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Juneau Alaska 2017

PostPosted: Wed Jun 28, 2017 7:51 am
by saveitforparts
Earlier this month I flew up to Juneau for some research on my forgotten AK railroads project. The trip was mostly aimed at digging through the state archives, but I did get out in the field to some abandoned narrow-gauge lines around town.

This little steam loco was built in 1893 by the Risdon Iron Works of California, and is kind of an oddity. It's 22" gauge with 5x6 cylinders mounted inside the frame. It was originally designed to haul ore through a tunnel from an aerial tram terminal to a mill. After a few years it was moved to another small mine railroad, then abandoned in favor of a slightly larger locomotive.


I'd seen this years ago, but wanted better photos. I spent a day looking for the Risdon in the woods before realizing it had been moved. Fortunately it hadn't gone far, a local tour company had it.

The Risdon's final resting place saw several railroads. A horse tram was upgraded to 22" rail for the Ridson, then to 24" or 30" rail for a Porter (records disagree), then used to construct a 36" electric railroad running parallel in the same valley. Here's a shot from the archive of the Porter:


And a drawing of one of the electric locomotives used later on in the same valley:


Re: Juneau Alaska 2017

PostPosted: Wed Jun 28, 2017 7:54 am
by saveitforparts
A few valleys away, a 36"-gauge track ran up Salmon Creek to support dam construction. The line had another H.K. Porter and a Lima Shay. I've already determined from the archive documents that this was a different Shay than previously recorded. Past records said that Salmon Creek used #2190 from Dawson, but correspondence in the company file indicates it was actually #2300 from Berlin, WA. I've let the Shay folks know and they've updated their records. The correspondence also shows that the operators tried to skimp on rails, but had problems with the Shay sliding and derailing on undersized track. Some of that track is still in place.


Railroad grade, now a public walking trail up to the dam:


Former switch with trees growing through it:


Re: Juneau Alaska 2017

PostPosted: Wed Jun 28, 2017 7:59 am
by saveitforparts
Across Gastineau Channel from downtown Juneau, the Treadwell Mines operated a number of small steam locomotives on a 25" industrial surface railroad. I hiked the entire length of the line, from the former sawmill site at downtown Douglas to the powder magazine at Ready Bullion Creek. I found a few interesting artifacts including a wheel truck that matches one seen in historic photos. I wasn't entirely sure if this was a very small flatcar or the truck from a longer car. Sometimes those were used interchangeably on these small railroads, with longer cars being built and broken down as needed from smaller hand cars.




Re: Juneau Alaska 2017

PostPosted: Wed Jun 28, 2017 8:09 am
by saveitforparts
Juneau sure had a lot of small rail lines! This one ran from the Alaska-Juneau Mine to its waterfront mill. The 30" gauge track spends more time underground than above, dipping in and out of the mountain to traverse ridges and valleys. The main shaft for the AJ mine was fully underground, with the railroad going into the mountain and running to an underground loading chamber at the top of the shaft (what would be a headframe and rock house in a normal surface shafthead). While most people might consider this a tramway, It was referred to as a railroad at the time it was built, was operated as a haul railroad, and has many standard features like signals, shops, yards, etc. The locomotive shop was until recently still standing, but has collapsed under snow and neglect. The car shop burned down long ago, leaving a number of small passenger cars that hauled the miners to work. There is also one articulated Baldwin electric loc, two unidentified trolley locos and a storage battery locomotive. A little bird told me you can still find some rolling stock underground in the mine.




Re: Juneau Alaska 2017

PostPosted: Wed Jun 28, 2017 8:14 am
by saveitforparts
And here are a few random things from the archives. I scanned and photographed over 1500 documents and photos, and am still sorting through them! My website ( ... of-alaska/) will be updated as I find new stuff, this research has already tripled the known length of one small railway and located several unknown ones.

FB hauling.jpg



Re: Juneau Alaska 2017

PostPosted: Fri Aug 04, 2017 10:35 am
by Andrew Brandon

These are fantastic photos. I am always pleasantly surprised at how much remains of these old railroads.

Can I post your images to the gallery?

Re: Juneau Alaska 2017

PostPosted: Thu Oct 19, 2017 12:20 pm
by saveitforparts
Sure, you can add them to the gallery.