The Hurricane Turn

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.

Alaska Traveler Chatter

Dana View All →

Author and founder of Storyknife.org.

2 Comments Leave a comment

  1. You brought back a memory. A colleague and I took professional development classes in Gairbanks one summer to keep our teaching certificates current. We had found two fir the price of one ticketsfrom Fairbanks to Anchorage as ling as we spent a couple of nights in Denali. We showed up for the train and were to follow the line of tourists for boarding. We did so and were quickly on our way and totally bored with the chatter of the tour guide in the domed car. Thirty minutes of so down the tracks someone came along demanding to see out tickets. Sure enough we were in the wrong car! They kicked us off to the older car which was a blessing in so many ways. We had lovely leg room and were able to rub shoulders with the Alaskans who came out if the woods with their dogs for the ride on in to Anchorage.

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