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day 9/13

Auto, Train, Bus, and Plane.

And Taxi too.

Photos and Text by Robin Bowers

Table of Contents

National Railway Historical Society (NRHS) 2013 - Alaska

1.  September 13, 2013  Auto, Train, Bus, and Plane.   And Taxi too.

2.  September 14, 2013 Riverboat, Steam engine train and Stanley Steamer

September 14, 2013  Fairbanks - Land of Midnight Sun

4.  September 14, 2013 Antique Autos

5.  September 15, 2013 Train ride to North Pole

6.  September 16, 2013  Fairbanks to Denali

7.  September 17, 2013  Denali to Anchorage via Talkeentna 

And so began my first day in the adventure of a life time. A one-time, never to be repeated exploring of a faraway land. A land much heard about, especially around a certain time of the year but with few visitors and scattered, sparsely populated residents.

Although this was first day of travel, the story begins in the early months of the new year of 2013. At our monthly meetings of the Train Riders Meet Up group in Fullerton, CA talk was about this upcoming summer convention of the National Railway Historical Society (NRHS). Every year the convention is held in different places in the country. Time is usually spent riding the local trains. Last year it was held in Iowa.

And this year in September of 2013 the NRHS was going to………Alaska !!!

Hell yes, great. But alas at first blushed I thought going there would be a pipe dream. Too far. Too expensive. And all the other Too’s.

But at each meeting the talk continued. And I investigated and studied it further. Then Chris Guenzler (Chris G) and Chris Parker (Chris P) said they were going and were making reservations and buying tickets for the convention. Well I thought if I go I will know at least two people. After much playing with figures and what is offered on the trip I felt good saying yes for a go. Several things were paramount in decision making.

The bucket list. Have heard about "Seward’s Folly" since grade school history class. And Mount McKinley, the highest point-20,320 feet, in North America was studied in Geography class. The Land of the Midnight Sun. I could see Alaska and ride the Alaska Rail Road all over the state. Two birds with one stone.

Also heard and saw TV shows about the Alaska Railroad and the great scenery seen from the train. Remember seeing TV’s Huell Howser going to Alaska and riding the train and stopping when someone would flag down the train to stop. Or telling the conductor that you wanted to be left off the train at a fish camp in the middle of the wilderness. And I was curious as the affect this land would have on the senses. The smell of the air, the temp, how verdant, what are the people like and the bugs. When I was in the USAF, I worked with a sergeant who just came back from being stationed there. The thing he missed was the smell of fresh cut grass. 

First I checked if flights were available. If not then it would be a no go. Alaska Airlines was giving a discount to conventioneers. Looking over their flights if seem the best values are from LAX but that is a long way from Huntington Beach, CA. So a plan was devised. Drive to Santa Ana Train station (SNA) and park in garage for free for ten days, and then take the Metrolink train from SNA to LA Union station, from there take the FlyAway bus to LAX. Best of all the times would work well. Plus returning would work if I took the correct flight home. After booking flights I then bought tickets for the convention. Then I made the hotels reservations.

sna train station

Start your adventure here.

Now it was 6:50 AM on Friday the 13th and have made my first check point. Be at the train station 30 mins before train departs. Parked in nice shady spot in garage, then proceeded inside station to security office to give the officer details of my parked car. No problem parking and staying if you let them know about it and for how long. Next it was to buy Metrolink ticket. The machine would not accept my credit card so I paid by cash. Then went to get my morning coffee and a breakfast burrito to have on the train at the little snack place at the station.

sna track side

Morning sun at SNA with North bound track nearest.

Walked down to street, crossed the tracks to the northbound track side.

Metrolink Train 807 San Bernardino to Laguna Niguel on southbound track.

train # 807

And right on time at 7:19 AM is my train to LA Union Station.

metro 683

Uneventful trip with on time arrival at 8:15AM at LA Union Station. Proceeded down the ramp to tunnel turned right to East portal then up escalator to outside and the bus bays at Patsaouras Transit Plaza.

FlyAway is at the end bay # 9 at the turn around and by 8:25 had bought my ticket and was sitting on the bus.

GPS:  34 03.284 N, 118 14.018 W.

We departed at 8:32 for LAX. At 8:52 we were merging west bound on the I 105 off the Harbor freeway. At 9:06 bus pulled up at LAX Terminal 1. Several minutes later I was off the bus with luggage and heading to Alaska Airlines and the check in and pay baggage fee. After extra-long time spent at baggage check in, then proceeded upstairs to security check. It was the usual stuff. After putting my shoes back on, then proceeded to find gate. Yes it was at the far end of terminal. With over an hour till boarding, I went to Ruby’s Dinette. Ordered an egg breakfast sandwich and proceeded to back of dining room and took a seat by the windows overlooking the tarmac. Nice view while eating.

Next back to gate and board flight 157 non stop to Anchorage. The six hour flight was mostly over water. Soda and snacks were passed out plus one could buy a meal. No cash accepted, just plastic.   I bought the meat and noodles package. Smooth flight and I finally relaxed and decompressed. The last check point was done and passed. It was all downhill for the next ten days. All the work and worrying and planning about this adventure was behind me. Now it is time to enjoy my Alaska adventure.

On approach to Anchorage.

on approach

anc approach

Arrived in Anchorage on time at 4:15 PM local with time set back one hour. My next flight was to Fairbanks in three hours at 7:00 PM. This left time to eat and explore the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (ANC).

GPS:  61 10.513 N, 149 58.784 W.

inside anc


Downtown Anchorage high rises.

in and out 1

Elevated rail road tracks in center of pictures.

in and out 2

in and out 3





Two eggs for $2.00.

The weather outside looked very familiar. Winters in Southern California brings cold storms from Alaska and the north down the west coast.
After an orientation walk around the terminal went up to Observation lounge on the second floor. Nice place to hang out, watch the tarmac, get on the internet and charge your batteries.

top view




bad mask


wait rm

Art work in adjoining B Concourse.


my bags

old bags


more shoes


Then it was time for my last flight of the day.  Flt 191 to Fairbanks with boarding at 7:00 PM.  Everybody was in the cabin and ready to push back ten mins early except for one traveler so we waited. With only one min left the wayward passenger arrives so we left on time but not early.

Arrived on time (7:40PM) at Fairbanks International Airport (FAI). Didn’t spot or recognize any traveler in the terminal so proceeded outside to taxi stand. Got a taxi and went to the convention hotel, Westmark Fairbanks Hotel and Conf. Center.

After arriving at hotel I proceeded to check in. The hotel desk clerk said they had no reservation for me. Is this a sign of things to come? I couldn’t find my confirmation letter that I was sure I printed it and brought it with me. The clerk searched several different ways but could not find anything. She said she would get me a room and knew I was with the NRHS and gave me that rate and the breakfast meal ticket. The clerk also told me the ticket for the continental buffet breakfast was good for Fri, Sat and Sun mornings. As I was in LA on Fri morning I could not use it for the first day. Nor was it good for the last day on Monday.

I was assigned a room on the seventh floor and farthest away from the elevators. Nice room with view of Denali in the daylight.

Now it was time to find the NRHS check in desk. At the desk I showed my ID and signed the wavers and received my convention badge and tickets to the daily advents for the upcoming week.

A short while later I was in my room and ready to lay my head on a nice pillow. The end of a long day that started in Southern California and ended 2646 miles away and now less than 200 miles from the Article Circle.

Contact info:

Table of Contents

Next:  Further Adventures with Day 14
Alaska Adventurers on Rail

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