I RODE THE ALASKA RAILROAD from Anchorage to Fairbanks in the early Seventies to get to the University of Alaska. It took a minimum of twelve hours, because the train would stop what seemed like every five minutes to let off a hunter, or pick up a fisherman, or drop off supplies for a homesteader, or wait for a moose to get off the tracks. The best place to ride it out was the bar car, where all the Alaskan old farts would gather to knock back Budweiser and tell lies about the good old days before statehood and how THEY never voted for it. When the train got to the outskirts of Fairbanks the engineer would slow the train to a crawl so that all the students headed for UAF could pitch their luggage out and jump after it. It was a softer landing in January, when there was snow, but it saved walking the four miles back from the downtown depot, and we were grateful for the opportunity at any time of year.
Nowadays the railroad has been taken over by the tourists, carrying cruise line passengers from Seward to Anchorage to Denali to Fairbanks, and the train is just a blue and gold clackety-clack from beside the tracks. There’s the shuttle to the Alaska State Fair, and the ski train in February, but as a rule Alaskans don’t ride the train as much as they used to.
Except for the Hurricane Turn.
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