A New and Unexpected Boom Comes to the Knik River Railway Along with Major Operation Problems for the Dispatcher and the Railroad.
Early in the Spring of 1983, the hotel chain, B. Lively Enterprises broke ground for the 256 room Nilsson King of the Mountain Chalet Hotel. Following a Grand Opening in the Summer of 1985, the Five Star resort located on a bench about 200 feet above Mile 15.2 of the KRRy opened it's doors for it's first Winter Season. From the Hotel, guests have full access to the 17,000 foot long tram which will take them high on the slopes of majestic Mount Nilsson, the Nilsson Ice Fields and the picturesque Lake Gregory. For those looking for something a little easier, no less then six shorter lifts are provided, Most hotel guests are yuppie types which come to enjoy the World Class Ski Slopes, however there are those who just want to relax and get away from it all. Guests may dine in the King of the Mountain dining room, or for those wishing something less, the Two-To-The-Eighth Lounge provides a friendly atmosphere and seating for 256.
In the Summer months, the hotel is filled with mostly older visitors who come to enjoy the spectacular beauty of the Knik River Valley, the Glaciers and their surroundings. Guests may enjoy Air Boat trips on the river, ride horse back or hike on the many miles of trails. Horses may be rented from the near-by Lively Stables with back door delivery and pick-up to the hotel. In the Summer, many guests come to ride the tram to the top of Mount Nilsson for the greatest view in the world. Many summer couples also come on a special quest. While the Viagrarillium found in the area is low grade and has no commercial value, the dust blowing around is of sufficient potency to provide the desired results. Many un-blessed couples come for a week stay to hike the trails, inhale the local dust, enjoy the privacy of their room so they can become blessed about nine months later. One of the more popular salad entrees is locally grown chick weed which contains a high percentage of the Viagrarillum dust.
Jet-Set guests are greeted at the Anchorage Airport by special ARR trains which whisk them the 36 miles to Knik River Junction. From here, the train is operated by KRRy crews to a new "Y" which was installed at MP 16.4 and a 1.3 mile branch which delivers the Guests directly to the Hotel. Yes, this is Alaska's version of the Mt. Tamalpais & Muir Woods Railroad or the Mount Lowe Railroad with a Knik River Valley twist.
So why is this boom such a problem to the Knik River Railway. Well first of all, the KRRy is a fairly old railroad which has been able to function very well with it's second hand 90 pound rail for the past many years. It's main source of revenue is coal with several other commodities all adding up to give a well rounded income base. Now throw in two or three round trips a day by a low paying passenger trains with a bunch of Jet-Set Yuppies who have no tolerance for any delays in getting them to the slopes. The end result is that the profitable coal trains are delayed and it becomes more costly to move the coal and other commodities over the system resulting in an overall loss in income. Additionally, for the KRRy to maintain it's physical plant, it would most likely be required to relay heavier rail over much of it's system, a capital expense which it had not budgeted for several more years.
From a Model Railroad stand point, this would add a real challenge for an operation session and I think it is a great idea.
A Final Note: Recently, a chubby little fellow known as the Prez, showed up at Knik River Junction in the CSWRR Business Car, the Alaska. The Prez insisted that he and the Alaska be given passage to the King of the Mountain Chalet and that the Alaska be parked at the entrance to the Two-To-The-Eighth lounge. The KRRy Agent on duty informed the Prez that there simply wasn't any room to park anything at the hotel even a short business car such as the Alaska. The agent then told the Prez that they could park the Alaska at Garden and that they could make arrangements for his transportation up to the hotel. At this point, I must say that the Prez did a great job of creating a major scene and embarrassing the CSWRR, however he reluctantly gave in and accepted being parked at Garden. Early the next morning, a track crew showed up at the hotel with ties, spikes and 4 lengths of rail, extending the siding by 60 feet and shortly there after the Alaska was moved to the entrance of the Two-To-The-Eighth lounge. This has created a major problem as there are more Ski Bunnies in the Alaska then there are in the Lounge and all the Ski Bums have no Bunnies to flirt with.