After leaving Coral Princess we boarded our train and set off for Denali.
The train journey took ten and half hours to complete.
Wednesday 18th July, Whittier and leaving Island Princess
Island Princess had docked overnight in Whittier and when I awoke the sun was again streaming into our cabin. Away in the distance the mountains had snow on their tops and were illuminated by the sun.
I could see the dock below along with a small marina.
We went up to the Horizon for a quick breakfast. There were lots of fellow passengers up there grabbing their breakfast before leaving the ship. I stuck with the egg, bacon and cheese muffins washed down with a cup of black coffee.
Back in a cabin our name tags had gone from outside the door and our cabin steward was waiting to clean the cabin. Change-over day is always one of the busiest and hardest days for cabin stewards on cruise ships. We could now see a train on the tracks at the side of the road and other passengers boarding. As I watched panel trucks were leaving the terminal probably carrying cases to Anchorage or onto one of the Princess lodges.
We went down to the Bayou Cafe to sit and wait to be called for our train.
After walking and queuing on Deck 5 we left Island Princess for the last time. After the gangplank and dock we joined a series of canvas tunnels that lead us to the terminal and out again to the trains.
There we had our tickets and photo ID checked before we were allowed to board our carriage.
On the train
We were in one of the eight carriages that made up our train. Upstairs we had reserved seats on the left hand side near the front in row four. I roughly counted 87 people in our carriage and room. We were told that there were seats for about half of us sitting down in the restaurant part of the carriage.
We had a dedicated guide and a bar person to look after is on our journey from Whittier to Denali. The journey would take an estimated 10 hours. Our suitcase was making the trip by road and should arrive before us at the Wilderness Lodge.
There were menus for the food that we could have sitting upstairs. There was a more formal choice that could be had downstairs at the dining tables. Once these tables were filled a reservation sheet would be used. The train was credit card only and our row and seat numbers would be used to run a tab for us on the long journey. We had brought water with us and that went under my seat with my camera bag. Linda’s carry on bag was too big to go under the seats so that did rather cramp our foot space.
The seats on the train did recline back a little. If the seat in front was reclined then anything in the back of the seat matting was immediately trapped.
Jeannette, our bar Steward, passed through the train taking orders for drinks or for food as the train slowly pulled away from the dock. We passed the first (of many) bush planes that we would see in Alaska.
To leave Whittier the train had to pass through a long tunnel. This tunnel was originally for trains only. It had been blasted through the mountain in World War II so that military supplies could be carried by trains. Whittier is a deep water port unlike Anchorage. The railroad had been extended to join the main line so that the supplies could be more easily moved from the port at Whittier.
Previously cars, trucks and RVs etc. used to have to be loaded onto flat bed rail cars in order to get through the tunnel. This was changed when the tunnel was paved so that motor vehicles could drive through. Now there is a simple one-way scheme in operation. On the hour one way out and on the half hour back towards Whittier. The trains had priority over the waiting motor vehicles and went through first. Our train trundled through and at the other side there was quite a sizeable queue of cars and trucks waiting to come the other way.