ger routes: the Coastal Clas­sic, with ser­vice be­tween Anchorage and Se­ward on the beau­ti­ful Ke­nai Penin­sula; the De­nali Star, with ser­vice be­tween Anchorage, Tal­keetna, De­nali Na­tional Park and Pre­serve and Fair­banks; and the Glacier Dis­cov­ery, with ser­vice to Whittier and then runs on a sight­see­ing route into the Ke­nai Moun­tains.

A des­ti­na­tion of its own, the Alaska Rail­road is not your run- ofthe-mill, get-to-where-you-needto- go kind of train. Its sig­na­ture yel­low and blue cars snake through pic­turesque scenes of colos­sal snow- capped moun­tains that tower over alpine meadows, rain­forests, lakes and rivers in parts of the state in­ac­ces­si­ble by road.

Both the De­nali Star and Coastal Clas­sic trains each have lux­ury- class ser­vice, known as Gold­Star Ser­vice, in spe­cially de­signed dou­ble- deck, glass- domed rail­cars with up­per level out­door view­ing decks (only found on the Alaska Rail­road), orig­i­nal Alaska art, din­ing room seat­ing with a view and a full-time bar at­ten­dant. The din­ing rooms on board the De­nali Star and Coastal Clas­sic of­fer all trav­el­ers a choice of hot or cold meals fea­tur­ing Alaska seafood, chow­der, quiches, sal­ads and other de­li­cious dishes that can be paired with a glass of wine or a lo­cally-brewed beer, with the op­tion to pre-pay for meals when rail tick­ets are pur­chased.

Each des­ti­na­tion of­fers the op­por­tu­nity to ven­ture far­ther into the re­gion by tak­ing ad­van­tage of a wealth of recre­ational ac­tiv­i­ties such as flight­see­ing, glacier cruises, De­nali Na­tional Park tours, dogsled­ding tours, ice climb­ing, raft­ing and more.

The Hur­ri­cane Turn Train is a fea­ture of the Alaska Rail­road fa­vored by lo­cals and also geared to­ward the in­de­pen­dent trav­eler. Of­fered Thurs­day through Sun­day in sum­mer, and on the first Thurs­day of each month in win­ter, the Hur­ri­cane Turn pro­vides old-fash­ioned flag-stop ser­vice, known to be the last in the United States, along its route from Talk- eetna along the Susitna River and through the In­dian River Canyon to Hur­ri­cane, 55 miles north.

This ser­vice is of­fered in the win­ter months as well and takes off from Anchorage in­stead of Tal­keetna. Pas­sen­gers on this train have ac­cess to Alaska’s back­coun­try any­where along the route with the wave of a hand.

Through­out the year, spe­cial event trains like the Great Alaska Beer Train from Anchorage to Portage and back or the Blues Train from Anchorage to Se­ward draw many lo­cals and vis­i­tors and of­fer a chance to en­joy the sights while min­gling with like­minded trav­el­ers and friends. The trains tend to sell out early and seat­ing is limited so ad­vance book­ing it highly rec­om­mended.

Departures are avail­able in any of the com­mu­ni­ties served by the Alaska Rail­road. All fares, sched­ules, day tours and va­ca­tion pack­ages from 2 to 12 days can be found at AlaskaRail­road.com.

Glass- domed cars with out­door view­ing decks

are part of the Gold Star lux­ury ser­vice on the De­nali and Coastal

Clas­sic trains.

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