Railroading in the wintertime offers many challenges in the battle against nature but railroading in the newest of the United States has some unique problems not faced by men on the P. R. R. The problems stem from moose and icicles.
Owned and operated by the U.S. Government, the Alaskan Railway was the outgrowth of the gold rush and was started in 1903 out of Seward but little progress was made until the government stepped in and finished the railway into Fairbanks in 1923, when President Harding drove in a golden spike to mark its completion.
Numerous tunnels mark the roadway through mountainous areas and here is where the icicle trouble develops from water seepage. At some places, workmen precede trains thru tunnels to knock down the icicles, other tunnels are heated and some have large doors to counteract this possible hazard.
Mangling and killing moose is another hazard not ordinarily faced by P. R. R. engine man but in Alaska the toll has run as high as 185 of these animals in a single year. As a result, a new problem is added: How do you think like a moose?
To date, the thinking has evolved to the point that the moose think the train is another form of wolf, which will tear them down if they flounder in the snow or are crippled. As a result, they run along in front of trains on the cleared right of way, when snow is deep. So, along with clearing track, the M. of W. men in Alaska also bulldoze moose turnouts and also plate bridges so the half-ton animals will not flounder.