Bridging the Great Land

Alaska Railroad continues to grow with new packages and itineraries By: Monica Poling
Alaska Railroad is adding new packages; // © 2010 Alaska Railroad
Alaska Railroad is adding new packages; // © 2010 Alaska Railroad

The Details

Alaska Railroad Vacations
907-265-2494 or 800-544-0552
www.alaskarailroad.com/travel
More than 90 years ago, President Woodrow Wilson charged the Alaskan Engineering Commission with mapping a railroad route that would open up Alaska’s interior by connecting the vast land with a southern, ice-free harbor. In eight years, 5,000 men had built 500 miles of track, creating a major transportation corridor between Seward in the south and Fairbanks — located just 200 miles south of the Arctic Circle — in the north.

Today, the Alaska Railroad continues to be a powerful economic force, transporting millions of tons of freight and half a million passengers throughout the state each year.

The railroad’s ability to connect people, year-round, to Alaska’s most remote, pristine outposts also means that
increasing numbers of visitors are adding Alaska rail journeys to their travel wish lists.

Indeed, Alaska’s allure continues to be considerable. On the goal-setting website, 43Things.com, “see the Northern Lights” ranks 11th on its list of “all-time most popular goals,” set by the site’s nearly 2.5 million members. 

And as visitors continue to clamor for ever-more unique experiences, the Alaska Railroad is rolling out new packages and programs to deliver travelers into the state’s virgin territories.

In 2011, the Alaska Railroad will introduce its newest offering, the 10-day Rails and Trails package, which will take visitors to Anchorage, Seward, Girdwood and Talkeetna. The program focuses on backcountry adventure, with an
itinerary that includes hiking, kayaking and rafting, in addition to providing point-to-point rail travel throughout the trip. 

For clients seeking a truly unique experience, Alaska Railroad’s Hurricane Turn train is one of America’s last flag-stop trains. Travelers can build their own itinerary along the 55-mile stretch to hike, fish or just take in the remote corners of the Great Land. When clients are ready to return to civilization, they can simply stop the train with a wave of a flag.

Similarly, the rail company has also teamed up with the U.S. Forest Service to create a whistle-stop program in the Chugach National Forest. Visitors can hop off the train for outdoor adventure, just a few hours outside of Anchorage. Before the train returns, visitors can enjoy a wilderness picnic or connect with a Forest Service ranger for a 3.4-mile trail hike to the Spencer Glacier, or they can even decide to camp overnight.

Personalization is a key component for Alaska Railroad, allowing visitors to travel on day-tours or to create their own multi-day itineraries.

For budget-minded travelers, the Alaska Railroad is featuring new packages to Talkeetna and Denali. Passengers can combine rail from Anchorage or Fairbanks with overnight stays in Talkeetna and Denali National Park and Preserve, home to Mount McKinley.

On the other side of the spectrum, high-end clients riding on the Denali Star or Coastal Classic trains have the option to upgrade their trip by choosing the Alaska Railroad’s GoldStar luxury service, which features bi-level dome cars  with reserved seating, dining service, a full-time bar attendant and a private outdoor viewing platform exclusive to GoldStar coaches.

As the rail line continues to expand its offerings, it continues to rely on travel agents to help spread the message. Information on all Alaska Railroad Vacations packages, trains, seasons and tours are available on its travel trade website. 

To further assist agents, Alaska Railroad has launched a new, interactive travel trade webinar. The narration is developed specifically for travel professionals in order to help them learn more about what the Alaska Railroad has to offer as well as providing facts about the state of Alaska. The travel trade webinar is available at AlaskaRailroad.com/TravelTrade.

“We’re excited to be bringing new offerings to travelers and new tools to agents,” said Susie Kiger, director of sales and marketing. “By helping visitors augment their rail journey with other activities, it really opens up Alaska to our guests and gives them a broad experience of the state.”

Alaska Railroad offers 10 percent commission to travel agents on all rail bookings and Alaska Rail Vacations. Agents can
create a deluxe, customized Alaska rail vacation with one phone call to the line’s Reservations Department and earn a sizeable commission check based on the total booking amount.
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