Discussion concerning the Alaska Railroad. Alaska Railways Website

Moderator: GOLDEN-ARM

  by riffian
What are the crew districts on the ARR? Are crews based only in Anchorage and Fairbanks? Thanks for any info.
i'll ask the ex-road foreman/rules examiner. he's working with me right now, on a project in a "fly-over' state. :wink:

anchorage is the home terminal. crews run to fairbanks, layover and return. seward is an on duty location for a local, but it's crew is based in anchorage. whittier is another location, again, crewed from the anchorage terminal. crews sometimes are called to work from fairbanks, and they deadhead themselves to fairbanks. the railroad puts them up, for up to 90 days, at the away from home terminal lodging facility. so, there's one district, one home terminal, and three regular away from home terminal locations.
  by Cactus Jack
So what about crewing the Hurricane Turn out of Talkeetna or laying over at the "Scrotum" in Healy on the coal?

I worked mechanical as General Foreman in ANC and recall the Totem in Healy as a layover point, and also stayed in Talkeetna and Seward, maybe at the Hotel Seward.

Sounds like you might be working with BP who I heard went south towards home territory not long ago.
  by jogden
Crew bases vary a little from summer to winter. In general, crews are based out of either Anchorage or Fairbanks and spend time in the hotel in either Fairbanks, Healy, Whittier, or Seward. Most road jobs are operated from Anchorage, although there are a few exceptions.

Here are the exceptions!

One road job is based in Fairbanks, and operates a coal turn to Healy. The crew may or may not layover in Healy, depending on the loading schedule. There is an extra board in Healy year round to accommodate coal loading and other miscellaneous chores.

In the summer, a crew is based in Seward to operate passenger trains chartered by the cruise lines. Some days they operate from Seward to Anchorage in the morning, and back in the evening. On other days, they deadhead the train to Whittier, run to Anchorage, then another crew takes the train to McKinley (near Talkeetna) and back, and the first crew (or extra board crew, depending on timing) takes the train back to Whittier, then deadheads it to Seward. In the summer there is also an extra board in Seward to handle passenger train switching and unloading coal trains.

Also in the summer, there is a crew based in Talkeetna, to operate the Hurricane Turn train. The Anchorage extra board protects Talkeetna.

Some road jobs in Anchorage go all the way to Fairbanks, while others go only as far as Healy. In either case, the crew stays in a local hotel and returns the next day. The coal train only goes as far as Healy, and generally the road crew does not load the train. The Healy extra board usually handles loading while the road crew gets rested.

Whittier has had an extra board in the past, but it has been a few years since they did that, and there are not currently any plans for reestablishing an extra board there. The road crews that bring freight trains in there do all the switching in Whittier. There is only switching in Whittier when freight trains are there, so it usually works out fine.
  by riffian
Thanks for the detailed information. With no crew based in Whittier, does this mean the Anchorage road crew takes the train to Whittier, pulls and loads the barge, then builds the outbound train and take it back to Anchorage? Is this a once a week event and how many days does it take to accomplish it? As always, thank much for any info.
  by jogden
riffian wrote:Thanks for the detailed information. With no crew based in Whittier, does this mean the Anchorage road crew takes the train to Whittier, pulls and loads the barge, then builds the outbound train and take it back to Anchorage? Is this a once a week event and how many days does it take to accomplish it? As always, thank much for any info.
Yeah, that pretty much sums it up. How long it takes and how many crews it takes depends on the barge(s) and weather.

On a normal week, with only one barge in port at a time, and relatively good weather and cooperative tides, it takes two crews to do this. Usually the first crew heads south with about 7,000 feet of flat cars, typically loaded with empty containers. They arrive in Whittier and break up the train and spot it to the different load zones there for Alaska Marine Lines to offload the containers. Once the flats are all spotted, they usually offload the barge, and if time allows, block it to minimize switching in Anchorage. By the time they are done with that, they are usually right up to 12 hours and they tie up and go to a hotel in Whittier.

While the first crew is tied up, another crew comes on duty in Anchorage, with a second train. This train is typically made up of the outbound interchange cars and some more flats with empty containers on them. They go to Whittier, spot up the flats, and leave the interchange in one of the yard tracks. They then grab the interchange that came off the barge earlier, and as many flats that are loaded with containers off the barge as they can, and head back to Anchorage. Usually, with the switching in Whittier and the round trip, they have been on duty pretty close to their 12 hours by the time they arrive back in Anchorage. We usually call this the "turn crew."

The first crew usually comes back on duty as soon as they are rested, if that works with the tides. They usually start that shift off by loading the barge with the interchange that came down on the second train. Once the barge is loaded, they begin gathering up all the remaining flats in the yard and assemble the train. If the departing train will be more than about 6,600 feet, which is often, they wait to grab the last cut until right before the tunnel opens for rail traffic. Beyond that length, the train cannot fit between the tunnel and the only road crossing in town. Once put together, they head north. By the time they get to Anchorage, the crew is usually pretty close to their 12 hours.

If there are multiple barges arriving close together, which happens a bit in the winter, the crew that ties up in Whittier sometimes ties up for multiple days. Usually when that happens, multiple turn crews are sent in as well. Sometimes a barge will unload partially in Whittier, then make a run to Valdez to off load containers, before coming back to Whittier for loading. In those cases they usually try to send two turn crews, or deadhead one crew home and a new one down later, so no one has to sit around Whittier with nothing to do. Sometimes the crew that ties up in Whittier will leave with some cars for Crown Point or some other place, and do a little local work. Those are usually pretty good days, if you do have to tie up in Whittier multiple times.

As far as frequency, it is usually around once a week, but it all depends on the barge schedules. Typically a barge from Seattle arrives once a week, unless they are delayed by weather or something. The CN barge, which operates to from Prince Rupert, BC, just runs back and forth continuously, and is typically in Whittier about every eight to nine days, again, unless delayed by weather. Sometimes the schedule lines up so that the CN barge and the Seattle barge arrive within hours of each other, and other weeks they are separated by days.

The CN barge carries only rail cars, so if that is the only barge arriving for a few days, it is a much smaller operation. Typically it is handled by a single turn crew. They bring a train down with the outgoing interchange, off loaf the barge, back load the barge, and then bring the inbound interchange back to Anchorage.