2021 Alaska Railroad train schedule ramps back up after pandemic cuts

A train goes over a creek in a mountainous area
The Alaska Railroad passenger train in Whittier, Alaska. (Photo by Ron Reiring/Wikimedia Commons)

The Alaska Railroad is planning to run more passenger trains this summer than in 2020, but not as many as in recent, pre-pandemic years.

The railroad announced its new schedule on Thursday. Tim Sullivan, the railroad’s director of external affairs, said the new plan will mean twice as many Denali Star trains as last summer. The Denali Star goes all the way to Fairbanks.

“As opposed to four trains a week, we’re going to be moving eight trains a week, which means we’ll be going one direction — either northbound or southbound between Anchorage and Fairbanks — every day, and we’ll be moving two trains on Sundays, one northbound and one southbound.”

Sullivan said the railroad built the schedule with the needs of communities like Talkeetna, which rely in part on train passengers for seasonal tourism, in mind.

In addition to helping drive the economic engine for the larger communities, the Alaska Railroad still provides the easiest means of resupply for many area residents up the tracks, via the Hurricane Turn flagstop service. Sullivan said that service will be tied to the Denali Star again this year.

“Just like we did last year, the Hurricane Turn will be run in conjunction with the Denali Star, so we’ll have one direction service six days a week, and on Sunday it’ll go both directions,” Sullivan said.

While there will be two-way service for the Hurricane Turn train on Sundays, Sullivan clarified that it is not technically round-trip service because the train will go all the way to Fairbanks and then another train will come south.

Sullivan said the Alaska Railroad continues to monitor conditions with the pandemic as well as anticipated travel demand this summer, and that the current schedule could change if needed.

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