Nov 28 2009

Why the ARR

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Why did I choose to model the Alaska Railroad?

Well that is a very long and interesting story. I first started collecting whatever roads I found. Then I began to narrow it down. I have always had a love for passenger trains and I love to model the modern freight. While the steam era of the early 20th century was the most colorful and decadent time of railroading. I don’t have any interest in modeling the steam era for I have no real connection to that time.

So I first began modeling Santa Fe passenger train. Like most beginner modelers from the South Western US the Santa Fe Supper Chief in silver War Bonnet…  I mean lets get real nothing says passenger like the Santa Fe Supper Chief. As for Freight I went with Southern Pacific, my grandfathers railroad. Then next I added Amtrak Bi-levels the second type trains I have ever ridden on. The first was Southern Pacific Daylight. I then started to collect circus trains. Partly because Walthers released a neat circus train consist and because circus and carnivals are another one of my interests. I now have 4 complete circus trains. I still have lots of other miscellaneous roads. I even had a couple cars for the ARR in my early connection.

So how did I finely choose Alaska?

Well as I said earlier it is a long story over 40 years long. When I was just a little kid lets face it I was a baby all of 3 years old and Alaska became a state. From that time forward my parents and my aunt and uncle wanted to move to Alaska, after all it was, and still is the last frontier. So… on, or about 1960 they packed up and moved to Alaska and in late 1981 they arrived. (It was a very long trip.) We move back in forth from California to Oregon to Washington and back to California and never had enough money to make the final leg across Canada. So one day in 1981 while I was living in Portland, married and with two kids of my own. I get this call from my father he says. I am 30 miles south of Portland and on my way north. I had to ask, “North?” “Yes, to Alaska!” At first I thank my eyes rolled back in my head and I thought to myself here they go again. But this time they did not stop at the Canadian border. They pushed on, all the way to Alaska. So after 21 years they finely make it and they have been living there ever since.

The funny thing is I did not go with them and neither did some of the other older siblings. Some times I wished I did go but then I could not give up my dreams that is to live here in the Pacific North West. So us older children had been planted at different places around America. Some as far east as Minnesota.

I’ve only been to Alaska three times. Once when my boys were little I sent them by plane with one of their uncles in order to spend the summer with their grandparents. I flew up later to get them on a weekend. 60 hours in Alaska, it is true what they say; no one really sleeps in Alaska, in the summer time. The next time was for a funeral not the best reason to go to Alaska. It was the middle of winter and a lot of sadness. Alaska is very beautiful in the winter. We drove all the way to Soldotna from Anchorage. The Cook Inlet was covered with ice floats. The third time was more joyful it was summer and my parent’s were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. I was there for a whole week. I even got in a little fishing I didn’t catch anything but as I always say, “fishing is not in the catching but in the doing.”

It was on this third trip that really kicked of my interest in modeling the Alaska Railroad and was the defining moment that made the ARR my main road of choice. I had no real interest in the ARR before leaving for Alaska. But before I left for Alaska I did a search for Alaskan hobby shops. A true modeler always takes advantage of discovering those unique hidden away opportunities. I found one in Anchorage and one in Soldotna. My parents lived in Soldotna, cool! I could look for bargains. Model railroaders are always looking for bargains. After visiting and a little fishing. I asked my brother to give me a ride to the hobby store. No need to rent a car when you have family living there. My brother and my dad both looked at each other and said. “Soldotna has no hobby store.” I assured them that yes they did and after explaining where Yahoo said it was. My brother remarked. “Ok… that’s right I do recall a hobby store there.” In fact they remembered that there was also one in the mall so Soldotna actually had two hobby stores. I guess when you live next to one of the greatest fishing rivers in the world model-railroading doesn’t seem that important.

Well the one in the mall was just like a hobby stores in any mall anywhere a lot of everything but very little of anything. The other one, the one I found on the Internet they were a true train store. In fact I found a lot of good stuff, all Alaska railroad. Everything from manufacture made Bev-Bel kits, to custom painted kits. I have even purchased items from this store after returning home to Oregon. Sadly the store was sold hopefully the new owner will continue selling Alaska road. But the former owner made many of the custom items himself.

It was that handful of cars that I got there in Soldotna that kicked off my passion for the Alaska Railroad and started me in my never-ending quest to collect all of Alaska railroad model trains. That and my parents, 21year journey to become Alaskans. As of this day I have over 15 ARR engine and somewhere between 70 to 80 ARR freight cars a lot of them are custom painted. 20 passenger cars 7 That I custom painted myself, 9 are McKinley Explorer cars and 4 ARR Rivarossi passenger cars. As well as numerous container loads and semi trailers and the numbers keep growing. I do of course still collect other roads just recently I have begun to acquire NdeM. Nacionales De Mexico. (National Railway of Mexico) For those who are not familiar with the NdeM Railroad or that Mexico even had a railroad. I guess I have a thing for the small less known roads. I also have a passion for Christmas cars. But Alaska will always be my #1 road.

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