by Phillip Manning ~ December 5th, 2013
This year’s Alaska Railroad print features a bull moose in the foreground, with the Hurricane Train in the background conducting whistle-stop service. It was done in charcoal by artist Ray Gamradt. Ray is a structural engineer who recently became a full-time artist. He explains how he came up with his idea for the Hurricane print.
“I filtered a lot of ideas–a lot of people were contributing ideas. When I was going up on the train to study the area, people wanted to see Denali, they wanted to see various bridges and this and that. It happened to be a gray day…I wanted to just capture some of the fog clinging to the backside of Kesugi Ridge…but of course, the big emphasis being the moose, I’m just really attracted to the wildlife we have up here. I know a lot of other people are as well.”
The Railroad has been producing prints that feature different sections of the rail line since 1985. This is the first year that the print has been in black and white, and it’s also the first year that the Hurricane Train has been featured. Tim Sullivan, Manager of External Affairs for the Railroad, says that the Hurricane Train’s status as the last flagstop service in North America makes it special.
“We really consider that to be an important and critical part of the service we provide to Alaskans. When we were purchased from the federal government by the state, it was really understood that there were areas that don’t get service any other way. They’re roadless. The access is just very limited, so what the Railroad can provide is very specific and very important to people.”
Also on Thursday, the students and teachers of Talkeetna Elementary took a ride on the Hurricane Train. Principal Carol Wadman took a few moments from helping coordinate ninety-five students to explain how this trip came about.
“This is an Alaska Studies Adventure. The whole school is doing some kind of activity, either some kind of book reading, math, science, social studies, history, book study…something to do with the train, and our Title I funding paid for this trip….This is a big deal, I think, for the majority of our kids haven’t been on the train before.”
The train left around noon for a five hour trip to the Hurricane Turn and back. Along with the students, some regular riders boarded. For them, the train is often the best, or even the only, option to get to land “up the tracks.” The Hurricane train and some of its regular users have also recently appeared on a reality TV show highlighting the Alaska Railroad. By all accounts, the service is likely to stick around, and now it has a new piece of art commemorating it.