Alaska Blog 2 – Train to Whittier

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

I’m in Alaska travelling with an LPTV film crew making a program for the forthcoming Roads Less Travelled series with National Geographic. I’ve already posted a ‘getting to Alaska’ blog.

Anchorage-Whittier Train
The train route along Cook Inlet.

From Anchorage, the state capital, we took the train to Whittier. It’s a fine train trip along scenic Cook Inlet, yes the good captain visited here back in 1778. The train then dives through a tunnel and pops out in Whittier, a weird town built as a military outpost in WW II. Whittier was hurriedly constructed after Pearl Harbor and the Japanese landing on Alaska’s remote Aleutian Islands.

Buckner Building to the left, Begich Towers to the right

Whittier was selected because it was hidden away up a narrow sound and surrounded by steep mountains. Plus the weather was (and still is) generally lousy! Whittier was usually hidden in the clouds. Today it’s enjoying a modest revival as a cruise ship destination and a jumping off point for travel across Prince William Sound. Back in its military days the entire population was housed in the Buckner Building which looks remarkably like some Soviet-era apartment block. Now empty and desolate it’s even known as ‘The Gulag.’ Today’s population mainly lives in another military-era apartment block, the Begich Towers.

Next stage is the ferry to Valdez and then on to the ghost town of McCarthy.