“The railroad was our lifeline,” Mary says, referring not only to their early days on the homestead, but all of the forty years they have spent there.
The train still offers not only personal transportation for scores of people traveling in these remote areas, but a vital supply line for fuel, lumber, groceries, and other sundries. The railroad delivers everything from dogsleds to doorknobs, dropping off pallets at trailheads that lead to people’s cabins. Conductors of nonpassenger trains know how to stop when they see an empty propane tank set to the side of the tracks. It’s a signal for the conductor to pick up the empty tank, take it to Anchorage, and return it full. Conductors have even delivered moose killed on the tracks, knowing that any salvageable meat will provide a family with welcome food for the winter. Folks who live along the rails are on a first-name basis with railroad crews. Train workers often deliver the newspaper and the news from along the tracks in exchange for a cup of coffee or a plate of fresh-baked cookies.
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