Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program

Alaska MapAlaska Railroad, 1945This project highlights stories related to the history of railroads in Alaska and the role they have played in changing our state's economy and transportation systems.

Today, the Alaska Railroad from Seward to Fairbanks and the Whitepass and Yukon Railroad in Skagway are the only railroads in the state. Historically, there were others that have since disappeared: The Copper River and Northwestern Railroad which serviced the Kennecott Copper Mine and the communities of Cordova, Chitina and Katalla; The Tanana Valley Railroad which ran from Fairbanks to gold mines at Fox and Chatanika; The Yakutat and Southern Railroad which transported fish from the Situk River to a cannery in Yakutat; and The Wild Goose and other small lines which provided regional transportation to gold miners near Nome.

People who visit this website can access visual and oral resources that reconstruct the stories of pioneering efforts to establish Alaska’s early railroads and highlight the history of the communities they served. It includes recordings from the Oral History Collection at Elmer E. Rasmuson Library at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, as well as historic photographs and film clips from our collections, from other Alaska institutions, and from personal family collections.

Click here for a list of all the material relating to railroads available in the University of Alaska Fairbanks Rasmuson Library's on-line catalog .

People

Hugh Connelly Hugh Connelly

Hugh Connelly was born and raised in Sacramento, California. He came to Alaska in 1949 and got a job as a section hand with the Alaska Railroad. He eventually became a locomotive fireman. Hugh met his wife, Sandra, in December 1951 on a blind date with two other people. They married in 1952 and moved to Fairbanks. After his work for the railroad, Hugh began working as a law clerk with local Fairbanks attorneys Bob McNealy and Ed Merdes.  Hugh passed the Alaska Bar Exam without ever taking... Read More

Sandra Connelly Sandra Connelly

Sandra Connelly was born in Saskatchewan, Canada and moved to Vancouver when she was eight years old. She went to nursing school at St. Paul’s in Vancouver. She came to Anchorage, Alaska in 1951 to work at a hospital run by the Sisters of Providence. Sandra met her husband, Hugh Connelly, in December 1951 on a blind date with two other people. They married in 1952 and moved to Fairbanks where they had five daughters.

Ron Engstrom Ron Engstrom Ron Engstrom was born in Nome, Alaska in 1937 and since 1940 his family has mined for gold at Basin Creek near Nome.
Jack Ferguson Jack Ferguson

Jack Ferguson first came to Alaska during World War II when he was in the US Navy on the crew of a gasoline tanker delivering fuel in the Aleutian Islands. After the war, he went to Anchorage and immediately began work for the Alaska Railroad. He held a variety of jobs, including as a section crew member in Healy replacing ties and aligning track, a car oiler, a fireman in the engine on the Seward to Portage route, and an engineer based out of Fairbanks.

Ron Gatterdam Ron Gatterdam

Ron Gatterdam lives in Fairbanks, Alaska and is a retired professor of mathematics and computer science at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. He is an amateur railroad historian and member of the Friends of the Tanana Valley Railroad organization.

Dan Gullickson Dan Gullickson

Dan Gullickson moved to Alaska in 1966 to attend the University of Alaska Fairbanks and then moved to Barrow where he worked as a music teacher and audio-video specialist for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. He eventually moved to Fairbanks, Alaska where he continued to work for the Bureau of Indian Affairs as an education specialist with primary responsibility for media center operations for schools in rural Alaska. In 1983, he transferred to the Bureau of Land Management as an audio-visual... Read More

Fred Hupprich Fred Hupprich

Fred Hupprich was born in 1926 in Nenana, Alaska where his father was chief engineer on Tanana and Yukon River sternwheelers and later worked for the Alaska Railroad. His mother was from Germany and came to Nenana to work in the family’s bakery business. Fred's childhood was full of mischief and adventure. He was in the Army and held a variety of jobs, including working on the railroad, trucking, building airports, hauling wood, and operating a bar.

Duane LeVan Duane LeVan

Duane LeVan was born in Valley City, North Dakota in 1926. He came to Seward, Alaska in 1946, after being discharged from the Navy, to visit his family who had previously moved to Seward so his father could work for the Alaska Railroad. Duane and Sanna were married in 1948, when Sanna was only eighteen years old. They have two children. The LeVan's have exciting stories to tell about surviving the 1964 Earthquake. Duane worked as a longshoreman for the Alaska Railroad, and as an equipment... Read More

Carl Mulvihill Carl Mulvihill

Carl Mulvihill was born in Skagway, Alaska in 1938 and began working for the Whitepass and Yukon Railroad when he was sixteen. Both his father and grandfather worked for the railroad. Carl held a variety of positions from section crew member to brakeman to dispatcher to chief clerk. His interest in the railway’s history developed when he was in college.

Larry Powell Larry Powell

Larry Powell is a longtime resident of Yakutat, Alaska.  Along with his wife, Caroline, he purchased Mallott's General Store in 1967.  He served as mayor of Yakutat from 1971 to 1992.

Bill Reed Bill Reed

Bill Reed came to Skagway, Alaska in 1944 as a boy with his family. Growing up in Skagway, he worked for the White Pass and Yukon Railroad in various positions during the 1950’s and 1960’s, including as a gandy dancer at a section house, as a hosteler helper, and as a fireman on steam engines. He also has some experience with railroads in the Lower 48, including with mainline freight traffic as a fireman. Eventually, Bill moved to Fairbanks, Alaska where he is active in the community. He is... Read More

Ron Simpson Ron Simpson

Ron Simpson is an Athabascan resident of Copper Center, Alaska. In 2001 he published a historical novel, Legacy of the Chief, based on his research into the history of copper mining and the development of the railroad.  Ron purchased a bar in Copper Center and developed it into a tourist attraction featuring large-scale model trains and models of differnt historic Kennecott mine sites.  For more information about Ron Simpson, please see the... Read More

Adele Deville Smith Adele Deville Smith

Adele Deville Smith was born in San Francisco, California in 1901. Her father was French explorer, Erussard Deville - known as “French Pete.” He helped discover the Treadwell Mine in Juneau and ran a general store in Katalla. Adele and her five siblings were brought to Alaska when she was two years old. Her family moved to Cordova in 1916, where she attended high school, worked in a bakery, and met her husband. He was in the military and then worked for the Copper River Northwestern Railroad... Read More

Julie Stricker Julie Stricker

Julie Stricker graduated with a degree in journalism from the University of Florida and in 1991 began a career in newspaper and freelance writing in Alaska. She has worked for the Anchorage Times, the Anchorage Daily News, and the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. She also has been a contributor to Alaska Magazine and Alaska Business Monthly. She currently resides in Fairbanks, Alaska, and since 2008 has been the Online Content Director for the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner newspaper. While working... Read More

Gale Wetherell Gale Wetherell

Gale Wetherell was born in 1933 and moved with his family to Talkeetna, Alaska in 1935. They supported themselves by mining, running a freighting business, operating the roadhouse in Talkeetna, and trapping in the winter. Gale served in the US Army for two years at Fort Richardson in Anchorage, and then got a job as a brakeman with the Alaska Railroad. He went on to become a railroad conductor and worked for the Alaska Railroad for forty years.