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Ron Gatterdam

This is a recording of Ron Gatterdam giving a presentation titled "Alaska Railroads that Never Were” on March 9, 2010 at the Friends of the Tanana Valley Railroad’s monthly "Rail Stories" public lecture series held at the Tanana Valley Railroad Train Museum at Pioneer Park in Fairbanks, Alaska. He is introduced by the organization's president, Dan Osborne. In this presentation, Ron gives an overview of the history of railroads around Alaska. He includes those that succeeded as well as many that were tried and failed.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2010-02-03

Project: Railroads of Alaska
Date of Interview: Mar 9, 2010
Narrator(s): Ron Gatterdam
Videographer: Karen Brewster
Transcriber: Joan O'Leary
People Present: Daniel "Dan" Osborne
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
Alaska State Library, Institute of Museum and Library Services
Alternate Transcripts
There is no alternate transcript for this interview.
There is no slideshow for this person.

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Railroads with big dreams

First railroad in Alaska at Berner's Bay on Lynn Canal

The Yakutat and Southern Railroad

Wild Goose Railroad

Council City and Solomon River Railroad

Seward Peninsula Railroad

Trains pulled by dogs and horses

The Alaska Engineering Commission and Alaska Railroad

The Alaska Home Railroad and the Copper River and Northwestern Railway

The Alaska Midland Railroad

The American Trans-Siberian Railroad

The Hickel plan to expand the Alaska Railroad

Discussion about best railroad route for shipping from coast to the interior

The Interhemispheric Bering Strait Tunnel and Railroad Group

The Trans-Alaska Railroad and Navigation Company

Railroad at Situk River in Yakutat for hauling fish

Heisler versus Climax locomotives

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RON GATTERDAM: -- were planned or started from Valdez. So there you see quite a few of them. We're going to visit -- we're going to visit the -- let’s see, the Alaska Home Railroad we’ll visit and a little bit of the Copper River and Northwestern -- we started from there.

Yakutat -- Yakutat Southern. Many of you may know the Yakutat Southern. We're going to visit it just because I like it. Katalla -- there were quite a few railroads starting out of Katalla. Most of them were aimed at going to the Carbon Mountain for the coal.

Once the coal was taken off the table by -- by the president, they all just kind of disappeared.

So we’re not really going to go there. Of course, the Copper River and Northwestern went from -- it started out in -- it started out down in Valdez. Then it went to Katalla and finally went to Cordova. So -- but we're not going to go there I think tonight.

Seward Peninsula -- I’m going to show you a bunch in Seward Peninsula just because I like them. Because they interest me. So there're quite a few in Seward Peninsula.

Southeast -- these were mainly -- these were mainly mining and lumbering railroads. And so they essentially met their goals. We're not going -- we're only goint to visit one of those.

These were some that never got off the drawing board, and we’ll visit a few of those. But I like the last one, the Interhemispheric Bering Straits Tunnel and Railroad Group. I just like the title if nothing else.

And then, of course, these -- and you recognize the last one for sure. So, we’ll visit a few of these.

This is bibliography. I’ve left the slides with everyone and a disc with this on so that the bibliography is there, but we don’t need to go there.

So we started with some railroads with big dreams. And, of course, that, too, could be all the Alaska railroads, right? They're all kind of small railroads and they all had big dreams.

But I want to visit just a few these. Here is the list of the ones we'll look at. Oops.

So first the Berner's Bay. The Berner's Bay actually reached its goals. It -- the Berners Bay ran from -- from Seward City. Seward City is on Lynn Canal. It's not Seward, but Seward City on the Lynn Canal to a mine three and a half miles.

It was three foot gauge. The records of it seem to be totally lost. The photo was taken on May 15th of 1894.

I included it because it was the first railroad in Alaska. And although it reached its goals, it must have been -- it still is a small railroad with big ideas just to come to Alaska I think being the first one.

It ran a Portor 0-4-0 T. I also happen to like those little locomotives. There's the only known picture of it and that's just about all that's known about it.

But it was the first railroad in Alaska at Berners Bay.

The Yakutat and Southern. I included the Yakutat and Southern because it's kind of a favorite railroad of mine and I really like Heisler’s. And I had to have a picture of a Heisler up there.

So I -- that mandated that it be Yakutat and Southern just so I could put the Heisler up.

It was an interesting little railroad. It ran from 1904 to the mid-1960’s. So it ran for quite a period.

It was put up -- it was built by a man by the name of S. S. Stinson. It ran from a cannery in -- it ran from a cannery in Yakutat to the Situk River about eleven miles.

If you go down there -- I was down there some few years ago you can still drive on the old roadbed -- at least a goodly amount of it. It was kind of fun.

So it was 11 miles. It was standard gauge. It also had a little branch to a lumber mill.

The lumber mill made the lumber for the crates that were used in the -- in the packing.

It had big ideas. It planned to go 35 miles south to Alsek River and beyond hopefully connecting with something in British Columbia, but of course, it never got any further.

I think those dreams faded with the first morning cup of coffee.

But it was a very successful railroad for the period it ran. For what it did. It did exactly what it was supposed to do and it did it. At any rate, Heisler’s are fun, so I had to put that in.

Okay, the Wild Goose Railroads. There were two wild geese or are they gooses? I don’t know. Two Wild Goose Railroads, both in Nome and both very close to each other within 60 miles of each other.

It's further confused always by the fact that they were both operated and run by the same man. They traded equipment back and forth with each other. And so they were closely connected.

They ran Class A Climax’s. That's a -- I guess you're all railroad buffs, you know, that's a Class A Climax, huh?

So there’s a Class A Climax putting some water in the tender. Putting some water in the tank.

This is how -- didn’t bother with water tanks. Plenty of water around. All you needed was a pump.

There are two of them as I say. One ran from Nome to Anvil Creek, a distance of six and a half miles. It was three foot gauge.

It was profitable. It was interesting a ticket -- a ticket on the -- so, okay, it was profitable. A ticket -- a round-trip ticket cost two dollars. And freight was two cents a pound.

It was limited to eight miles an hour, so it took quite a while to get from one end to the other. It's six and a half miles.

The second Wild Goose -- let’s see I think I have a picture of that.

There's the Wild Goose 2 with a train full of something. Looks like probably an excursion train -- a party train or something.

Again, there's a different -- a different Class A Climax in the front, as you see. Boarded up to keep the cold out, I gather.

And that ran from Council City to Ophir Creek, eight miles. Again, it was three foot. And as I say, they shared equipment.

This one is also called -- the Wild Goose 2 is also called the Goldfin if you’ve heard of that -- the Goldfin Railroad. That's another name for.

Let’s see, some more in the Seward Peninsula. This is the Council City and Solomon River.

The trick is actually sitting there but it's a windy day, so it looks like it is moving. But you can see either -- either that fellow down -- either the conductor or whatever he is standing there is running awfully fast sidewards or the train is standing still.

It ran from Council City to Solomon River. It ran in the period of 1903 to 1908. Oh, I should have mentioned back to the Wild Goose for a minute.

They ran in the period 1902 to 1905.

This ran 1903 to 1908 from Council City, which is just a little bit -- oh, I think -- I guess I'd say west of Seward.

Council River and Solomon -- Council City and Solomon River 1903 to 1908. It was put together by a name Edward A. E-G-D-E-S.

The locomotive you see is a New York -- it came from the New York -- New York Transit System.

So it's a New York Transit System locomotive -- an 0-4-14 Forney for those of you who probably all recognize it.

The -- it ran 35 miles and it was standard gauge. And it went out of business in 1908 when the mines petered out, which is what it ran to.

But again, I like the old locomotives and this one was again profitable in it's day until the mines petered out.

Probably the most interesting one on the Seward Peninsula was the Seward Peninsula Railroad. This ran from 1906 to 1963.

It was put together by the name John Rosene, I guess you pronounce it. R-O-S-E-N-E. And a Major French. It ran from Nome to the Kuzitna River. I don’t know if I pronounced that right. If anybody can correct me if they feel like it.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Kuzitnim. RON GATTERDAM: Kuzitna. To a town called Sheldon.

K-U-Z-I-T-N-I-M. Kuzitnim.

To a town called Sheldon -- 85 miles. So it was much longer than the others.

It took 10 to 12 hours for a trip and six to eight hours in return.

That is the express train you see there. The express train consisted of that car and a flat car and a locomotive.

That was there express for eight to twelve hours. The locomotives -- they had two 0-6-0 Porter’s.

It had an interesting history. It -- as I say, it was built in 1906 and it ran profitably for some years. And then the mines would go -- of course they petered out and there wasn’t enough money to build other mines.

But it was purchased by the Alaska Territory in 1921 so it actually belonged to the state of -- well the territory of Alaska.

It was purchased for $30,000 by the Territory of Alaska in 1921.

It was turned over to the Alaska Road Commission in 1922 who paid $24,000 to the Territory for it.

It was later that locomotives were retired, and dogs and horses pulled -- pulled the trains. That was -- I just like, but somebody introduced me -- I like dogs so that was why I picked that picture.

This is a picture of a dog team on that railroad and this was how the railroad ran. It ran with dog and horse teams.

The dog teams were preferable because it was easier to get them off the track when you had to pass something. Passing sidings meant lifting everything off the track.

The dog -- the dog carts were apparently easier than the horse carts, and so dogs were preferable. There's also at least one small car that ran on it. I don’t know what it did when it came to a -- I guess it had the right-of-way being heavier or something.

So there's one small car and there were all kinds of elaborate rules from the road commission about cars had to have brakes and they had to have horns and they had to have lights.

It ran 85 miles and it ran -- this is -- and as I say, Alaska Road Commission 1922 until World War II it ran with dog power primarily.

In World War II, the military took it over. They brought up a couple of Plymouth -- two Plymouth gas locomotives and ran it on there.

After World War II, it was turned back to the Alaskan Territory. And in 1963 it was converted to a dirt road. The rails were pulled.

But I think it had a fairly interesting -- interesting history.

So these were railroads that were -- they were in a sense, but at any rate I think they were kind of interesting ones.

Let’s see. Ah, yes. The Alaska Engineering Commission.

You know the history of that undoubtedly -- William Edes, Riggs, and Mears -- Actually in 1912 the original Alaska Engineering Commission was formed with Alfred Brooks, Leonard Cox, John Ingersol, and J. Monarch.

They investigated a variety of different -- a variety of different routes that became the Alaska Railroad. We're going to talk about a few of them. The main one -- the main competition, of course, being the Susitna route, which is what it followed. And the Copper River and Northwestern.

They also investigated some of the others, which we're going to talk about in a minute. The reason I put this up -- this was -- this was circa 1914, 1915 actually -- this picture.

I put this up because the small railroads -- small railroads with big ideas. There is a small railroad with very big ideas.

So you can see here -- since I don’t have a pointer and try -- but you can see, of course, the Alaska Railroad right here. The Alaska -- the start of the Alaska Railroad coming from Seward and then eventually up to Fairbanks.

Here's the Copper River Northwestern. One of the interesting things about this, I think, is that the Copper River -- the plan for the Copper River and Northwestern was not to go to the mines.

The plan was to go Fairbanks -- this was simply a branch off of -- off the mines.

And his plan was to go up to Fairbanks this way and then down in the general direction -- in the general direction of Whitehorse.

Let’s see. So you can again the Alaska Railroad. Here, this is probably the Solomon River -- not the Solomon River, but -- I’ll get it right yet.

This is probably the Seward Peninsula that shows up here. It's interesting. I don’t know where -- where this plan came from, but you can see where a small railroad with plenty of big ideas there, huh?

So that was the Alaska Railroad Commission idea -- where the Alaska Railroad was going to go.

Again, as I say, in the mold of a small railroad with big ideas.

Well, gee, no railroad with big dreams. Well, we had small railroads with big dreams.

These are no railroads with big dreams. The Alaska Home Railroad. The Alaska Home Railroad -- of all these that I’ve shown you, the Alaska Home Railroad was probably the closest thing to being a con of any of them.

I mean, most of them actually laid rail or tried to lay rail or were interested in laying rail, wanted to make a profit, many of them of course didn’t, but they really wanted to make a profit. The Alaska Home Railroad was sort of a con.

It was out of Valdez. To put it in its perspective, remember the Copper River and Northwestern Railroad had started out of Valdez and had built out to Keystone Canyon. And I think many of us have all seen the tunnel out of Valdez in Keystone Canyon. There's the tunnel.

So the Copper River and Northwestern had built out to the Valdez tunnel and had been -- the management all of a sudden got interested in all of the coal which was available in Carbon Mountain out of Katalla.

And so at the urging of Heiny , they decided to -- to move their operation from Valdez to Katalla.

And I suppose just to put a footnote on that, they were at Katalla for some time and they tried to build several harbors and piers and every winter the storms would wash them away, which is why they finally went to Cordova.

You remember that I had previously a slide of a bunch of railroads that were either planned or started out of Katalla. The Katalla harbor just wouldn’t -- wouldn’t support anything of that sort. The weather was just too bad. The winter storms would just wipe everything out. Yes, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Is Katalla where they had the oil shale discovery down there? It's on the east side of Copper River.

RON GATTERDAM: Yeah, it's about as far east of the Copper River as Cordova is west. Oil shale there. I wouldn’t be surprised. There's a huge -- huge coal deposit there.

I mean it makes -- makes Usibelli look like a drop in the bucket. I mean it's just an immense coal deposit.

Apparently, it's a virtually solid mountain of coal.

The Copper River Northwestern -- we’re talking about the Copper River Northwestern virtually ran its tracks over coal and yet was by law unable to use any of it having imported it all from the Lower 48.

The Navy at the time, which ran ships on coal, considered very seriously a harbor in that area just for the access to that coal. They were going to make it a major naval port -- a major Pacific naval port just for that coal. But it was withdrawn by Roosevelt.

For a variety of reasons having to do with the Teapot Dome Scandal. I don’t want to go there.

Some people remember the Teapot Dome Scandal and by all means it got caught up in that scandal and the personalities and the Interior Department related to that scandal and was withdrawn.

In any case, that -- I guess back to the railroads at large.

The Copper River Northwestern had built up to the Valdez tunnel and they moved over into Katalla, but they weren’t really willing to give up the right-of-way from Valdez to the tunnel.

I suppose they thought, you know, you just may have to come back to that depending on how Katalla works out. They hadn’t given it up. They had a couple of deputy sheriffs and a crew of workers stationed at the tunnel.

Well, the Alaska Home -- what's this have to do with the Alaska Home Railroad? The only real way out of Valdez is through Keystone Canyon.

And this tunnel was the one place where all -- any railroad out of Valdez had to go.

So the Alaska Home Railroad was formed by Henry Reynolds and he went to Valdez and he was a -- I don’t know a bit of a shyster, I guess. He -- not only did he start the railroad in Valdez, but he bought major interests in virtually all the businesses.

Opened up a bank there, took over the newspaper and started selling stock. But his real game seemed to be that what he wanted to do was to force the Guggenheim interest and the Alaska Syndicate into settling out of court with him for the right-of-way.

Of course, as far as the Alaska Syndicate was concerned they already had the right-of-way.

So a crew from -- a crew from the Alaska Home Railroad went to the tunnel. They met the crew -- They -- several of them were armed.

They met the crew from the -- from the Copper River Northwestern there. Words were exchanged, shovels were hit at each other, and gunfire started.

One person was killed and several were injured.

This led by the way -- any of you've read the book "Iron Trail" by Rex Beach?

That -- that -- that battle at this tunnel is the centerpiece of Rex Beach’s "Iron Trail" novel.

So, in any case, he was going to build -- actually he was going to build three foot gauge and his plan -- he told the people of Valdez when -- in selling stock that he could build 35 miles to the -- to the -- to Thompson Pass. To the -- to the summit of Thompson Pass in 90 days.

You've all driven that highway. You probably can think of a railroad up that road to Thompson Pass.

So he was going to build 34 miles up Thompson Pass in 90 days.

As I say, he sold stock, but his main plan was to force the Syndicate into buying him off. So they had -- they had the battle there.

One of the -- the battle appears in several of the references I’ve put out there. One of them has Soapy Smith being there, but it seems unlikely.

The rest don’t. So it seems unlikely. It seems like it would be kind of far away from his stomping grounds.

One of them said -- and as I say, it was in Rex Beach.

Let me go back. So that was the Alaska Home Railroad. No railroad, but big dreams. Actually they did -- I suppose Alaska Home Railroad had a railroad. They had some tracks -- some hundred yards of track and locomotive.

They did import a locomotive.

The rest of these didn’t have any track at all and good for those. The Alaska Home we just did.

The Alaska Midland Railroad. The Alaska Midland Railroad was kind of interesting one. It was going to go from Haines to Fairbanks. They did a 1910 survey.

They surveyed that -- at least some of the route. I’m sure they didn’t survey the whole route to Fairbanks, but they surveyed some of it and they thought they could manage with a one and a half percent grade, which kind of amazes me. If anyone's driven that road out of Haines to Haines Junction, it's hard to imagine one and a half percent grade coming out of there.

I don’t know they must have a lot of switchbacks in mind or something. At any rate, they'd surveyed and had a one and a half -- their main idea was that they would compete for the Alaska Railroad.

They would compete as being a possible -- a possible terminus of the Alaska Railroad to Fairbanks from Haines.

In 1910, they began that. Of course, in 1915, the president decreed that the Alaska Railroad would be the Susitna route.

Other routes considered, by the way, just as a footnote for that again, they considered the -- they considered extending the White Pass and Yukon.

They considered this route. They actually considered two different routes out of Haines.

One not very seriously. This one somewhat seriously. Both of those were rejected largely because of the political pressure to make an all American route keeping it out of Canada.

They considered, of course, the Copper River Northwestern. And there was that comment in the newspaper that really had nothing to do with this, but they considered the Copper River Northwestern and rejected it largely on political grounds.

I think anyone would say that from an engineering and economic point of view that was -- that was the proper place for the Alaska Railroad. But they rejected it on political grounds.

The Susitna route, which is, of course, what they finally chose and they also considered the Alaska Home Railroad which they rejected. They considered actually two different versions of the Alaska Home Railroad route.

One that went up to Thompson Pass and another that kind of bypassed around it.

They more seriously considered the one that went up to the top of Thompson Pass.

In any case, they -- the Alaska Midland then after 1915, after the route was chosen to come out of Seward, the Alaska Midland just folded and went away.

The -- let’s see which -- American Trans-Siberian Railroad. 1906. This was -- I put this one in -- There were actually -- oh, I could have put it in half a dozen more or so railroads were on paper that didn’t exist, but these kind of struck me as being the more interesting.

The American -- the American Trans-Siberian was interesting to me because of its scope. It -- they really had plans. I mean talk about big dreams.

They were going to start at Prince of Wales and they were going to head in the general direction of Kougarok and then they were going split there and go east to Nu -- Nulato -- Did I pronounce it right? East to Nulato and then along the Yukon River to Dawson.

So they were going to go all the way -- I had to dig out the atlas and look at how this was going to go, but it looked like it would have been -- not an unreasonable grade.

I was looking at the -- at the topo maps and looked like it was not -- it was a conceivable grade.

So from Prince of Wales to Kougarok to Nulato down the Yukon River to Dawson, but at Kougarok it was also going to turn south. The branch was going south and go to Nome and then go up along Norton Sound to St. Michael and then over to the Yukon River and Dawson. Somehow joining the other one.

That would be a cool railroad.

Well, what made it even more cool was they were going to build a tunnel from Prince of Wales to East Cape in Siberia.

So this railroad was now going to connect to Siberia via tunnel from Prince of Wales to East Cape. So as I say, this probably ranks up there with the most ambitious..

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: In 1906, correct?

RON GATTERDAM: This was in 1906, yes. It never got beyond that stage, actually. Never got beyond the talking stage.

Actually, what they had in mind -- there's a little more to the story. You remember when the Trans-Atlan -- Trans-Continental Railroad was built.

The Union Pacific was given eight mile segments, all checkerboard segments on either side of the track. Plots of land to support it. Well, they wanted -- that's what they wanted.

They demanded the same kind of consideration. Every eight mile -- checker board eight mile plots of land along the track. And since no one paid any attention to them, they gave up. I mean no one was going to give them land and they quit.

Ah, let’s see. Actually, I got these -- have these a little bit historically out of order. I think I should go to the Hickel Plan next. Now we're up to almost present time, of course. The Hickel Plan.

There is the Hickel map. This was let’s see -- the Hickel map was what -- 19 -- what year was that? You probably remember better than I. What year was that? It's 1975.

Hickel proposed the extension of the Alaska Railroad. You can see where it was going to go. Here’s the Alaska Railroad. You can see where it was going to go up to Nome and up -- up to Prudhoe Bay and also down to Whitehorse.

Again, a big idea that never quite materialized. So that was the Hickel -- that was the Hickel -- I’m sorry?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Going back to the White Pass, can you Whitehorse?

RON GATTERDAM: Ah, well, of course, the White Pass and Yukon doesn’t really go all the way to Whitehorse any more. Where does it stop? It stops at --

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Oh yeah, but didn't they rebuild it?

RON GATTERDAM: The track is, yeah. And then certainly the roadbed is still there.

It would have connected -- of course, it'd have been different gauges, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Yeah, it's like just a rail terminal.

RON GATTERDAM: Yeah, well, of course, Canada has talked about gradually moving its rails north to Whitehorse, right? UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Yeah.

RON GATTERDAM: And they gradually have been moving further and further north.

So I presume the hope was to meet at Whitehorse with the Canadian rather than the White Pass and Yukon. Seems like there' be little benefit in meeting with the White Pass and Yukon.

I mean, you know, traffic -- shipping through Seward there would have been little benefit I would think in trying to ship from -- from Skagway to Whitehorse on a narrow gauge and then transferring it to the standard gauge rather than just coming up through Seward.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: As long as you're shipping tourists.

RON GATTERDAM: Tourists, yes. Shipping tourists, good point. Good point. Shipping tourists.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Mineral resources, too.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Shipping mineral resources out.

RON GATTERDAM: Oh, you think that would be better than going through Seward or --

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Well, I don’t remember what they were -- they were hauling material from Barrow down to White Pass. White Pass had a terminal there at Skagway that they were shipping ore from there.

RON GATTERDAM: They were shipping --

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I can’t remember what it was.

RON GATTERDAM: They were shipping asbestos. UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Yeah.

RON GATTERDAM: But, you know, until asbestos became persona non grata. UNIDENTIFIED MAN:

RON GATTERDAM: I guess they’re opening up -- I heard the other day they're opening up from other mining or trying to. But still seems to me if it was in Alaska, it'd be -- I don't know.

Going through Seward would probably be -- and you'd have to trans-ship it into the Whitehorse or into the White Pass Yukon because of the gauge change.

I think more of the plan was to meet with the railroads coming north. That would make sense. I mean that still makes sense to meet with the railroads coming north, if ever.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Talking about the gauge change, how much trouble would it be to do that third rail Skagway?

RON GATTERDAM: I'm sure most of you have ridden that route. It's hard to imagine widening the roadbed. And right out of Whitehorse there. If you've ridden it, can you imagine trying to widen that out of Whitehorse?

I mean not out of Whitehorse, but out of Skagway.

Can you imagine going through the canyon trying to widen that.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I would think the big issue with that would be car length and size. The ground's so loose there. RON GATTERDAM: Yeah.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Add bridge re-construction.

RON GATTERDAM: I would think so, yeah. The bridges, I don’t think -- I mean you can always build heavier bridges. But just the roadbed, some of the roadbed would be hard to widen.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: All you need is a couple pounds of dynamite, and . RON GATTERDAM: Yeah, well --

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: They do it in Europe. That feels like, you know, they just have the narrow gauge car on wide gauge wheels. Start it in Seward and then you go to Whitehorse just switch to car wide. All you have to do. They did that in Europe for years before it was standardized.

RON GATTERDAM: Yeah, you know, the -- in -- in the 1850’s in the Lower 48, of course, in the north there were a variety of gauges. And in the patent office are all sorts of patents for being able to change -- change trucks on the fly.

The car would go through some kind of a device and the truck would drop off into a pit and the truck would continue on and another device would lift a different gauge track up to meet it.

Then there were lots of patents of that sort, especially between the Erie and Pennsylvania before it was standard gauge.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Especially cargo wouldn’t be that bad containized.

RON GATTERDAM: No, with containers, yeah, and, of course, they're going to use containers anyway, yeah. So maybe it would work.

I still think the better plan or the fault would be more the construction to the connection with the Canadians.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: If the main port was in Skagway, you'd just took the Inside Passage for your shipping. RON GATTERDAM: Yeah.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: You wouldn’t have to run ships all the -- RON GATTERDAM: You wouldn’t have to go through the Gulf of --

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Give you another ice free port.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: There're not that many of them up here.

RON GATTERDAM: Yeah, okay, well you convinced me. In any case, it didn’t happen.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: All's you have to do is come up with the money.

RON GATTERDAM: It didn’t happen and, you know, it doesn’t -- UNIDENTIFIED MAN:

RON GATTERDAM: Doesn’t seem awfully likely to happen, but it didn’t.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The climate change we may be --

RON GATTERDAM: We have a lot of ice free ports. Maybe 50 year around the -- be that as it may.

Let’s see, the Hickel Plan -- oh and this last one, actually this is just about where I want to end. I just love the title of this. The Interhemispheric Bering Strait Tunnel and Railroad Group.


RON GATTERDAM: Well, this appeared -- the article about this appeared in the News-Miner in 1991. Some of you may remember reading it.

It was kind of interesting to dig through the records of the News-Miner and dig that article out. If anyone wants to dig through the News-Miner records and find it, it would be kind of a fun thing to find, I think.

Apparently, it just died. I mean apparently that was all there was to it was that article in the News-Miner.

I have found no other reference to it -- nothing else happening other than that article in the News-Miner in 1991.

It -- oh, and I skipped one, didn’t I? Huh. I’m sorry. At any rate, its plan was to build, of course, up to the -- up to a tunnel across the Bering Strait.

Oh, I skipped one of the fun ones. I’m sorry. I got so carried away. The -- let’s see, which one was it I skipped? Let me back up.

The Trans-Alaska - the Trans-Alaska -- I skipped the Trans-Alaska. The Trans-Alaska Railroad and Navigation Company.

I’m sorry. I skipped that -- 1902. Way up in history a little bit. We can do that.

The Trans-Atlantic Railroad and Navigation Company. 1902. It was going to run from the south end -- essentially the south end of Lake Iliamna just over to Cook Inlet from the south end of Lake Iliamna.

And it was going to run up to Port Clarence, which is near Teller, you know, if you look at the map.

Port Clarence near Teller. So it was going to run from Iliamna to Port Clarence. And again, this is when I looked at the -- I thought, boy, that sounds like it'd be just a tough thing.

But I looked at the topo maps and it looks like a perfectly reasonable -- perfectly reasonable -- virtually wide level route. It doesn’t look like it has bad grades at all.

The -- they managed -- oh, this was -- this was the one that was in the paper, of course. This was the one built by the Free Love Society or started by the Free Love Society. And apparently there were plans of colonization along it.

That was a goodly part of the plan.

They started construction at Iliamna and also at a kind of a midway point at Railroad City.

Railroad City is on the Yukon right across from Holy Cross. And there are still remnants of their buildings and their equipment and materials at both Lake Iliamna and Holy Cross.

They actually started -- they laid the -- I don’t know if they laid track, but they started grading -- started a little tunnel out of Iliamna. And gave up.

Oh, I’m sorry I skipped by that one.

Well, that’s about what I had in mind. They said 40 minutes and that's 40 minutes.

I know actually I was invited here because I haven’t paid my dues.

They really wanted me to come here and pay dues, so I intend to do that. But since I'm paying I decided I would -- I would talk as well.

I'll be glad to answer any questions. I'm not sure I have any answers, but either I'll make them up or I’ll just give up. Yes, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: How many other railroads were built to do what the Yakutat did? Haul fish.

RON GATTERDAM: Only haul fish? You know, I can’t think of any other. UNIDENTIFIED MAN: That's unique? RON GATTERDAM: I’m sorry? UNIDENTIFIED MAN: That's unique?

RON GATTERDAM: No, just because I can’t think of any other doesn’t mean there wasn’t any other. It's just I haven’t looked at this for several years now. I've never seen any other.

You know, usually they were mining railroads. Mining was what was the main interest and just general -- general kind of transportation.

Just haul fish. I can’t think of any other.

They actually hauled lumber, too. They hauled lumber for the -- for the UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Fish.

RON GATTERDAM: For the fish processing. Yeah, but the problem is, you see they -- if you've ever been down there, the Situk River -- the boats -- the fishing boats like to come into the Situk River at high tide.

The Situk River's about eleven miles from -- from Yakutat and it's all done for the fish. Yes, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Well, the Situk, as you were saying, it dumps right into the North Pacific right there. RON GATTERDAM: Yeah.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: There's no shelter at all. And from what I understand that railroad had a steam engine on the side of . RON GATTERDAM: Uh-huh. UNIDENTIFIED MAN: And very nicely preserved. That thing ran for approximately twenty miles.

RON GATTERDAM: Eleven miles. UNIDENTIFIED MAN: To Situk? RON GATTERDAM: Yes, 11 miles.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: From the cannery and it supplied transportation for the local people.


RON GATTERDAM: Free. Passengers -- zero cost for passengers.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Yeah. And when the cannery burned down, well, everything .

RON GATTERDAM: It had a little Y in it. It had a little Y in Yakutat to turn it on, as I recall. To revolve. Yeah. Yeah, it was a very interesting little railroad.

They ran that Heisler and then they had another locomotive. I think -- I've forgotten -- an 0-4-0 maybe, but then most of the time later in the year -- later in the 1940’s they started running a truck -- essentially a truck on the rails.

But I like the Heisler. I’m a big fan of Heisler.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: If you ever go to -- ever go down to Yakutat, take the time to check out Cannon Beach. 'Cause that was where in World War II, we had a bunch of people stationed there manning the cannons on the beach. It must have been some duty.

RON GATTERDAM: I have been down there. And I vaguely remember Cannon Beach, but I don’t remember any kind of -- any kind of fortification there.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Well, there's just -- we just had a cannon there mounted on a turret --

RON GATTERDAM: Huh, I don’t remember seeing that. I remember -- we drove -- we tried to drive the -- tried to drive the roadbed of the --

of the and got into such deep -- in such deep woods after a while we had -- had to back out of it. But I remember we were headed toward Cannon Beach.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: That's where they surf nowadays.

RON GATTERDAM: Huh. I see. Well.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: It's a great place to beach comb.

RON GATTERDAM: Okay. And we were close to -- we were lucky to get the truck turned around to get out of there.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: You could walk to it.

RON GATTERDAM: We did walk some of it, yeah. Yeah.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Can you go back to that fish in Yakutat and Southern there?

RON GATTERDAM: Oh, I can certainly try. Oop, well, let’s see.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: It's the wrong way.

RON GATTERDAM: Yeah, I did. Let’s see. Oh, just bear with me a second here. There we go.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: What flavor engine is that?

RON GATTERDAM: That's a Heisler. That's a two truck Heisler.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Was it pushing and pulling you? RON GATTERDAM: I’m sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Was it push me/pull you with trucks front and rear? They get --

RON GATTERDAM: Yeah, front -- yeah, it has two cylinders -- V-mounted cylinders. You see one of them right there.

Right there is one of the cylinders. Yeah. It's got another cylinder. A V -- a V-2.

And then it has a drive shaft down the middle which drives -- which drives the gears -- beveled gears on -- drives beveled gears on these two wheels and then the out -- the outer wheels are driven by the -- by the side rails.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: So how does it -- how does it compete with the Heisler -- I mean the Climax . The Climax that had the valve drivers on the side instead of pointing into a V that --

RON GATTERDAM: The one that had the valve -- the gear inside was the Shay, right? UNIDENTIFIED MAN: No, not -- RON GATTERDAM: Not --

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Not all the way down. I mean like --

RON GATTERDAM: The ones had them in the front like this?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I've seen pictures of the because of the drive wheels off the rails.

Like I've seen -- that has this picture along that shows pictures of Climaxes. It looks like -- it looks like a Heisler with the drive wheels and everything, but --

RON GATTERDAM: In Climax, the cylinders -- the cylinders were at about a forty-five degree angle right here.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Yeah, that's what I am talking about.

RON GATTERDAM: I mean aside.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: So that they like do a couple of 90 degree turns to make this --

RON GATTERDAM: They drove a kind of a -- there was a flywheel arrangement back here that they drove the flywheel and that drove a shaft which drove the center shaft.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Yeah, I would have to meet with a Heisler, like --

RON GATTERDAM: I don’t think either one of you are wanting to drag race.

You mean financially? UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Yeah.

RON GATTERDAM: I think the -- well, all three of the Ron locomotives did well financially. I mean the Shay undoubtedly did the best, because it ends up the leading locomotives, you know.

But there were quite a few of all of them sold. I don’t know how Heiny compete.


RON GATTERDAM: As I say, I don't think you don’t want to drag on that. You’d probably walk faster. Yes, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Did you have a chance to look at any of the designs for the alternative to the pipeline railroad -- the railroad that they had planned to Prudhoe Bay outside of the Hickel plan?


RON GATTERDAM: I haven’t seen any of that anywhere.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: In addition, to like the S.S. Manhattan that went through Northwest Passage. They had -- RON GATTERDAM: Huh.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: -- plans for either a railroad or even airborne tankers as one of the more outlandish things.

RON GATTERDAM: I hadn’t -- I’m not aware of that. Thank you. I hadn’t seen it. I'll see if I can find that.

I mean to run essentially along where the pipeline runs now?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Yeah, just to run a railroad and have strings of tanker cars carrying oil. RON GATTERDAM: Yeah.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: It ran through the pass.

RON GATTERDAM: Yeah. No, I haven’t seen that, no. I have no knowledge of it. Yes, sir, you had a question?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Where's that now?

RON GATTERDAM: I have no idea. Probably, like most steam locomotives it probably ended up in shrapnel over in Korea.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Either that or South America or Mexico.

RON GATTERDAM: Yeah, that could be, too.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Down there, they're probably still using it.

RON GATTERDAM: Those Rod -- or those gear locomotives were rugged. UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Yeah.

RON GATTERDAM: Slow, but rugged.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: So which one did they preserve at the Yakutat?

RON GATTERDAM: I think it was a little 0-4-0, wasn’t it? I've forgotten. They had another little locomotive. UNIDENTIFIED MAN: It wasn’t a very big one.

RON GATTERDAM: Yeah, I think it was a little 0-4-0 -- a little 0-4-0 tank, but I wouldn’t swear to it. I’d have to -- I've forgotten.

I had a picture of it at one time, but given a picture between that and Heisler -- I mean after all.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Thank you for sharing with us. UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Thank you.