Category Archives: Alaska

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.


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.


Winter Arrives

“As the days lengthen, so the cold strengthens…”

We have had a fairly mild winter so far in Alaska’s Interior. There have been a few nights in the -20F range, and little to no -30. As we pass the half way mark, my wood pile, much to the resident weasel’s delight, has well over 50% remaining.

On Saturday, the high temp barely made it to -25F, and Sunday morning it dropped down to -36F. For us, that isn’t drastic cold, but we’ve been spoiled of late, and the drop has people chattering. It also caused the phone to start to ring. Like natural disasters, cold weather brings work for the contractor. A call requesting exterior work was met with a chuckle, and the response: “Not until it warms up”. A call on Saturday night about frozen pipes required a schedule change. I don’t enjoy dealing with frozen pipes, but at least they are not my pipes.

As the forecast stands, there will not be much of a break in the cold front for a week. Next Sunday, we may near single digits below zero, and we currently don’t have positive temps on the agenda until Monday.


Statehood

60 Years Ago:

Alaska became the 49th U.S. state on January 3, 1959. The Alaska Statehood Act was signed by President Eisenhower on July 7, 1958, which would allow the Great Land entry to the union the following January.


Mount Veniaminof


Mount Veniaminof letting off some steam, 25 September 2018; Photo credit: AVO/Mari Peterson

Mount Veniaminof, the glacier covered volcano on the Alaska Peninsula, has been erupting since early September. The Alaska Volcano Observatory reports that lava is still flowing from the caldera this week. The volcano last erupted in 2013.


ESA Sentinel-2 image of Veniaminof, showing lava flow on the south flank of the volcano. Photo credit: AVO/USGS

Veniaminof sent a plume of ash, 13,000′ into the air in late November, but that action has come to a stop, at least for now.

Currently joining Veniaminof on AVO’s Orange Alert List, is the seemingly always active Mount Cleveland.


Cracks along the rails

Quake Update:


Cracks along the rails north of Anchorage; Photo credit: Alaska Railroad

The railroad between Anchorage and Fairbanks remains closed from the recent 7.0 earthquake. There are several sections like the photo above, with cracks that have developed along the rails. The cracks in the photo run 2-4 feet wide, and 200 feet long.

No timetable has been given to a return to rail traffic between Alaska’s two largest cities.

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The on-ramp seen around the globe:


Before/After Minnesota Blvd on-ramp; Photo credit: Alaska Tourism Board

The onramp from Minnesota Blvd to International Airport Road became Alaska’s most famous, with the photo of the SUV left stranded eight feet below grade.

I often make fun of Alaska’s DOT, but they have done a great job, by all accounts, getting Anchorage roads ready to handle traffic again. That interchange was rebuilt, repaved and lines painted in four days. Not bad, considering there was not an asphalt plant up & running at the time. A plant had to reopen, because everything was closed for the winter season.