Neighborhood Travels

The Aurora Winter Train

I debated with myself for the last several days about writing a story about the Aurora Winter Train.  What can I say about such passive activity as riding a train to Fairbanks?  As you may imagine, my answer wasn’t encouraging.  I have a feeling this post will be brief.

Talkeetna Station

Talkeetna station for my tour group.
Photo by my daughter, Halley Sanchez, who had the sense to take it!

If there was a building at Talkeetna Station, I missed it.  Perhaps tour buses pull into a different parking area.  We arrived shortly after 11:00 am, and our Alaska Rail was right on time.  We left the bus and headed for car 207.

That little staircase was the only “structure” in my vicinity!  Our car was a basic Pullman with two seats on each side of the aisle.  No need to worry about the winter weather; the car was well heated.  My daughter and I spent a lot of time standing on the chilly platform between the cars.

Onboard the train, but where are we?

Is that Denali? If so, the river may be the Susitna.

Obviously the train was heading north to Fairbanks, but there were few clues to where or what we saw as we jostled along.  We were still excited at this point.  We had only just left Talkeetna.  The brochure said the trip would take eight hours!

Winter Train Sites

Along with the rivers and forests, I was watching for wildlife.  I wasn’t disappointed.

I should probably add that our group saw moose everywhere.  Females with young were often spotted along the highway.  It was common to hear someone shout, “Moose on the left!”  Nonetheless, I never got tired of the wildlife.  Where else am I going to see a moose?

The edit may be a tad fanciful, but to me those rivers were like a fairy land.

The train rushed by countless rivers and creeks.  I think these were what I found most magical.  Coming from drought-ridden California, it was a thrill to see flowing water.  Or, in this case…ice.

Relief, at last!

We were long passed the 50-mile stretch of roadless backcountry.  The train provides flagstop service to this area; no one flagged us down.  It wasn’t until around 4:00 that we did finally stop.  Passengers were allowed to leave the train for a few minutes.

We grabbed our coats, although the weather does look mild in the above photo.  Based on the printed schedule, this stop must be Denali.  My daughter saw a sign mentioning the park.  Did anyone board?  I don’t know.  I was enjoying the chance to move around.

All too soon, it was time to continue.  About ninety minutes later, we passed under a pretty bridge.  I later figured out this structure crossed the Nenana River.  Were we having dinner by this time?

Even at dinner, I continued to look for some change in the scenery. Photo by Halley Sanchez.

The dining car was straightforward, with only about a dozen tables.  I suppose this made cleaning easier for the wait staff.  There were a lot of hungry people on board.  The menu was limited, but it did have a vegetarian option that was very tasty.

The long trip was almost over by the time we made our way back to car 207.  The train pulled into Fairbanks station around 8:00.  I think everyone was tired.  We shuffled off the train, hurried through the station, and happily greeted our waiting bus driver.

Would I do it again?  If there is a second trip, I probably will opt to drive for four or five hours.  At least I could choose when to stop.  Still, I don’t regret taking the train; the scenery was gorgeous.  To see more images from the Aurora Winter Train adventure, please click here.


Elizabeth Boatman

Traveler, explorer, memory maker and someone who's just downright curious about stuff. It's all about finding joy.

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