Facebook Page
Anchorage to Talkeetna Page1

Alaska Railroad Denali Star

Anchorage to Talkeetna

July 29, 2007

Story and photographs by Richard Elgenson
RailNews Network writer

Denali Star and Hurricane Turn Train, July 29, 2007.  I got to the depot armed with a national brand coffee, badly needed after making the west coast journey from California to Alaska the preceding night. After getting my ticket, I was assigned to the "B" car near the front of the train.  This train was about 20 cars in length with 2 SD-70 MAC engines.  We departed ON TIME and after passing by the Anchorage freight yard, attained maximum speed of 59 miles per hour very quickly.  This Sunday promised very nice weather.  The days agenda was to catch the Denali Star train in Anchorage, then change trains in Talkeetna to the Hurricane Turn Flagstop train. 



In Anchorage, before the Denali Star train departed, I happened to notice a railroad employee talking with a Denali Star tour guide.  He identified himself as the conductor of the Hurricane Turn train.  Being aware of the two station locations being separated by less than a mile, I became excited and said "I am on your flagstop train today."  I innocently asked "how easy is it to get from the Talkeetna station to the Hurricane section house?"  He was very nice and replied "I can give you a ride there" which reduced my stress level to almost zero. 


The Denali Star portion of the days train riding was punctuated by warm, pleasant sunny weather, nice people aboard and a smooth ride.  In the last 10 years, the Alaska Railroad has upgraded their infrastructure and physical plant immensely.  The track from Anchorage to Eagle River was straightened with continuous welded rail installed.  The ride is smooth without the clickety-clack sound of the past.  Most of the rest of the line from Anchorage to Hurricane has also been similiarly upgraded.  I also noticed many miles of concrete ties. 





At Wasilla, Brakeman Leo Thurmond entered the forward dome where I had been sitting and asked if anyone present was interested in birds.  Although no one replied "yes" he said there was an osprey nest to be seen just after the Wasilla depot.  After we started moving again, I found an open vestibule and watched and waited for this nest.  It was on a pole of a utility line.  Osprey make large nests with lots of twigs and branches. 


Soon after this, the gift shop employees came through the train for the Alaska Railroad fashion show.  The tour guides dress up in ARR shirts, hats and show off other gift items in an effort to encourage you to visit the on board gift shop. 


One main concern while making the Hurricane Turn train ride would be visiblity of the 20,320 foot tall Denali, the "high one" to native Americans, or in white man speak, Mt. McKinley.  Finally on a long tangent stetch of track, Denali was visible with clouds building.   Later, it was socked in by clouds.  It is visible in both photographs below.  On a clear dayDenali is visible from Anchorage, 170 miles away.  This mountain rises 18,000 feet above the surrounding 2,000 foot high hills.


Northbound Denali Star Continued