ANCHORAGE - It’s not just freight you’ll find moving through the train yard this winter. With 126 inches of snow fallen, there’s no rest for the weary crews who are constantly busy loading and hauling snow.
“We have crews working sometimes seven days a week, working a lot of overtime hours this year, but that's what we've had to do to keep this yard in shape to meet the demands of our customers,” said Bruce Gough, a General Road Master with the Alaska Railroad Corporation.
More than a dozen trains pass through the yard on a given day, so one of the most important operations is to make sure the switches are snow-free and easy to move.
So far this year train yard crews removed 1.5 million cubic feet. That’s like filling the floor of the Sullivan Arena 50 feet high with snow.
“We're maintaining about 700 miles of track, so we're moving a lot of snow and a lot of area we have to cover in order to make sure our trains can continue running,” said Tim Sullivan, Alaska Railroad Corporation’s External Affairs Manager.
Moving all the snow gets expensive. The Alaska Railroad Corporation typically spends about $2 million every winter. This year it’s more than 30 percent over budget, meaning it’s spent an extra $600,000 – and winter’s still not quite over.
Sullivan says he’s still not sure where that money will come from. “Just like everyone who runs a budget, you have to make decisions when you have cost overruns and when you have surprises like the amount of snow we've had, we have to take those into consideration as we go through the year.”
The next few days of sunshine will give crews a chance to get caught up, and they hope Mother Nature is finished dropping flakes. But with the way this winter has gone, that doesn’t look likely.