Alaska Railroad: 1939

Alaska was still “America’s last frontier” in 1939, and though most of this booklet is oriented towards tourists, page 21 points out that the then-territory “offers opportunities for homestead settlement–free and exempt from taxes, adjacent to The Alaska Railroad.” The gold cover and plenty of references to valuable resources inside the booklet suggest that anyone moving to Alaska could, with a little luck, strike it rich.

This is the back cover; the front cover also has gold tinting but has text starting a story of the founding of Fairbanks. Click image to download an 11.5-MB PDF of this 24-page booklet.

The booklet claims that “approximately 32,000,000 acres are suitable for cultivation by clearing, and about the same acreage is suitable for grazing.” That was highly optimistic considering that, according to a recent USDA report, fewer than 110,000 Alaskan acres today are devoted to cultivation and pastureland combined, while another 201,000 acres is considered rangeland.

A timetable on page 20 indicates that the Alaska Railroad’s summer schedule offered just three trains a week between Seward, Anchorage, and Fairbanks. Strangely, southbound trains left Fairbanks on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, while northbound trains left Seward on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. Because the trip took 33 hours, two sets of equipment would have been needed if both north- and southbound trains went every other day, but this peculiar schedule required four sets.

Leave a Reply