The ARR is a state owned and supported operation running some 500 miles from the coast inland to Fairbanks. It runs an extensive passenger operation with trains running both northbound and southbound out of Anchorage to accommodate a tourist-heavy crowd. Freight operations include coal and commodity trains that unload at various ports as well as through service to the lower 48 via rail barges that run to Seattle and Vancouver. You can view a gallery with all the photos here.
The Anchorage Station has an art deco design with an "open yard" type platform area. A temporary ADA high level platform has been installed to accommodate the growing number of elderly on package tours.
Power for the first leg of the journey on the Denali Star was provided by a pair of SD70MAC-H, numbers 4319 and 4322. These are pretty much standard freight SD70's, but have 480v HEP generators installed. Depending on the status of METRA's F40C engines, they can be at times the only operating 6-axle passenger power in the US.
The trainset for the Denali Star had a mix of high level, single level and heritage stock. Two cars on the end were owned by a cruise outfit doing their own thing like a PV operator. The high level cars are of a new design produced by the ill-fated Colorado Railcar. The luxury train provides a number of classes with the upper tier getting access to the high level dome and the lower tier the single level cars and dome. Despite large size of the Last Frontier, the 400 mile route can be covered in about 12 hours so no sleeping accommodations are required. Meal service is however.
The high level done provides an open air viewing platform from which all sorts of railfan friendly shots can be obtained. The baggage car contains some sort of HEP unit, made less necessary by the HEP equipped locomotives.
It's amusing how even in Alaska there are suburbs.
ARR is making a lot of investments in its plant including this bridge replacement.
The line provided a lot of great views. From some locations one could even see Russia from the train!
The ARR has also been investing in CTC, replacing the former Direct Traffic Control system on the southern part of the system. Here the Wilderness Express cars on the rear of the train pass under a new signal bridge.
Around Milepost 193 the train encountered a pair of sister SD40-2's (#3001 and #3002) working the Kashwitna gravel tipple.
The station at Talkeena demonstrates how the train works to shuttle tourists from the air and sea ports to the interior of the state. Note the lineup of tour buses waiting to take passengers to their final destinations.
Talkeena is also the southern end of the Hurricane Turn, which is a true flag stop service for the Hurricane River valley that lacks any road connections to the rest of the state. Residents can literally flag down passing Hurricane local trains from anywhere along the track. Here we see the more business like ARR station in Talkeena.
North of Talkeena the line is still operated by TWC (formerly DTC). Meets much be scheduled and one train manually lined into the siding. Here at MP 235 the Denali Star is being switched into the Chase Siding.
The meet appears to be with a southbound train being run for Princess Cruises to/from Healey, AK with SD70MAC-H #4318 on point.
Princess Cruise high level cars behind the ARR locomotive.
Hurricane marks the north end of the flag stop local service and has also been upgraded with a CTC island covering the passing siding there.
The Hurricane Gulch bridge is one of the more spectacular trestles on the route.
At the BROAD RIDGE siding the two Denali Stars pass with ARR SD70MAC-H #4321 leading the southbound train.
The other trainset also hosts a number of Wilderness Express hi-level cars on the rear. Note the ARR permits passengers to use the open vestibule dutch doors on the single level cars.
The first class passengers do get meal service in a spacious single level, bi level car.
He should probably post some scenery photos like these along the Nenana River. The train has passed over the drainage divide so now the train is heading with the flow of the river.
At this point my friend reached Danali National Park. In Part 2 of this trek we'll cover the continuation of his journey from Denali to Fairbanks!