About 45 minutes before train time, I looked out the window. Silver dollar sized snowflakes wafted gently down. My mind sifted through potential site locations to envision the train might look from ground level amidst giant snowflakes. Two hours earlier, Junipurr had positioned herself on the sill of my southwest facing office window to bask in the heat of the sun reflected off the curtain back at her.
When it came time to leave, the dollar-sized flakes had been replaced by dime-sized flakes. I was disappointed, but nature is nature. You work with what it gives you. I picked up my Canon EOS R5 with the 24- 105 mm lens mounted on it. The weather was not suitable for drone flight, but I grabbed Sancho’s bag anyway, just in case it changed.
By the time I reached downtown Wasilla, where I found no one and no cars waiting at the station to pick up passengers, the snowflakes had all been replaced by Rain drops!
I checked a couple of downtown locations, rejected them and then headed east (northbound) to see what it might look like towards Three Bears Alaska. The rain had given way to a fine, light, mist. I crossed the overpass about halfway to Three Bears atop which I got a split-second glimpse up the tracks.
Train headlights! Right by Three Bears! I made a U turn ASAP. The race was on. I had to obey the speed limit. If I got pulled over, the train would pass by as I rolled my window down to greet the officer and I would get no photos.
The lead locomotive pulling yesterday evening’s southbound Aurora Winter Train has just traveled through Dog Wash Crossing and now leads the train through the space between the Dog Wash and Engine 557 Restoration Company and takes aim at Dog Wash Overpass and about an hour beyond that, Anchorage. When we first moved into Wasilla 40 years ago from the temporary Anchorage house we had taken refuge in for over a year after we packed up the tents that had sheltered us during our first months in Alaska, this six lane Parks Highway was only two. Very few of the structures pictured ahead even existed.
The bare patch of ground to the right was an active gravel pit. Our three young sons were fascinated by it and the machines that mined and served it. Our eldest daughter daughter had yet to reach toddler stage. Our youngest had yet to be conceived.
Now it was a question of red lights. I hit a few. My windshield wipers wiped nothing. The mist had stopped. I drove through downtown Wasilla and pulled off by the Dog Wash/Engine 557. Hurriedly, I pulled Sancho out of his bag and put him on the car roof. Before I could mount my phone on my controller, I heard the whistle – Close.
I thought about it for two seconds, gave up on Sancho, picked my camera up off the front seat of my car and shot these images. As I drove back through downtown Wasilla, the sun came out and cast magnificent light on downtown Wasilla and the empty tracks. Check out Dick Proenneke Lived Alone in Alaska For 30 Years—And Thrived
Story and photos by Bill Hess