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Railroads in Alaska primary sources

This guide lists collections of publicly accessible primary source material related to railroads in Alaska.

Railroads in Alaska

This guide contains collections of primary source material relating to railroads in Alaska, held by archives, libraries, and museums across the state. The guide is divided into pages for different railroads, including the Alaska Railroad, the Copper River and Northwestern Railway, and the White Pass and Yukon Railroad. This guide is not comprehensive and may not include every collection containing primary source material relating to railroads in Alaska.

Click on the linked collection names for more detailed collection descriptions. Not every collection has a detailed description online, and it may be necessary to contact the institution that owns a collection for more information.

Selected items related to railroads in Alaska from many of the institutions represented in this guide have been digitized and added to Alaska's Digital Archives. You can use the search box at the top right of the homepage to search for these materials.

If you represent an institution that holds primary source materials related to railroads in Alaska and would like to see them included in this guide, please contact the UAA/APU Consortium Library Archives and Special Collections.  

Other railroads

This page includes collections pertaining to proposed railroads that were never built, as well as railroads that existed and operated in Alaska.

Alaska State Library Historical Collections

University of Alaska Fairbanks Alaska and Polar Regions Collections and Archives Alaska Film Archives

  • [Chatanika, narrow-gauge, Gilmore]. [between 1927 and 1930]. AAF-784. Contains views Alaska Railroad narrow-gauge train on original track from the Tanana Valley Railroad at Chatanika
  • Kougarok railroad, Nome area. 1938-1939. AAF-1695. Images include railcars moving mining equipment on the Seward Peninsula near Nome (Kougarok area),King Island villagers camp at Nome, gold miners, Caterpillar towing sledge with building, car converted into snowmachine, woman jigging for Tomcod, gold miners with small sluice box, and gold dredge.

University of Alaska Fairbanks Alaska and Polar Regions Collections and Archives Historical Manuscript Collections

For more detailed collection descriptions, please visit StarArchives, the catalog for archival collections at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and search for the collections using the search box on the main page.

  • Jack L. Adams papers, 1901-1902. USUAFV5-155. Consists of 16 photographs and a letter from Adams to Ivar Skarland. The letter provides a narrative of Adams' experiences as a member of the Trans Alaska Railroad Company survey. The photographs document the experiences of Adam's party of workers. The project, to construct a railroad from Illiamna Bay to Nome, Alaska, was abandoned after a year.

  • Atwood, William G. Papers. 1902-1913. USUAFV6-483. Alaska Photo album includes photographs that document the potential route of the Alaska Central Railroad. The papers from the Atwood Collection include photocopies of an article from the April 30, 1905 Seattle Times about the Alaska Central Railroad, correspondence between Atwood and the Hon. James Wickersham and his wife Ellen Rogers Atwood, drafts of Atwood's lecture drafts "Justice in the early Klondike days," and Atwood's final report to the Chief Engineer of a 1902 spring-summer reconnaissance trip in Alaska.
  • Frank H. May Photographs, ca. 1904-ca.1910. USUAFV6-825. Subjects include city scenes, railroads and railroad construction (the Copper River and Northwestern Railway and the Seward Peninsula Railroad), mines and scenery. Frank H. May was a railroad surveyor in Alaska and Oregon.
  • Tanana Valley Railroad Collection. 1908-1917. USUAFV3-290. Consists of copies of stock certificates, a parts manual for the repair of steam engines, a freight ledger for 1908, and several photographs of railroad engines. 
  • Tanana Valley Railroad Maps. 1906. USUAFV6-209. Contains a reproduction of a 1906 map showing the "definite location of the Tanana Mines Railroad." It also contains 17 hand-drawn, colored detail sheets and 4 faint, penciled detail sheets of the Tanana Valley Railroad, drawn at an unknown date.

  • Yakutat and Southern Railroad Corporate Records, 1916-1967. USUAFV6-841. Microfiche #08 contains records of the Yakutat and Southern Railroad including articles of incorporation, by laws, minutes of special and annual meetings, oaths of trustees, and stock shares and proxies. 

UAA/APU Consortium Library Archives and Special Collections

  • Allison E. Stoars papers; 1937-1963.  HMC-0757. Allison E. Stoars was from Salem, Oregon. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1939 and served in the Corps of Engineers during World War II. There are photographs of soldiers of the 4th Infantry Regiment, at the Yakutat and Southern Railroad, including photographs of locomotives and cars.
  • A. W. Swanitz letters; 1909-1910.  HMC-0240. One letter relating to the construction of the Alaska Northern Railway.