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Alaska Railroad tours advice

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🚂🚂🚂🚂   We are TRAIN PEOPLE, so we are looking at the Alaska Railroad Tour options after our RCI Alaska cruise, June 2022, celebrating our 40th anniversary and returning to Alaska where we honeymooned in 1982. We want to ride the rails everywhere instead of a bus tour from Seward up to Denali. Looking for advice from anyone who has done this instead of the Cruise Line Land tours.  I know it might be a bit more expensive but it seems much more flexible. Have looked at doing Alaska Railroad on our own and booking our accomodations and excursions separately but their package looks like it covers the highlights.  Also booking accomodations in Denali without a car seems problematical. 




Also, should we consider going to Fairbanks on the train? Some Cruise Line tours start or end there but the connections back to Vancouver are not showing this year for next because of the travel bans. 


Advice and opinions welcomed!   🚂🚂🚂🚂



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I and my railroad traveling partner are also avid railroad fans.

Life Members Friends of the 261 - LINK:  www.261.com


Can't comment on the Alaska RR non-rail tour packages - - -

I did my own self guided RR trip flying into Fairbanks - overnight -

next day the Alaska Denali Star train to Anchorage - overnight -


Met cousins and started a NCL land package -

Day one leave Anchorage on the AK RR to Denali - 2 nights -

Day -1- a tour of Denali - a 60+ mile school bus ride into the

park interior - Private vehicles not allowed to do this tour

Day -2- a motor coach trip to Sled dog mushers home -

continuing to Anchorage and onto the Alyeska Resort - overnight

Day -3- motor coach to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

then to the port of Whittier - boarded the NCL SUN

7 day cruise to Vancouver.


Another variation - - -

Flew into Anchorage - overnight -

Next day met my niece and nephew who flew into Anchorage

walking tour of Anchorage - overnight -

Next day - Alaska RR Coastal Classic train to Whittier boarded 

Carnival SPIRIT for 7 cruise to Vancouver

My Sister-BIL and friends joined us for this cruise they having

done a park tour white water rafting and other activities in Fairbanks


Latest variation September 2019 - - -

Flew into Fairbanks - 2 overnights -

Walk-about Fairbanks - museums etc.

3rd  day AK RR Denali Star to Anchorage - 2 overnights -

Walk-about touring Anchorage -

5th day AK RR Coastal Classic to Seward to board NCL JEWEL

and 7 day cruise to Vancouver -


2022 agenda to do the 2019 in reverse


Train to Anchorage (Coastal Classic)

Train to Fairbanks (Denali Star)

Fly home from FAI 



Note the timing of the Alaska RR in conjunction with cruise activity


The Denali Star leaves Anchorage at 8:00 am and 12 hours later arrives

at Fairbanks - at this same time the Fairbanks to Anchorage trip leaves

8:00 am and where the two meet there is a crew change out in the 

middle of the boondocks (on a siding of course) 

The highlight of this trip is seeing Mt. Denali - hope you will be able

to join the 30% club of those that have seen Denali out in all its glory !

Classic statement - "The Mountain is Out" !


The Coastal Classic is easily scheduled with arrival departure of a cruise

NCL uses the Port of Seward - other cruise lines use Port of Whittier

Cruise lines - NCL - Holland-America - Princess - others ?


Don't be pegged into just NCL for your tours - Consider packages put

out by Holland-American and Princess with their own bi-level RR cars

(you will see them on the end of the Denali Star)


Both variations of the Coastal Classic encompass going through tunnels

The Seward trip is OUTSTANDING in climbing the grade with s turns and

tunnels fantastic scenery with narration by the train crew.

+Positively+ opt for the Gold Star service with the bi-level cars for the

best viewing and other amenities.


Should be enough to wet your whistle and enlighten your quest for the RR bug !



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Also, should we consider going to Fairbanks on the train? Some Cruise Line tours start or end there but the connections back to Vancouver are not showing this year for next because of the travel bans. 


Ending or beginning your travel plans at Fairbanks require flights to Seattle - Minneapolis/St. Paul

or Chicago - suggested plan is to fly to Vancouver cross the border to Seattle and fly SEA - FAI or

the reverse (of course when the virus thing is over and controlled).


You have other options at Alberta - the RockyMountaineer train and VIA to get to Vancouver

to launch your Alaska excursions.


Taking a cruise don't miss the White Pass and Yukon RR at Skagway - lots of options

there for an exciting and eventful train ride.


For RR nuts instead of ending travels at Fairbanks take the train back to Anchorage with more

air travel options 

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Many thanks for all your suggestions.  Obviously you have ridden these rails a lot!


Am looking at the Alaska Rail tours because the RCI tours use buses and only do one way back to Anchorage on the train.  I really also want to do the Coastal Classic and at one point thought about doing the Glacier Discovery route to Whittier when we thought about cruising SB.


Do you have an opinion on doing an overnight in Talkeetna?  And which way, NB on the way to Denali or SB on the way back?  I have studied the AR time tables and roughly cast a “on our own” budget versus their package tours and when you get to the accommodations, that is when being part of a package tour kicks in... also they get your baggage to hotel if you are on an excursion...  A lot of the accommodations in Denali look like you have to have a car to even get to or be able to eat dinner .... and I don’t know which ones are close to the Train Station but am assuming from what I have seen that Alaska Rail uses the big lodges.


Will take your advice and fly out of Anchorage...  Maybe save Fairbanks for our 50th! We get Northern Lights in our backyard so don’t have to so the winter train!


One thing mentioned in the brochure and website is that the itineraries are flexible so we can tell them what we want to do, so we can add Talkeetna.


Going back to Skagway to ride the White Pass is the reason for this 40th anniversary trip! We did the YPYR on our honeymoon in Alaska in April 1982...Whitehorse to Skagway... to Juneau, Alaska State Ferry to Prince Rupert, VIA back to Alberta!  There were 5 passengers in an old caboose with seats and the rest of the train was ore cars. The mine shut that year and the White Pass also shut down for a few years before it came back as a tourist train!  We also left Whitehorse at 5 a.m. to avoid avalanches and had breakfast in Lake Bennett!  I have some old slides of the White Pass in winter that I have started scanning!  Want to get the 40 years later shots!


Thanks for the advice... will help me with the planning. 





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Posted (edited)

Check the www.graylinealaska.com site for rail tour packages.  The accommodations at Denali are included and are within the entrance to the park area so that you would not need a car.  They have yellow and blue packages offered.  For 2022 your hotel would probably be the McKinley Chalets or maybe the nearby Princess Lodge. The rail tour between Anchorage and Denali is the most scenic.  The rail between Denali and Fairbanks is great just outside the park then pretty normal as you move on toward Fairbanks.  

Edited by oaktreerb
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On 5/3/2021 at 1:39 PM, Turangi! said:

RCI tours 


RCI has had their own rail cars in the past.  Post-Covid, maybe something that they have dropped?


On 5/3/2021 at 1:39 PM, Turangi! said:
On 5/3/2021 at 1:39 PM, Turangi! said:

 A lot of the accommodations in Denali look like you have to have a car to even get to or be able to eat dinner ..



No car is needed; there are several options for dinner at Denali.  Both the Princess and the HAL Denali lodges are directly across from a strip mall that has a few cafes.  I can recommend the dining room in the HAL lodge.  My Nephew and I stayed at a motel/RV village across the street from the lodge and ate breakfast one morning at the lodge.  Very good and was reasonably priced.  

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While folks certainly have stayed in the Denali area without a vehicle I think that having one allows folks to use their time more efficiently.  In the pre-pandemic past there was a rental agency in the area.  We always have our own vehicle since we drive down from Fairbanks so have no experience with "Keys to Denali" but they have been mentioned in reviews.  Their website indicates that they will meet folks at the train depot.  There are dining options in the "glitter gulch" area, but having a car allows folks to drive down to "Parks 229" (which is one of the best restaurants in the state) or drive north to Healy.

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Posted (edited)



Many thanks for all the great Alaska advice!  Have been doing my internet research and getting sidetracked 🚂🚂🚂 (pun intended) with all the options.  


Have been reading through lots of Alaska tourist sites and the official NPS Denali info... and am starting to get a good idea of where we want to go and do on our Alaska land tour after our cruise!


Here’s the link that explains the NPS busses... believe me there’s a ton of info on the Denali site!





Looks like the Tundra Wilderness Tour is a must do to see the Park!




Yes, both Princess/Holland and RoyalCaribbean/Celebrity have their own railroad cars but I can’t find a tour that does ONLY the train... most have tours that use busses and only do the train ONE WAY to Denali!  



Back to my researching!



....🚂🚂🚂🚂🚂  ML




Edited by Turangi!
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Those one-way trains to Denali and motor coach (aka THE BUS) the return are using the

regular scheduled service of the Alaska RR Denali train to from Fairbanks-Anchorage.


I have rode an almost empty train from Fairbanks to Denali and then it was full to Anchorage.

The Denali train one each direction daily during the summer season.

The timing of the scheduled trains and the land tours into the park would best be split between

the train and bus. Simply put can't wait for the next day train for another tour.


The distance between Fairbanks and Anchorage is some 350 miles and the train takes 12 hours

to travel that with stops at Nenana Denali Talkeetna Wasilla.

A critter jumps out of the tundra and the train slows for a photo opt

Scenic places like the Hurricane bridge - trains slows for a photo opt

If the "Mountain is Out" (Denali) train slows for photo opts

The train runs about 35-40 mph and can make up time in dead viewing areas


The consist of the train is usually two locomotives and a baggage car leading the train

followed by 2 of the AK RR bi-level cars and 2-3-4 coach cafe cars.

Then the White bi-level Adventure Class cars 1 or 2 and then the end of the train with

the Princess and Holland-America bi-level cars.


Interesting the guests baggage (luggage) is trucked ahead on the tours and cruise line -

only the local traffic uses the checked baggage cars - so this explains why when

you arrive at the ship or your tour location and the luggage is already there waiting for you. 

Where the luggage is loaded with you it is placed into wire rack containers holding 15-25

bags and forklift loaded into baggage car(s) in a few minutes rather than manually loading

each piece. The luggage maybe pre-tagged to go your tour hotel or cruise cabin.


Not having to deal with luggage is great - so remember to keep your cruise tour paperwork

passport medications and essential items cameras with you NOT in you checked baggage. 


Over simplification - the AK RR people the Cruise Lines and Tour Operators have this down

to a science for your maximum comfort and convenience.

But please follow their instructions.


Of note - a couple years ago there was a railroad spur added off the Coastal classic

line into the Anchorage airport and some cruise lines and tours use this as part of

their tour package - convenience gets better all the time.

At Fairbanks the train depot and the airport are not far apart -

the 8:00 pm train arrival makes great connections to the Red-Eye flights to the lower 48.


NOW IF WE COULD ONLY RESUME CRUISING to use these features - - -


Still yet you can fly into Alaska and do tours separately from the cruise lines -

probably better on an individual attention basis but not with volume pricing discounts. 

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Love that the “train will slow for a photo opt” which is why we love train rides!!!


One Alaska package tour site I looked at was selling the private cruise company cars... so my most important question is there OUTSIDE ACCESS for photos opts on those cars....  the AR GOLDSTAR cars have an open air area in the dome car... and for Adventure Class they have an open  window between railcars...  We did the Glacier Express in Switzerland and the windows did not open, but on the return on the regular local train, the windows opened wide for MUCH better pictures... so I have definite requirements!


Downloaded the Seward Travel guide from their CofC and am wondering if Seward is worth an extra day... I want to see Puffins!!!  Plans now are that we will do a Kenai Fjords tour and take a 6 pm train to Anchorage! But we are flexible and don’t want to wish we had stayed longer  or after cruising will we have seen enough of the Alaskan coast!  


Does anyone know if we can check our bags at the Seward train station  VERY early???


The more research I do on this trip, the more things we want to do!!!


Finally, living in Northern Alberta... have to ask how bad are the mosquitos in June in Alaska? I already have a mosquito hat for my daily dog walk in the summer here and so I think it can’t be much worse!?!







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The day the ship arrives there are two AK RR trains -

A special chartered train by the cruise line leaving shortly after arrival -

And the Scheduled AK RR Coastal Classic train at 6 pm arriving Anchorage Depot 10 pm


If you take the AK RR round trip same day arriving at 11 am and leaving 6 pm you have

some 6 hours to venture forth on an excursion 

Exit Glacier is one doable trip


Google Map of Seward - can pan and zoom in and out - LINK:


Google Maps


The three piers in the top center of the image - the one with the white rectangle

is the cruise terminal (about as big as two basketball courts).

Where the Route 9 road marker is - is where the AK RR depot is.

Seward is all of about 2 miles long and half mile wide


Regarding early checking of luggage for the 6 pm AK RR Coastal train ? ? ?

Readers any answers or reference this LINK:


Depot Locations | Alaska Railroad


Mosquitos ###

AND about those pests those very nasty persistent pests those *&%$#@ pests

have to keep this clean in a public forum:

You drift off the beaten path and become transfusion blood bait for the next generation !

Not so much a problem around the coastal cities - but in the interior i.e. hiking trails

in and around Mt. Denali if the bears and other wild life don't get you the mosquitos will !!!

Be careful too about the no see-ums the gnats.


All these critters have been wait for your appetizing feeding schedule appearance.

Bug spray and head to toe clothing coverage highly recommended.



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So glad to hear that the mosquitos will live up to expectations. Will come prepared with extra bug juice... and my Mosquito Hat!


Signed up for the Alaska Railroad promo emails...  since we can’t travel yet, we can at least plan!  

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Looking at Alaska Tour and Travel package tours... anyone have any experience dealing with them?  Again, like the Alaska Railroad, they can customize your tour!



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  • 3 weeks later...

 We took the Alaska RR in September 2019 from Anchorage to Seward and it was a great ride. We are doing a 15 day Princess cruise tour in June 2022 that starts in Fairbanks. Our plan is to fly into Anchorage (we are coming from Massachusetts) spend the night,  take the train to Fairbanks and plan on doing the Gold Service.

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Note:  The Alaska RR Gold Star service is the Bi-level cars with a semi-covered observation

platform at one end of the top level.

The rest is 2 by 2 seating under an almost full glass ceiling for viewing.

The bottom level is where you enter/exit the car - one half is set up for dining and the

other half is the galley kitchen.

When the car(s) are at full capacity the car attendant will ask when you are boarding the car

when you would like to eat - either early or later.

If taking either of the Denali Star trains it makes little difference with the Coastal Classic

the preference should be early in that if you elect the 2nd later dining you may not be in a good

viewing position to see the fantastic scenery - you would be in the lower level dining section.


The Glacier Discovery train does not have these Bi-level cars.


The Gold Star service is at a premium in price but does include complimentary meals and drinks.


The White double deck cars are the Adventure class and have excellent viewing and meal &

beverage service as provided by the contractor.


Holland-America and Princess have there own double deck cars at the end of the Denali Star

trains with services of their own for their cruise guests.


Leaving Anchorage for Fairbanks the left hand side is the side for seeing Mt. Denali if the

"mountain is out" - after leaving Denali Park the right hand side is favorable for viewing the

Healy Canyon (look for the white water rafters !)

Other notable scenic events are the Hurricane Gulch Bridge -

Crossing the Alaska Continental Divide near Summit Lake -

Train crossing of the Tanana River at Nenana - a B-I-G loop where the those in the front

of the train can wave at those at the rear.


And LOOK OUT for the Wild Life - any critter is a cause to s-l-o-w the train for a photo opt

and commentary from the crew.


12 hour train ride to go 350 some miles - crew change at the half way point.


Exciting and never a dull moment even under gloomy Alaska skies.

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On 5/6/2021 at 11:11 AM, Turangi! said:



Downloaded the Seward Travel guide from their CofC and am wondering if Seward is worth an extra day... I want to see Puffins!!!  Plans now are that we will do a Kenai Fjords tour and take a 6 pm train to Anchorage! But we are flexible and don’t want to wish we had stayed longer  or after cruising will we have seen enough of the Alaskan coast!  


Does anyone know if we can check our bags at the Seward train station  VERY early???


The more research I do on this trip, the more things we want to do!!!


Finally, living in Northern Alberta... have to ask how bad are the mosquitos in June in Alaska? I already have a mosquito hat for my daily dog walk in the summer here and so I think it can’t be much worse!?!








Seward is well worth extra time.  It is where Alaskans go for recreation.  It is located in the Kenai Fjords National Park.  Exit Glacier and the SeaLife Center are popular with tourists.


I think the day excursions are excellent, but folks need to get out of Resurrection Bay.  So don't consider the three or four hour trip but do a full day trip.  Lots of puffins and also kittiwakes.  Also lots of marine wildlife (otters and whales).  Frequently dall sheep  are spotted on the cliffs and we also have been on trips when bears have been spotted on the coast.


While several vendors offer excursions our favorite vendor is Major Marine.  They have an agreement with the NPS and so will have a NPS ranger onboard for narration.  They also own the Hotel 360 and (at least in the past) have offered package deals with excursions and room stay.  


At least pre-pandemic the Alaska Rail Road did indeed allow bags in Seward to be delivered early.


Regarding mosquitos, there are folks who feel that mosquitos don't bother them while other folks believe that they are mosquito magnets.  Recent research suggests that someone who feels mosquitos ignore them are being bit at the same frequency per square inch as folks who feel they  mosquito magnet.  Some folks react to the bites, and others do not.  So if you are a mosquito magnet at home you will be one here, but our mosquitos don't carry any diseases.


Regarding ticks, they are not an issue here.  I don't know of anyone who has ever been bitten by a tick in Alaska.  We don't check our dogs for ticks.  If you "goggle" ticks in Alaska you will learn that we have only one native tick species, and that impacts squirrels and hares.

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Posted (edited)

One of the questions I would ask is whether there is a desire to travel only on a portion of the Alaska Railroad, or if you are a mileage collector who desires to travel on every portion of the railroad over which passenger service is operated. If the latter, then you may need to exert some effort to be able to travel on two branch routes, one being the branch to Whittier, and the other being the branch to the Anchorage airport. The Whittier branch is served by both an Alaska Railroad train ("Glacier Discovery") and by multiple Princess Rail trains (which are, in fact, operated by Alaska Railroad crews) that operate in conjunction with Princess Cruises and Holland-America Line vessels when in port. The airport branch is served only by an Alaska Railroad train ("Grandview") which is operated exclusively as a charter for cruise lines that sell the tickets to their passengers. Actually, there's a third branch, to Palmer. That branch is even more difficult to travel on because it generally sees passenger trains only in conjunction with the state fair. Ride if you can, at the end of August, but your June schedule will likely foreclose any such opportunity to do so. Otherwise, the main line from Seward to Fairbanks, via Anchorage, Talkeetna, and Denali, are readily available by Alaska Railroad, Princess Rail, and Wilderness Express trains (all of which are operated by Alaska Railroad crews and some of which are combined with the Alaska Railroad "Denali Star" train). The scheduling is somewhat complicated, and made more complicated by the marketing departments of the various entities selling tickets. I will note that I edit and publish the bi-monthly Canada and Alaska Timetable which includes the schedules for all the various options, and from which you plan an itinerary that covers as much of the railroad system as desired. Attached to this message is an excerpt from the January 2020 issue, which showed the then-planned operations for the 2020 summer season prior to the pandemic. I would anticipate that the summer of 2022 will be similar to what was planned for summer 2020 (the summer 2022 schedules will likely be published in the January 2022 issue). Among the options, I would be attracted to the Alaska Railroad "Denali Star" because only it includes a classic Vista-Dome coach, and I am just fine riding the dutch doors in the vestibule vis-à-vis the elevated open decks on the Ultra Dome cars. Moreover, while the Ultra Dome cars might appear attractive and offer good views (they do so offer), there is no overhead parcel rack, and no escaping the sun, as would be had in the traditional Alaska Railroad coach cars. I will also note that I have found the route to and from Seward to be most scenic; when I traveled that route during the first season in which it had been reinstated (late 1980s), the railroad used Budd RDCs, and at one point the engineer topped the car on a bridge, and opened the baggage side door so that passengers could observe the spawning salmon below. Another note of interest: if you're looking at some non-revenue movements, the Princess Rail train is over-nighted in Healy, just north of Denali. John Combs, of Ohio, maintains the most comprehensive website for Alaska Railroad railfan information. In sum, my recommendation is to sit down with the timetable, first planning out an itinerary, and secondarily planning on the particular equipment to be booked. For booking, Alaska Tour & Travel has the most comprehensive and least-biased option for transportation-only, without a tour, but some options, such as the "Grandview" train service to and from the airport, are sold only by the cruise lines.

Timetable Excerpt.pdf

Edited by GTJ
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This being the time of school graduation - - -


Your post is worthy of comment and accolades 




Thank you very much for that train schedule - - -

Now if ONLY AK RR would fast track the individual dates and availability !


Side note: my experience with seating in the Dome cars is that AK RR assigns

seating by seat and row but one is permitted to roam to empty unassigned seats. 

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1 minute ago, don't-use-real-name said:

Side note: my experience with seating in the Dome cars is that AK RR assigns

seating by seat and row but one is permitted to roam to empty unassigned seats. 


The timetable is designed for people who know how to use a traditional timetable. For those who can, it provides a wealth of information. Unfortunately, not everyone is facile with them, and many modern railroad marketing departments, in seeking to reach the masses, obscure the critical basic information. To make a good guess as to operating dates in 2022, use the 2020 dates and subtract 2 days. This will keep the days of the week the same. (It is possible that you might, instead, have to add 5 days, but again the days of the week remain the same.) This is not guaranteed, but I would rely on it for planning purposes, at least until reservations open up . . .  which typically occurs at the end of the previous year's summer season (look for availability for 2022 in late September or October 2021).


Alas, I think that problem of having assigned exists with Amtrak as well, especially in the west. But if the train is not crowded then assigned seats are meaningless. The Vista-Dome itself is supposed to be unreserved non-revenue seating, and only in times of peak demand will the railroad impose time limits. The regular coach part of the Vista-Dome car is revenue seating.


I also like the Vista-Dome at night, when the stars are visible, something that a person living in the city does not ordinarily see. Alas, the Alaska Railroad does not operate these cars on the winter "Aurora" train, and the summer "Denali Star" is daytime only. Not many left in service; I think my last nighttime ride was on Via Rail's "Ocean" between Montréal and Halifax.

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Aye - I think my last nighttime ride was on Via Rail's "Ocean" between Montréal and Halifax.



What you are referring to I believe is the Park (tail) cars a combo of everything.

I have seen them at Halifax and a traveling buddy of mine has been to Churchill on one.

The Park (tail) cars are the only civilized way to travel -

Dome viewing

Lounge in the aft end


and Sleeper in the forward end

As close to Private Varnish as VIA is going to get


Sleeping cars - Park car | VIA Rail

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2 hours ago, don't-use-real-name said:

What you are referring to I believe is the Park (tail) cars a combo of everything.


Via Rail has Vista-Domes on both the Park cars as well as the Skyline cars (the former being the tail car as you aptly describe, the latter being an intermediate car in the consist, and functioning as a service car). I don't recall either being on the trains to Hudson Bay, at least in recent times. (Not much excitement to all that muskeg!) The Park cars on the "Canadian" were refurbished to provide Prestige class service--greater luxury than the Park car on the "Ocean"--though the regular refurbished Prestige class Chateau cars are pretty fancy, too. Nonetheless, that Prestige service provides less room than an inside stateroom in steerage on any mainline cruise vessel (my usual accommodation), despite Via Rail's much higher fares. Still, my favorite dome train remains the Rio Grande Zephyr, which I had traveled on during a university winter break in the early 1980s, which had more Vista-Dome cars in the consist than non-dome cars (I also liked that menu in the dining car, in addition to listing many choices, also stated that if the passenger wanted something not listed, if possible the railroad chef would prepare it . . . perhaps not unusual for a cruise vessel, and maybe even Princess Rail and/or Wilderness Express Rail, but certainly not present with Amtrak or Via Rail).

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🚢🚢🚢🚢🚢🚢  🚂🚂🚂🚂🚂🚂  ⛴⛴⛴⛴⛴⛴  🏔🏔🏔🏔🏔🏔🏔


Northern Aurora,


Many thanks for the advice on Seward... you sold us on the extra day, but we are an easy sell and I had looked at the Major Marine website earlier so we will look seriously at what they have to offer,  but having the NPS ranger on board is a big plus!  

We live with mosquitos all summer and know what to wear and how to avoid the worst.  I though attraction had to do with blood chemistry and what one uses for shampoo and soap....  Like Alaska we don’t have a tick problem YET in Northern Alberta but they are coming North and so every winter I hope for a spell of really cold weather to kill them!  We saw a week of minus 30s C this year.... Mosquitos are not bad this year but rain next week is due, so I am enjoying the weather now!!!





Wow thanks for all the info on the Alaska trains and the old timetables, which I have studied!!   We are not mileage collectors, but I do like to take lots of pictures from the train and I like to be able to not shoot through glass.  My little Nikon J1 will look mouse compared to a lot of other travellers’ cameras but it takes great pictures and I do have a long range lens!  Hopefully we might return to Alaska another time and get to take the Glacier Discovery train... it was considered when we thought we might cruise back to Vancouver out of Whittier but instead thought we might save it for another trip!




Here’s what we are thinking, with the extra day in Seward...


Vancouver to Seward  Radiance of the Seas🚢

Overnight in Seward,  Major Marine 6 hour (or more?) tour, more research needed⛴

Coastal Classic to Anchorage, overnight 🚂

Denali Star Anchorage to Talkeetna  🚂 ,  two days — rafting, ziplining, 🌲

Denali Star Talkeetna to Denali, GOLDSTAR (this leg only)🚂

Denali NP, two nights 🏔— Tundra Wildeness Tour 🚌,   Dinner Theatre (any recommendations)

Denali Star return to Anchorage, 🚂   flyout redeye to Seattle...🛫


Had a nice online chat with Chilkoot Tours in Skagway about their White Pass and Yukon Tours so we planning on going up to Carcross on the WP&YR 🚂 and returning with them🚌, so lots of photo ops!


Plans are shaping up and will start booking sometime soon on trains and accomodations!   But still keeping some options open so suggestions are welcome!



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7 hours ago, Turangi! said:

Here’s what we are thinking, with the extra day in Seward...


Vancouver to Seward  Radiance of the Seas🚢

Overnight in Seward,  Major Marine 6 hour (or more?) tour, more research needed⛴

Coastal Classic to Anchorage, overnight 🚂

Denali Star Anchorage to Talkeetna  🚂 ,  two days — rafting, ziplining, 🌲

Denali Star Talkeetna to Denali, GOLDSTAR (this leg only)🚂

Denali NP, two nights 🏔—  🚌,   Dinner Theatre (any recommendations)

Denali Star return to Anchorage, 🚂   flyout redeye to Seattle...🛫


Had a nice online chat with Chilkoot Tours in Skagway about their White Pass and Yukon Tours so we planning on going up to Carcross on the WP&YR 🚂 and returning with them🚌, so lots of photo ops!


Sounds like some good choices.


I like Anchorage as a city, but given the time of the train arrival from Seward, and its departure the next morning to Denali, you might not actually get to see any of it. Under that circumstance I would tempted to try to ride the McKinley Express service (Princess Rail) that travels directly from Whittier to Talkeetna in a single day. It only operates on days that Princess Cruises or Holland-America Line vessels are in port (for the 2021 season that was planned to be Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays). But two issues to overcome. First, as tickets from Whittier to Talkeetna are sold by Princess Rail, not Alaska Railroad, there is the matter of obtaining tickets absent having been a passenger on a Princess Cruises or Holland America Line vessel. Second, how to get from Seward, where you will be, to Whittier in time to board the McKinley Express for its 7:15 a.m. scheduled departure. This service uses the single-level Panorama dome cars known as the "Grandview" train set, which is actually based in Seward. On days that the McKinley Express service operates from Whittier, the train first departs from Seward at approximately 3:00 a.m., arriving in Whittier at approximately 6:05 a.m. It is a non-revenue train, so it is not shown in the timetable, and it also requires some effort to be able to board (be it through formal arrangements with Alaska Railroad or informal arrangements with the operating crew). Once the train arrives in Whittier it picks up passengers and departs for Talkeetna at 7:15 a.m. Note as well that the McKinley Express service uses a separate station in Talkeetna, at Woodpecker Avenue, about 3-1/2 miles south of the in-town Alaska Railroad station (Princess Cruises provides bus service--through its wholly-owned motor carrier subsidiary, Royal Hyway Tours--between Woodpecker Avenue and all the surrounding areas.)


You have three segments using Alaska Railroad services. For the sake of variety and comparison, you might want to consider, for at least one of these segments, using instead either the Wilderness Express service or McKinley Explorer service. The Wilderness Express service (which is associated with Royal Caribbean) are simply private cars attached to the Alaska Railroad's "Denali Star," while the McKinley Explorer service (Princess Rail) is a separate train.


The White Pass & Yukon Route, along with re-sellers including Chilkoot Charters & Tours (Stacy D. Gould, d/b/a), advertise round-trips going one-way between Skagway and Carcross by railroad, and the other way by bus. Notably, Chilkoot Charters & Tours advertises use of a "mini-coach" vehicle, rather than a full-sized motorcoach (no lavatory on the mini-coach). What is not directly stated on the websites is that the train from Skagway, upon arrival in Carcross, turns and heads back to Skagway (the stop in Carcross is about half an hour in duration). And while the websites do not offer round-trip railroad tickets, there's nothing to stop you from buying two one-way tickets to make the round-trip (a one-way ticket is $175). I imagine that round-trip tickets are not directly sold because, if they were, more people would want a round-trip than the railroad has tickets to sell. I will also note that the White Pass & Yukon Route was recently purchased by Carnival Corp. and plc, the owner of both Princess Cruises and Holland-America Line.

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We realize that we won’t see much of Anchorage on this trip, just stopping to sleep,  but the purpose of this post cruise trip is to ride the Alaska rails and see Denali, which has been on the bucket list for years.  This cruise is to celebrate our 40th anniversary and return to the Alaska panhandle where we went on our honeymoon.  We flew up to Whitehorse and took the WP&YR in April 1982!  —  the last year it was in operation before shutting down when the mine closed (coming back a few years later as a tourist train).  We had to get up in the middle of the night to leave at 5 a.m. to avoid avalanches!!!   We then flew to Juneau from Skagway and took the Alaska Ferry to Prince Rupert and  VIA back to Edmonton! As much as I like the idea of riding the White Pass both ways, unfortunately  our cruise leaves at 5 p.m. out of Skagway and I don’t think the WP&YR gets back for ALL ABOARD at 4:30! I would worry too much to cut it close!


My DH wonders if we need another day in Denali but I think the two nights in Talkeekna and two nights in Denali should be enough, especially with staying overnight in Seward!


Northern Aurora,


Will we see Puffins on the 6-hour Kenai tour or do we have to do the 8.5 hour trip? 




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Oh, I am so disappointed that I did not have the opportunity to travel the White Pass & Yukon Route when it still operated all the way to Whitehorse. The station building is still there, but I don't think the tracks between Whitehorse and Carcross will be coming back anytime soon. As well, with Greyhound Canada having pulled out of the west recently (and out of all of Canada even more recently), there's no connecting transportation to and from Whitehorse, further reducing any necessity of restoring the rails. But having already traveled the full route before, this is really an encore. I concur with the timing matter, as it is not good to arrive on the train in Skagway only to view the vessel departing!


When I went to Denali in the 1980s, the park had several retired Alaska Railroad sleeping cars on the grounds, adjacent to the park hotel, and you could book an overnight stay in the railroad cars. I recall the hotel having made substantial modifications to the cars, so you did not spend the night in a tiny roomette, and there was a decent amount of room for a quite fair hotel price. This was back in the day when the park buses were free, all the way to the end of the road, and so the entire stay at Denali was really quite inexpensive. I also found interesting, between the hotel and visitor center the path crossed the airport runway. Literally, the middle of the runway. There was a gate on each side of the runway admonishing pedestrians to "stop, look, and listen" for arriving and departing airplanes, as if it were a railroad grade crossing. Never went to Talkeetna, other than just passing through on the train, so I cannot speak for it as a destination in and of itself.


On the foregoing trip, I had flown to Kodiak, and from there traveled on the ferry M.V. Tustamena from Kodiak to Seward (this is the vessel that travels monthly in the summer to Dutch Harbor). Then onward on the M.V. Bartlet to Valdez and Whittier, then the train to Portage and bus to Anchorage. It was the first season where the railroad re-instituted service to Seward, so I did a round-trip on the RDC to Seward (second time there on the same trip!) and then bought a round-trip from Anchorage to Fairbanks via Denali. Actually, the railroad offered a round-trip deal going northbound by railroad, and southbound by Wein Air Alaska . . . which was interesting on the southbound journey going to the airport in Fairbanks and boarding an aircraft not with an airline ticket but with a railroad ticket (yes, handing an Alaska Railroad ticket from Fairbanks to Anchorage to the gate agent to board!).

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