Alaska Railroad Corporation (ARRC) track repair crews have made better-than-expected progress in repairing a major washout that has left 500 feet of the mainline track dangling just south of Gold Creek (ARRC Milepost 261, about 35 miles north of Talkeetna).
Barring additional flood damage, crews estimate repair will be completed by September 25 in the afternoon or evening, allowing train traffic to resume north of Wasilla.
This section of washed out track runs parallel to the Susitna River and is accessible only by rail. Thirty-five railroad crew members are working double-shifts around-the-clock to rebuild the trackbed using large rocks and fill material hauled in from both sides of the site. Equipment involves bulldozers, excavators and two work trains.
The area of focus since Friday has been a 70-mile stretch of rail corridor between Willow and Gold Creek, where the track and several bridges have been impacted by high, fast water. Once the Gold Creek area washout is repaired, crews will turn their attention to the less severe water erosion that has occurred all along the line, from Seward to Nenana.
Freight trains normally scheduled to run between Anchorage and Fairbanks will not operate until damage to the track and bridges are repaired. Likewise, the regularly scheduled weekend Aurora winter passenger train was cancelled this past weekend. ARRC expects the Aurora winter train to operate on schedule September 29-30.
Given the forecast for continued rain, railroad officials continue to watch for any new flood damage in Healy and Nenana, where the Nenana River is flooding, as well as along the southern end of the railroad.
The rail corridor between Anchorage, Seward and Whittier remains open. Minor washouts have occurred in the Seward area in the past several days and have been repaired.