100 years of riding the rails

Published: Sep. 27, 2023 at 10:29 AM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The Alaska Railroad Company hosted a Railroad Days Open House at the train depot in Fairbanks, on Saturday, September 23, celebrating it’s centennial year; 100 years of riding the rails.

When construction began in 1902, the railroad was seen as an alternative to transportation by boat or dog sled. Privately-owned companies began rail construction in different parts of the state. Hindered by lack of capital, the federal government took an interest and invested in the railroad in 1914. The halves of the railroad were finally joined together, in the summer of 1923, by the Mears Memorial Bridge that spans the Tanana River at Nenana. Construction was officially completed on July 15 of that year when President Warren G. Harding drove the golden spike that completed the railroad.

Meghan Clemens, the Alaska Railroad Company’s external affairs director, said the railroad enjoys hosting the open house, and is grateful for the Fairbanks community. “The Alaska Railroad would not exist if Fairbanks had not been such an important part of the state to connect down to tidewater. That’s why the railroad exists,” she said.

Many families turned out to enjoy free train rides, as well as opportunities to explore the railroad equipment and meet railroad workers. The Open House also featured live entertainment, including a magician, and giveaways. 25 lucky attendees won gold spikes to commemorate the centennial.

This was the first open house that the Alaska Railroad Company has hosted since before Covid-19.