The Harding Railcar


President Harding in Alaska on the presidential train

In 1923, Warren G. Harding became the first president to visit the Alaska Territory. Harding traveled by rail across the continental United States, then by ship to Seward, Alaska. The entourage traveled by rail once again to, what was then known as McKinley Park (Denali), followed by the short run north to Fairbanks. At the time, it was one of the longest trips ever taken by a sitting U.S. president.


President Harding driving the golden spike in Nenana. Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover is one of the onlookers.

While in Alaska, Harding helped celebrate the completion of the Alaska Railroad, which runs between Seward and Fairbanks. Harding even drove in the “golden spike” at the stop in Nenana. Upon arrival in Fairbanks, city dignitaries were told that no Ford vehicles could be used in the motorcade. Speculation ran wild, but most likely it was due to rumors that Henry Ford may mount a presidential run himself.
President Harding gave a speech to 1500 Fairbanks residents in 94 degree heat. A reporter, Charlie Ross, who later served as press secretary to Harry Truman, cursed the White House staffers who advised the press to bring only warm clothing and long underwear.* It was Alaska, after all.

Harding and Company were originally scheduled to take the Richardson Trail back to Chitina, and then the Copper River & Northwestern (CR&NW) Railroad over to Cordova on Alaska’s southern coast.
Now that would have been a trip to write home about!
The Richardson at the time, was an unruly, rugged, mosquito infested track by all accounts, and the railway was affectionately known as “The Can’t Run & Never Will”. Sadly for history and adventure lovers everywhere, Harding’s “fatigue” forced the group to travel back to Seward they way they had come.


The Harding Railcar

One railcar from President Harding’s 1923 visit is located within Fairbanks’ Pioneer Park. It is a Pullman passenger car, and one of three that was in the presidential train. Built in 1905 in Chicago, the Pullman is also known as the Denali car, and carries the Alaska Railroad equipment number X-336. Purchased by the Alaska Railroad in 1923, it saw passenger service until 1945. It was restored in 1960 and given to the city of Fairbanks. It has been in Alaskaland/Pioneer Park since 1967.


The Denali Car

*The Anchorage Daily News


Fairbanks Weather Almanac


Pioneer Park in Fairbanks; or “Alaskaland”, as it is still referred to by the Sourdoughs

Data for 16 January 2019; information requested by RWS

High temp: -2F
Low temp: -19F

Average Daily high: 0F
Average Daily low: -16F

Record high: 52F
Record low: -58F

Sunrise: 10:25am
Sunset: 3:38pm
Length of day: 5 hours, 12 minutes

We saw a gain of 6 minutes of daylight from the previous day. We have gained roughly 34 minutes in the morning, and 57 minutes in the evening since the Winter Solstice.


Along the shores of Lake Erie

An early morning, September hike along the shoreline of Lake Erie.

Location: Rock Point Provincial Park; Camera: Leica M3; Film: Kodak 35mm Ektar 100


Know your out buildings

Comic courtesy of The Curator


A pair of Trumpeters

A pair of trumpeter swans are annual summer residents of the neighborhood. They nest off of a large shallow lake in the back forty, but usually arrive before the ice has gone out. For the first few weeks, they can be seen swimming in, what is really no more than a glorified puddle, until the lake thaws. The swans are not often seen in this small pond near the cabins, but they do make an appearance or two every summer. This visit took place in August of 2018.

Camera: Leica M3/135mm Leitz lens; Film: Kodak 35mm, Ektar 100


January Observation:

Special thanks to the Aldo Leopold Foundation


It was a warm 2018

2019 is already starting off with colder weather than anything we saw in 2018. In fact, 2018 was the 6th warmest year on record for Fairbanks.

A low temp of 33F was recorded several times during the winter of 2017-18. That low temp of 33 in January & February was a tie for the second warmest low temp on record.

The high temp for all of 2018 was 88F on 22 July.

2018 was also wet, which comes as no surprise. It was the fifth year in a row that Fairbanks saw substantially above average precipitation. Last winter, Fairbanks had 70.6″ of snowfall, which is only slightly higher than average. We really added to that with some wetter than normal summer months.

Three out of the past five years (2014, 2016, 2018) make the top ten warmest on record.