Dates: 8/25/2013 – 9/1/2013
With the Alaska travel package that we bought for this trip, the main means of travel between our many destinations was the Alaska Railroad. Besides some very short “touristy” trains, we’ve never traveled by rail before and both Julie and I were looking forward to checking this out. We traveled on two separate defined travel lines, one being the Costal Classic which travels between anchorage and Seward and the Denali Star which travels from Anchorage and goes all the way north to Fairbanks. Although we only went as far north as Denali National Park.
After arriving in Anchorage the previous day, the next morning we made our way to the train station for an early morning departure down to Seward where we would be taking a short boat ride out to Fox Island and spending the night. Fox Island is about 10 miles from Seward in the Resurrection Bay.
We decided to splurge on this trip and we upgraded to the Gold Start service which meant we were in one of the double decker rail cars, with the upper deck being completely glass enclosed. This was definitely the way to go as you got great views of the passing scenery, large seats with plenty of leg room and several different dining options. This first floor of the train was the dining room and restrooms. They also give you all the “free” non-alcoholic beverages you want and you could purchase beer, wine, etc. if desired. We ate one dinner and a lunch in the dining room and it was actually pretty good food. Plus it was nice to sit there and eat and watch things pass outside the large windows.
After traveling on the train, we both decided that this was definitely the way to travel. It was comfortable, you could get up and walk around and it was not crowded. All pluses in our book. Plus the Gold Start cars had open air areas at the back of each car. This allows you to get outside, get some fresh air and take some great pictures without having to focus through the train windows. I spent a lot of time in these open air sections, but be warned that it does get a little chilly back there. The train averages about 30 mph, so that causes a good wind back there and lowers the wind chill a bit!
Our trip actually included five separate train connections. We went from Anchorage to Seward, Seward back to Anchorage, Anchorage to Denali NP, Denali to Talkeetna and finally Talkeetna back to Anchorage. I would saw by far the most scenic section was the trip from Anchorage to Seward. This is where you see many mountains, rivers and glaciers as well as traveling through several tunnels as the train wove its’ way south. Another great section was as we were heading north and getting close to Denali. In this area you’ll also find many high, snow peaked mountains.
Here a picture of Julie hanging out in the open air car. It does look a little chilly as she’s all bundled up in her jacket and holding a warm drink.
Although it’s a little hard to see in this picture, here’s a moose that we saw as we were pulling out of Anchorage. One of the fun parts of this train travel is that everyone is looking out for wildlife and the train will slow or even come to a stop if someone sees something. From the train we saw animals such as beluga whales feeding in the Turnagain Arm, bald eagles, moose, porcupines, beaver dams, black bear and trumpeter swans and probably a few other things that I’m not remembering.
These pictures show the dining car on the lower level and the glass/domed upper lover where you sit.
And here’s a few pictures of the scenery that we saw as we traveled around Alaska by train.
Usually a forest of dead trees would not make for a good or interesting picture. But these trees exist in a lot of areas in lower Alaska. We saw many areas that had large areas of dead trees and there’s an interesting story behind their demise! Back in 1964 (3/27/1964) the Great Alaskan Earthquake shook this areas for over three minutes and registered 9.2. This caused the land to actually drop by as much as 8 feet. The roots of these trees were now sitting in salt water which caused the trees to die, but the salt preserved these trees. So, they are decomposing very slowly and most are still around today.
On 9/20/13 added some YouTube Videos
Train Leaving Anchorage
Train ride from Anchorage to Seward
Alaska Train from Anchorage to Denali National Park