Joe lives deep in interior Alaska, not far from the Alaska Northern Railroad by a lake known only as Lost Lake. Just why it is called Lost Lake, well it seems that only Joe knows just where it is at. Joe’s rustic cabin sits on a rocky hill just above the Railroad. On several occasions, inebriated visitors have been known to tumble down the hill to the railroad. The Alaska Northern Railroads Flag Stop RDC is Joe’s only connection to the out-side world. Joe receives his mail and groceries when the Flag Stop Train drops it off usually on its north bound trip.
Last March, Joe received a letter from his brother Clarence who is a Lawyer down in San Francisco. Clarence’s son, Allen wanted to come up and spend the summer with Joe at his cabin to observe the environment. Allen had recently received a degree at UC something or other in environmental science and global warming.
On a rather warm spring morning, Joe caught the South Bound RDC to Johnstown to meet Allen the Kid. Allen stood out like a mosquito bite on your nose. He was loaded to the gills with 3 large duffle bags, wearing a heavy parka and a can of bug spray in his hand. Joe introduced himself to the kid and immediately received a response of what is that thing on your shoulder, to which Joe replied “that’s my 300 Winchester Magnum”. “What’s that for?” the kid replied. “Well, that’s to keep the furry creatures away.” “Let’s go over to Sam and Elas and get some supper.”
Early the next morning, Joe and the kid were at the depot ready to board the Flag Stop RDC for the trip to Joe’s place. Charles Leo photo.
Once on board, the kid notices that many of the passengers have rifles, packing side arms and there are many dogs lying in the aisle. Joe motions him to a window seat and Joe takes the aisle seat. Across the aisle from Joe is a rough looking character who is wearing a patch over one eye. Joe introduces the kid to One-Eyed-Jack. Allen comments to One-Eye that with all the snow melted by the middle of June in Alaska, it is a sure sign of Global Warming.
Once all the passengers are on board, the RDC backs out on the Main, and heads north. As the conductor collects the fares, Joe informs him that they would like to get off at mile 473.5, which the Conductor makes note of.
Seated toward the rear of the car are eight tourist ladies from Minneola who are visiting the Alaska wilderness for the first time.
As the RDC was departing Johnstown, one of the ladies let out a blood curdling scream. Then another lady screams as a squirrel jumps from one row of seats to another, then down under the seats out of sight. The engineer, not knowing what was taking place, put the RDC into emergency. The Conductor running to the aid of his passengers, trips over a dog midway in the car and winds up in the middle of the car, flat on his face. No one knows what ever became of the squirrel, but one young traveler’s back pack seemed to wiggle every once in a while.
At Osage City, the RDC takes the siding to let a South Bound C&NW train by. Shortly the RDC will ease up to the station to pick-up more passengers. CNW units by Tim Donovan, Charles Leo Photo
At Durand, the RDC slows for several crossings as it pulls up to the depot. Allen asks "Uncle Joe, with all the snow melted, how do you run your dog sleds?” Every one within ear shot just kind of looks at the kid with a frown.
As the RDC pulls up to the Durand Station, several passengers are waiting to board the RDC for a trip deep into Interior Alaska.
As the Alaska Northern Railroad passes just below the face of the South Glacier, passengers are treated to a spectacular view. As everyone was peering out the window at the face of the glacier, Allen noted a warm feeling on his leg. Looking down, Allen was surprised to see that one of the dogs had lifted his leg on him and soaked his pant leg.
Around midday, the RDC arrives at Pack River and pulls into a siding in front of the depot. Many of the local passengers jump off and run over to Bucks’ Diner to grab a quick lunch. Several dogs are given a quick walk and a chance to gulp some water. Shortly, everyone is back on board and the RDC is once again heading north.
As the RDC continues north into the Alaska Range, the scenery becomes more spectacular and rugged. Allen notes that the drop-off down to the river is several hundred feet.
Nearing the summit of the Alaska Range, the RDC now eases over the high bridge at Gunsight Mountain. The speed limit over the bridge is 15 miles per hour and this would be no place to have a derailment. At about the highest point over the gorge, the RDC stops and the conductor invites the passengers to peer out the baggage door down to the river. Allen is so scared that he has to close his eyes and just hang on to his seat. (Talk about “pucker power”.)
Arriving at Bayview Station, the RDC makes another passenger stop. With a lack of roads in Alaska, the Flag Stop RDC is a vital link for the residents.
As the RDC is departing Bayview, a pair of Santa Fe SD45-2 in the centennial paint scheme pass by heading south. Santa Fe units by Ralph Hummel
The RDC has now made a station stop at Millertown and is continuing north. Passing the Fill’er or Fix’er gas station, soon the RDC will be leaving the last remnants’ of civilization behind for the Alaska bush.
Now deep in the Alaska bush, the RDC traverses the trestle over Moose Creek where we see Dick Ayers is at his favorite fishing hole. Hey Dick, how’s the fishing today?
As the RDC starts to slow down, Joe tells the kid “Here we are at 473.5”, gets up and heads for the head of the car with Allen close behind. Allen climbs down to the ground and starts to collect his stuff, commenting that “This is in the middle of nowhere”. As the RDC departs, Allen asks “Uncle Joe, where is your cabin?” Joe replies pointing, “It's right there up on the hill”. “Grab your gear, I’ll get the ATV.”