A few mass produced HO scale model steam engines come close to approximating Alaska Railroad prototypes. As they appear, I will try and kit bash one of these to include the unique details shown in prototype photos.
For years I have had the remains of an old Athearn Shifter 0-4-2T in my junk box. I believe these sold for about $8.00 back in the 1960s. After reviewing 4 photographic views and the old ARR Data Card 1 set out to get her running and then rebuilt and added details to arrive at Alaska Railroad #1. This is the real "Original" number one purchased new for the railroad. My model represents the locomotive near retirement when it was in service as a Yard Goat.
The Alaska Railroad's real No.1 is shown working out of Anchorage in 1916 in a photo from Norman W. Engle on page 981 THE ALASKA RAILROAD by Bernadine Prince. Built in July 1915 she was Construction No 47317 by Alco Rogers Works. 27"6" Long, 44" drivers, 14" X 22" cyls 84" wheelbase. Weighing 82000 pounds, with a water tank capacity of 1700 gallons she developed 2320 tons traffic effort on level track. For extended range she operated with a slope back tender in the early years.
Some cab modifications were made prior to 1934 which extended the coal bunker to the top of the roof and opened the roof for loading. A steam turbine and electric lights were also added. The tender was dropped and it appears she was used as a yard goat in her later years. By 1935 the loco was photographed out of service in the Fairbanks yard missing air tanks.
Clayton Tinkham photographed the locomotive 10 years later in the Anchorage yard on Sept. 24, 1945 and it was virtually unchanged and still out of service. Formally retired in 1946 she went to scrap in 1947 at Bethlehem Steel in Seattle.
Historical note: The Davenport Locomotive on the pedestal in front of the Anchorage Depot was never on the roster as #1. It is actually #6 and started life as a 3 foot gauge locomotive that was then standard gauged. It became the ceremonial #1 only because it was a survivor.
ARR No. 601
2-6-0 Class M2
ALCO Brooks CN 39122 1906
Model as of 1946
A few of the Alaska Railroads 600 class M2 Moguls were in service as late as 1947 relegated to gravel and ballast train service in the summers. They had fallen from their roll as passenger locomotives when they were the big power on the railroad in 1922. The International Hobbies Corporation (IHC) Primer Mogul 2-6-0 has a decent mechanism and close enough wheel base to provide a credible foundation for building the ARR M2 units in HO scale. The basic loco can be obtained for about $50.00 and then you throw in $70.00 worth of brass parts, shake the box and out pops the loco of your choice. Each of the prototype locomotives evolved with many modifications over the years, to include different tenders. Pick a dated photo of your prototype and proceed.
I chose 601 because she required the fewest number of major changes and had lasted the longest in service along with 618. The tender came from the Walthers Rotary Snow Plow and already had the Alaska Railroad lettering job. A parts list and project scope for doing #601 are available on request. Future plans call for building sister #610 in happier times when she had an oil headlamp and bright paint in passenger service.
Originally built for the Isthmus Canal Commission in 1906 to 5 foot gauge ALCO Brooks CN 39122 was ICC #601 and she carried the same number when transferred to The Alaska Engineering Commission in 1917.
Extra wide tires were applied to the drivers to obtain standard gauge. She appeared on the ARR Roster in 1922. Early on she was rebuilt with 54 drivers in an attempt to improve tractive effort. This was not successful and she went back to 63 drivers of the M2 class locomotives.
Clayton Tinkham photographed the locomotive in the Anchorage yard on Sept. 29, 1945. At that time she was being assigned to gravel pit service and was equipped with a large hand me down tender.
The History of Alaska Railroad No. 801
The largest steam locomotives operated on the Alaska Railroad were 4-8-2 Mountains No. 801 and No. 802. Both locomotives were purchased new but separated by 10 years and differed in a few appliances and accessories.
Baldwin construction number 61736 was turned out in May of 1932 and became ARR 801. An excellent builders photo is available showing the left side of the locomotive. She was the first locomotive on the railroad with a coal stoker. The booster on the Delta trailing truck added 11800 pounds of tractive effort to the rated 43100 pounds tractive effort exerted by the eight 63" drivers. This was developed with steam pressure of 220 PSI applied by 22"X30" cylinders to move the 472,800 lbs weight of the locomotive with tender. Total train length was 86'2" over the couplers. No. 801 was one of a kind until joined by No. 802 in 1942.
By comparison an SD70-MAC weighs in at 415,000 pounds, generates 175,500 pounds starting tractive effort applied by 12 wheels. Total train length is 74 feet. Over three times the power applied with less tare weight than the Mountain.
An undated ARR Photo from the Jack Klingbeil collection provides details for the right side and pilot of the locomotive. We can surmise that the photo was taken before 1942 when she was involved in a major derailment near Indian. She still carried the as built lettering "The Alaska Railroad" and the number 801 is on the cab side. The booster was still installed with the exhaust behind the stack.
801 saw service all over the system, but spent a lot of time in early years with coal service from Healy to Fairbanks with caboose 1021 bringing up the rear. While north bound between Girdwood and Indian in 1942 she was derailed on a rock slide and ended up nose down in Turnagain Arm. Considerable damage was done in the retrieval process and extensive rebuilding was required.
After this first wreck the booster was eliminated and the large number 801 was moved to the tender along with the smaller "Alaska Railroad" high on the coal bunker sides. Harold K. Volrath's collection provided a September 1949 right side view in the Fairbanks yard reflecting these changes. Over the years the boiler jacket, jacket on the cross compound compressor and various grab irons and appliances were changed.
Albert Bailey was Conductor on ALCO Extra 1076 North at Nenana and provides a first hand report on the collision that ended the service life of No. 801 on August 23, 1950. Read all about it and see photos of the incident in the true stores section of alaskarails.org. In short 1076 was doubling the hill out of Nenana and had just returned to the yard for the second section of a mixed freight. The crew heard repeated blasts of a whistle and then the caboose on their parked train went air born. Several cars were destroyed along with the caboose and 801 was damaged beyond repair. No. 801 had 30 hopper cars of gravel north bound and was going too fast to stop when they came upon the unexpected parked train in the yard. There were no serious injuries as the caboose was empty and the fireman and engineer from 801 had jumped clear before impact.
The remains of 801 eventually joined 802 upon her retirement in a sale to Dulin Steel Products.
Prepared by Patrick Durand August 5, 2004
Just to show some of the effort that went into creating this fine model, here is a picture of Pat's ARR 801 before painting.
ALASKA RAILROAD No. 562 as of June 1956: Alaska Railroad No. 562 was the first of twelve S-160 class GI Consolidations to arrive in Alaska in 1943 and the only one built by ALCO. Completed in November 1942 as C/N 70431, she became the U.S. Army Transportation Corp. No. 1600. There were 2210 of these 2-8-0 Connies built between 1942 and 1944 to become the largest single class of Steam Locomotives ever constructed. No. 562 is modeled as appearing in 1956 near retirement. She worked over the entire length of the Alaska Railroad in mixed service until November 1956. She was eventually sent to scrap. Today only 5 of those thousands of sisters remain in North America. Her classmates remained in regular service around the world and in Poland, Greece and China into the 1980's. Today there are a handful in museums and tourist railroads.
ALASKA RAILROAD No. 551 as of May 1949 Alaska Railroad No. 551 was the first of twelve S-160 class GI Consolidations to arrive in Alaska in September 1943. Completed by Baldwin in June 1943 as C/N 69637, she became the U.S. Army Transportation Corp. No. 2379. There were 2210 of these 2-8-0 Connies built between 1942 and 1944 to become the largest single class of Steam Locomotives ever constructed. No. 551 is modeled as appearing in 1949 passenger service . She worked over the entire length of the Alaska Railroad in mixed service until retired in 1956. She was eventually sent to scrap. Today only 5 of those thousands of sisters remain in North America. Her classmates remained in regular service around the world and in Poland, Greece and China into the 1980's. Today there are a handful in museums and tourist railroads.