A The Alaska Railroad Brat
by Pat Cook
(Anchorage, AK )
My dad was an officer for The Alaska Railroad.
As a railroad brat, I had access to a free pass as did several of my friends. I don't remember who the conductor was, but he was our favorite. He worked the Tuesday passenger train.
Us railroad brats would take the Tuesday Northbound to Honolulu and then catch the Southbound back to Anchorage for a day’s outing.
We had the run of the whole train including the baggage car and sometimes even the locomotive.
When the train stopped we would collect rocks and bring them on-board so we could throw the rocks from the baggage car into the streams as we went over the bridges. Sometimes he would take a couple of us up so we could ride in the locomotive. Life was good!
That conductor gave us a great idea.
We would be in the tourist coach. One of us would shout "hay, look" and the rest of us would rush to window and peer out and exclaim "wow". Then the tourists would rush to that side of the car and look and look, and wonder what we were looking at.
When I was older, during Salmon fishing season, Mom and I would take the Northbound up to Little Willow, or Montana Creek or Lane Creek and fish until the Southbound came. We would head home and she would can the salmon the next day while I grabbed a friend and headed back up for another fishing expedition.
On one of my last rides north on The Alaska Railroad, in 1971, my Dad and Mom hosted his sister and brother-in-law on a trip to Fairbanks. He invited me and my new to Alaska wife on the trip.
We were hosted on the B-1 car (executive rail-car, equiped with its own galley and cook, three bedrooms, secretary’s office and observation lounge). It was the last car on the passenger train. On the wall was a route map of the rail-line with all the section locations along the line.
My new to Alaska wife was expecting to see a town at each one of the points on the map, instead what she saw were signs that named places like Caswell, Chase, Lane, Gold Creek, Hurricane, Honolulu, Windy, and Lignite. Sometimes there would even be a section house there, but no town.
When I was older yet, but no longer had a free pass, I was working in the transportation industry, actually a trucking company (which my Dad referred to as a belly robber). I belonged to the National Defense Transportation Association.
Once a year we would give to the newest member to arrive in Alaska a gift, making a big deal with a lot of hoopla --- a free round-trip to Honolulu --- Honolulu, AK on The Alaska Railroad.