Back on the Rails
Saturday, August 20, 2016
All good things must come to an end, and so it is with this fabulous trip to our nation’s largest state. We boarded the McKinley Explorer train for Anchorage this morning for a pleasant ride through this beautiful country.
The rail cars for the McKinley Explorer were built for Holland America by the Colorado Railcar Company. The ten total cars are named for rivers of Alaska – Chena, Chulitna, Eklutna, Kashwitna, Kenai, Knik, Kobuk, Nenana, Susitna and Teklanika. When we rode to Denali from Talkeetna we rode on the Teklanika car; today we are on the Kobuk car.
The domes on our cars are made up of three layers of glass, each layer just under ¾ inch thick. These windows are extremely strong, in fact bullet proof. Apparently, people have been known to shoot at the trains, not always accidentally.
Each car is equipped with a diesel engine driven generator which produces enough electricity to power several households. It can be used as a backup generator if there is a problem with the electrical supply from the locomotive.
The wheels weigh over a ton each, but measure only 36 inches in diameter. They have a two part interface with the track, the tread which sits on top of the rail and the flange which keeps the train on the track.
The rail car truck, or the suspension, consists of several components including springs, shocks, bolsters and truck frame casings. The truck assembly without the wheels and axles weighs about 15,000 pounds.
We arrived in Anchorage around 5:00, checked in at The Hotel Captain Cook . Once again, Carlos did a great job, making sure all sixteen of us had transportation arranged to the airport tomorrow. I have nothing but good things to say about Escorted Tour Operations. Hopefully, they’ll be in charge of future add-on trips with Crystal, say in Machu Picchu next February?
We took a short walk before dinner, and came upon a sign indicating a stop for Mars along a planetary route. Curious as always, we went in search of the sun. The Anchorage Lightspeed Planet Walk is a scale model of the solar system, designed by Eli Menaker while he was a senior in high school. The Anchorage Rotary Club funded the project as its Centennial project for Rotary International. The project was completed in 2005, and formally dedicated to the city the day before Pluto was unceremoniously dropped from our solar system. The model of the sun includes sun spots; Mercury, the closest planet is less than a block away, Earth is about 2.5 blocks from the sun; and Pluto is 5.5 miles away.
We had a quick dinner at Orso, not far from our hotel. We weren’t very hungry, so ordered a flatbread small plate and cheesecake to share for dessert. Delicious!
Tomorrow, we fly back to Minnesota, where it isn’t much warmer than it is here. Should warm up soon, though.