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Edition #120, February 15, 2010

Good photos usually have good stories to go with them.

Alaska

Photographer: Frank Keller

                                                                                 Photo by Frank Keller

Alaska

A Tip of the Hat to the Passenger Train

After more than twenty-five years of railroad photography I had photographed and visited many interesting and often far away places, but nothing prepared me for what is the grandeur of Alaska. While Alaska had long been on my list of places to visit for railroad photography it would be a family vacation that would provide the springboard to fulfill that desire.

In June of 2008 my family and I touched down at Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage, AK. We immediately felt the impact of being in Alaska, it was after 10 PM local time and the sun was still shining brightly in the western sky. The drive to our hotel was interesting as we saw numerous people still enjoying the Alaskan outdoors. I guess when you call Alaska home you pack in as much fun as possible during the long days of summer because you know winter is never far behind.

Our vacation included all of the usual tourist destinations including several train rides and before we knew it we were on a plane headed back to Colorado. It was a fantastic trip, a trip of a lifetime according to my oldest daughter, and one not soon forgotten. From the moment I returned home I knew I would be back, this time to explore the Alaska Railroad, what I didnít know was that I would return twice that same summer.

I had been bitten by the frontier that is Alaska. As I began plotting and researching my return to our 49th state, I soon realized that the Alaska Railroad was a snap shot in time. Operated like no railroad I was familiar with; in effect a look back to how a small Class 1 railroad might have operated in the 1950s when the passenger train was still king of the mainline. Having begun my railroad photography in 1978 I missed the hey day of the American Passenger Train, fortunately here was a chance to experience a small glimpse of the past with todayís modern conveniences.

I returned to Alaska in July and September 2008 and again in June of 2009 for the sole purpose of photographing the Alaska railroad. And while I came back with many outstanding photographs of railroad, landscape, and wildlife what I really came away with was what a fantastic job the railroaders of Alaska do in a difficult, yet beautiful environment and yes, a glimpse of the hey day of the American Passenger Train.

Frank Keller

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