Alaska hosts railway convention

FAIRBANKS (AP)  — People from across the country are expected in Fairbanks next month for the opportunity to ride rare rails as part of the 2013 National Railway Historical Society Convention, which Alaska is hosting in September.

The convention runs Sept. 14–22.

“It’s never been done,” said Dan Osborne former president of Friends of the Tanana Valley Railroad and now a member of the NRHS. Osborne is the primary contact in Fairbanks, organizing events. “And it’ll get members on trips they’ve never been on before.”

Convention activities begin in Fairbanks Saturday Sept. 14 at Pioneer Park with a special viewing of the oldest artifact in Fairbanks — the Tanana Valley Engine No. 1. The 1899 steam engine was used in coal mines around Dawson in the early 1900s and will be fired up, spewing and in action.

The following day, the NRHS is chartering a passenger train out to North Pole traversing tracks typically used by freight trains.

“It is the first and possibly last passenger train to North Pole,” Osborne said. “It’s a haven for ‘rare mileage collectors’,” a term in the railroad community referring to people who seek out unique trips.

Later that day the NRHS is operating two 90-minute round-trips out of Fairbanks into the Goldstream Valley. These will be open to the public.

The National Railway Historical Society and railroad buffs will make their way down to Denali, passing through Nenana where 29th U.S. President Warren G. Harding drove the golden spike, signifying the completion of the Alaska Railroad in 1923.

The trip continues down to Anchorage and Seward, riding rare trails and exploring museums and railroad stations along the way.

The trip to Denali and Anchorage will feature “run-bys,” according to Osborne. Run-bys are when the train stops in a beautiful setting and everybody exits the train and takes photographs of the train going by.

Then the train will back up and everyone will get back on board.

“For years Fairbanks was completely reliant on the Tanana Valley Railroad and the Alaska Railroad,” Osborne said. “Even though it doesn’t seem like it, even today, if the railways shut down, it won’t take long before it has a negative effect on Fairbanks.”