Category Archives: history

Follow the leader?

On the Chena River, downtown Fairbanks, in another century

I’m not sure which I find odder: The people skating on the river, or the people on the bridge watching the skaters on the river.

Times have certainly changed.


The Chilkoot gets historic status

The Golden Staircase on the Chilkoot Trail

The Federal Government has designated the Chilkoot as a national historic trail. Gaining fame during the Klondike Goldrush, the Chilkoot was a major thoroughfare into the interior of the Yukon and Alaska. Prior to that, the trail was a major route for the Native population for a millennia.

The Chilkoot: Alaska to Canada

Currently, the Chilkoot is closed due to major trail damage from flooding this past autumn. A series of atmospheric rivers pummeled the area, The Taiya River reached flood stage on five different occasions during a two month period last fall, eroding banks and dislodging bridges along a large section of the trail, that follows the river.

There is hope that the trail will be open at some point this summer. The complete trail to Bennett Lake has not been open due to Canadian restrictions since the start of the Corvid pandemic. There is also hope that those restrictions will also be lifted for the upcoming hiking season.

Hiking the Chilkoot

Cushman Street

Cushman Street, downtown Fairbanks, circa 1930’s; Photo from Alaska Digital Archives


Alaska Railroad Centennial

Nenana: Where River Meets Rail, and Past Meets Future”; Charcoal drawing by Noah Nolywaika

2023 is the Centennial year for the Alaska Railroad. U.S. President Warren G. Harding presided over the completion ceremony on July 15, 1923, by driving in the golden spike.

“Alaska Railroad: 100 Years Strong”; Oil painting by William Chase

This past weekend, the annual Alaska Railroad print signing took place at the Anchorage Depot. The tradition of a yearly AKRR print was started back in 1979.

This year, Nenana artist Noah Nolywaika was on hand to sign his charcoal drawing of the Nenana Depot, where the railroad was officially completed 100 years ago. William Chase was also there with his painting of the locomotives throughout the railroad’s history, including Engine No. 1. That historic steam engine now sits outside the historic Anchorage Depot.

Prints and posters are available through the Alaska Railroad’s website.


Reloading

Went through some firewood this week.

1910 Fairbanks


Mail Run

The Tanana to Nome, Alaska mail run; circa 1914

“Every Man Knew” by David Conklin; Photo credit: Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum

A day in the life…

Life aboard the US Revenue Cutter Bear, as it patrolled Alaskan waters, circa 1910.

Photo from the University of Alaska – Fairbanks Archives


The “Can’t Run & Never Will”

Continuing with the Alaska Rail Theme:

Photo courtesy of the Alaska Digital Archives

A private train from the Copper River & Northwestern Railway stable, in front of the Chitina Depot, September 1914. It makes me wonder if J.P. Morgan, a lead investor in the Alaska Syndicate, ever visited Kennecott Mines.

Today, Kennecott is still famous for its copper ore, and Chitina is famous for its “Where the Hell is Chitina?” bumper stickers. And salmon: Chitina is the gateway for Interior Alaska dip netting.


Collision at Bootleggers Cove

Engine #553 meets Engine #901 at Bootleggers Cove

The only head on collision in Alaska Railroad history happened on this date in 1943. The northbound freight train coming up from Seward met the southbound passenger train on its way to Whittier at 8:45 am at Bootleggers Cove, just west of downtown Anchorage. Minor injuries were reported, but no deaths. One rail car partially overturned, but the rest remained on the tracks.

Engine 553 climbs aboard Engine 901

The Cove:

During Prohibition, Anchorage had some strict liquor laws. The new town of Anchorage, was a bit of a pet project for then President Woodrow Wilson. Wilson sectioned off the city in grids and auctioned the parcels off to residents. One catch: If anyone who purchased parcels were caught with alcohol, the parcels would be repossessed. The rail line ran between the new residential area and the tidal flats. There was a cove below the rail and between Chester Creek and Ship Creek that was a favorite landing spot for bootleggers and their booty, because it was out of sight of the authorities. Thus the renaming of the cove to Bootleggers Cove.