The Alaska Railroad: 1902-1923 , subtitled Blazing an Iron Trail Across The Last Frontier, is the story of the construction of the Alaska Railroad and its predecessors, from 1902, when pioneer real estate promoter John Ballaine built the Alaska Central Railroad north from Seward; through 1923, when President Warren G. Harding drove the Alaska Railroad’s ceremonial Golden Spike at Nenana.
This 400-page book is a wide-ranging look at the many ways in which the railroad played a major role in Alaska’s growth and development. 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 historic documents, photographs, and publications.
This is more than the just the story of constructing the railroad, this is also the story of how the U. S. Government built towns and cities across the territory, including Seward, Anchorage, Palmer, Wasilla, Talkeetna, Nenana, and Fairbanks. It’s the story of coal mining in Alaska, from the Guggenheim Syndicate’s notorious attempted monopoly of Alaska’s resources, to the government’s own private coal 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 were brought north to claw at Alaskan hillsides.
The 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. ~•~
The Alaska Railroad: 1902-1923, Blazing an Iron Trail Across The Last Frontier, by Helen Hegener, published in May, 2017 by Northern Light Media. 400 pages, over 100 b/w historic photos, maps, bibliography, indexed. The book can be ordered for $24.95 plus $5.00 postage, by clicking here.