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Alaska's New Dome Cars

Alaska Railroad's new dome cars, part 2

This is page two of our look at the Alaska Railroad's new bilevel dome cars, ARR 651 and 652. If you missed page one, you can find it here. Or you can join us as we look at the downstairs area of the cars, and see the process of loading them on the barge in Seattle for shipment to Alaska.

It should be of no surprise that the seat rows can be turned to face each other to share a little conversation, or to enjoy the fullness of a Montana sunset in the 652.

The dining room of the 652 features Corian countertops, elegant lighting, and seating for 36 (to serve out the 72 dome passengers in two seatings). The kitchen is just beyond. Like most CRM domes, the dining area is bisected by the HVAC ducts, so this photo shows only one part of the seating area. The black wall pannels will be covered by some sort of glass art when the cars are put into service, but it wasn't in place when I toured the cars.

Looking down the stairway on the A end of the car. The stairs here are covered with the same flooring material as the galley and the entrance into the car from that end, while the stairway on the other end of the car is carpeted The white strips on the stair edges glows in the dark.

The B end staircase is carpeted with the same carpet used in the rest of the car, and includes the same glow in the dark strips. Remember the glasswork I mentioned? The most prominent display is in the bifold doors that close off the dining room. I don't know how it was done, but the result is spectacular. The doors enclosing the wheelchair lift are just in view at the right.

The massive kitchen in the 651 is set up to serve out 900 meals a day, and is of epic scale for a railcar. The kitchen in the 652 is identical. The cars are supposed to be used to serve not only the dining area in the dome car itself, but a separate dining car that will be used for the rest of the train.

The barges to Alaska have eight tracks on the lower levels, numbered from right to left from this view. Track three of the barge Fairbanks Provider has already been loaded, and the UP crew is shoving the 652 and 651 onto track two.

The barges are owned by a separate company, and space is leased to the Alaska Railroad and two other companies.

That crazy list to the barge isn't a trick of the camera. It's actually leaning that way after loading tracks two and three. In a few moments, the barge will be scooted over, and barge will level out after loading tracks six and seven. The cars are loaded by a three man crew using a remote-control locomotive.

Note the Cat excavators and the Holland Amercia busses on top of the containers on the top level of the barge. The cabooses behind the locomotive are used as idlers. The ramp between the ground and the barge will support the weight of a locomotive, but the remote still is kept on dry land.

There was a sneak peek at Colorado Railcar's summer project sitting in the interchange yard on Harbor Island, leftover from last week's barge. Alaska Railroad buisiness car Denali is reportedly headed to CRM for refurbishing over the summer. ARR people weren't sure exactly what would be done yet.

I hope that you have enjoyed this look at Alaska Railroad's new cars. I hope that you will consider riding them on your next trip to Alaska.

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