Except for the White Pass & Yukon Route excursion between Skagway and Fraser, and the kids’ choo-choos around Pioneer Park in Fairbanks and at Alaska Live Steamers in Wasilla, Alaska’s only train is the Alaska Railroad (907/265-2494 or 800/544-0552, www.alaskarailroad.com). The railroad runs 470 miles between Seward and Fairbanks with a seven-mile spur between Portage and Whittier; it is the only state-owned railroad in the United States.
The train—historic and a bit exotic—is also much roomier and slower than a tour bus but is about the same price (and is occasionally even on time). Dining service is available, and helpful tour guides are on board in the summer months. In addition, some of the trains will make flag stops to pick up hikers or people living in the Alaskan bush.
Two daily expresses (mid-May–mid-Sept.), one northbound and one southbound, run between Anchorage and Fairbanks for $210 one-way. Anchorage to Denali costs $146, and Fairbanks to Denali is $64. The train also connects Seward with Anchorage ($75) and Anchorage with Whittier ($65) daily in the summer.
The railroad has luxurious double-deck “GoldStar” cars ($85 extra to Denali) and a variety of package tours that combine train rides with boat trips and other activities. Princess Tours and Holland America Tours/Gray Line hook double-decker superdome coaches to the end of the express trains in the summer.
© Don Pitcher from Moon Alaska, 10th Edition