The Alaska Railroad 1902-1923

Covershot websizedThe Alaska Railroad: 1902-1923 , subtitled Blazing an Iron Trail Across The Great Land, covers the construction of the Alaska Railroad and its predecessors, from 1902, when John Ballaine built the Alaska Central Railroad; through 1923, when President Warren G. Harding drove the ceremonial Golden Spike in Nenana.

Matanuska River Bridge trainThis 400-page book is a wide-ranging look at Alaska’s growth and development, in which the railroad played a major role. From dynamiting the railbed out of the rocky cliffs along Turnagain Arm, to spanning the deep chasm of Hurricane Gulch, and from crossing the endless miles of muskeg swamp to bridging the mighty waters of the Tanana River, the story is told through dozens of historic documents, photographs, and publications.

Screen Shot 2017-05-18 at 12.15.19 PMThis is more than the story of constructing the railroad, however…. This is also the story of how the U. S. Government built towns and cities across the territory, including the city of Anchorage. It’s the story of coal mining in Alaska, from the Guggenheim Syndicate’s attempted monopoly of Alaska’s resources to the government’s own private mine to service the U.S. Naval fleet in the Pacific. It’s the story of steamboat travel on Alaskan rivers, and how the railroad’s own fleet of steamers and gas-powered “tunnel boats” came to dominate the watery transportation corridors. It’s the story of the role a fledgling conservation movement played in dividing a major political party. And it’s the story of how steam shovels which dug the Panama Canal ended up clawing at Alaskan hillsides…

Screen Shot 2017-05-18 at 12.28.15 PMThe 500-mile long Alaska Railroad runs from the seaport town of Seward, on the Kenai Peninsula, to Fairbanks, the Golden Heart of Alaska. Along the way it crosses two formidable mountain ranges, several broad and daunting rivers, and numerous deep gorges and canyons. It winds along the tidewater edge of Turnagain Arm, past Bartlett and Spencer Glaciers, and skirts the highest point on the North American continent, the Great One, Denali. From running its own opulent luxury hotel—literally in the middle of nowhere—to developing the telephone, water, and sewer systems of Anchorage, the history of the railroad is largely the history of Alaska. Take a ride on the northernmost U. S. railroad, and gain an unusual perspective on a richly fascinating period in America’s past.   ~•~

Covershot websized

The Alaska Railroad: 1902-1923, Blazing an Iron Trail Across The Great Land, published in May, 2017. 400 pages, over 100 b/w historic photos, maps, bibliography, indexed. The book can be ordered for $24.00 plus $5.00 postage, by clicking here.

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About Helen Hegener

I write books about Alaskan history, and titles currently available include Alaskan Roadhouses, The First Iditarod, The All Alaska Sweepstakes, The Yukon Quest Trail, The Matanuska Colony Barns, and others. I am currently researching and writing a book on the early history and construction of the Alaska Railroad. You can contact me via email at helenhegener@gmail.com
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