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Alaska Railroad Soon Starts Its Aurora Winter Train Service

TravelPulse logo TravelPulse 9/16/2020 Laurie Baratti
a train covered in snow: Alaska Railroad Aurora Winter Train © Alaska Railroad Alaska Railroad Aurora Winter Train

Alaska Railroad is proud to announce the start of its renowned winter passenger service aboard the Aurora Winter Train, beginning September 19 and running through mid-May 2021.

The Aurora Winter Train travels on weekends between Anchorage and Fairbanks, embarking on the 12-hour journey northward on Saturdays and conducting a return trip on Sundays (select mid-week departures will also become available in March of 2021).

Between its point of departure and final destination, the train stops in Wasilla and Talkeetna, providing flagstop service (meaning that the train stops only if there are passengers or freight to be brought on or off the train) along the 50-mile stretch of famously roadless backcountry to the south of Hurricane Gulch. Further north, the locomotive stops as needed in Healy and Nenana before finishing its journey with arrival in Fairbanks.

Although the Aurora Winter Train passes along much of the same track as Alaska Railroad’s summer Denali Star Train, the views become drastically different with the changing of the seasons. Where vibrant colors once covered the warm-weather landscape, a crisp, sparkling white blanket of snow quietly descends upon the rolling Alaskan tundra and mountaintops.

Along the route, guests can soak in the sights of Alaska’s rugged, yet captivating, backcountry through the large picture windows, try spotting wild moose near the tracks and even catch awe-inspiring views of the aurora borealis from the warmth of their rail car.

On clear days, passengers are also treated to a spectacular view of Denali, North America’s highest peak, rising above the Susitna River and sprawling, snow-covered landscape.

The Aurora Winter Train offers only Adventure Class rail journeys, which represents Alaska Railroad’s best rate and comes complete with confirmed large picture windows, comfortable passenger seating, baggage service and food and beverage options available for purchase in the Wilderness Café dining car.

Out of Anchorage, the Aurora Winter Train’s Saturday-Sunday schedule is ideal for guests who would enjoy a weekend getaway in the charming small town of Talkeetna, where you can rent a cozy cabin overnight and curl up with a good book, or decide to go cross-country skiing or explore the area’s winter trails on snowshoes while taking in the fresh air. Guests may wish to stop in at the famed Talkeetna pie house on the downtown’s Main Street for some of its celebrated baked items, or even step into the kitchen for a hands-on pie-making class.

Alaska Railroad also offers an assortment of rail-fly packages, which allow guests to travel via train in one direction and by plane in the other. The company also offers a number of distinctive Winter Packages and add-on options for those looking to experience Alaska’s unique wonders for more than a quick weekend. These multi-day itineraries, ranging anywhere from two to six days in duration, include rail travel, accommodations and activities for a comprehensive Alaskan adventure.

Pandemic-Era Provisions:

In light of the ongoing pandemic, Alaska Railroad has extended its temporary operational changes to passenger service. To begin with, all passenger services must observe social distancing requirements, as outlined in applicable state and jurisdictional orders relating to COVID-19.

Face coverings are required to enter Alaska Railroad depots and board trains. Service will be denied to any non-exempt person not wearing a face covering (except for children under the age of two). Face coverings may only be removed while eating or drinking. Depot areas and trains will both be capped at 50-percent occupancy to allow for extra space between passengers needed to ensure proper social distancing.

Touchless hand-sanitizer dispensers are stationed throughout depots and within each passenger railcar for guest and employee use. Trains undergo a full sanitization each night, and a dedicated custodial porter is appointed to sanitize surfaces, door handles, and restrooms every 30 minutes, as well as vacant seating areas as passengers disembark along the route.

Onboard dining car capacity will also be limited to support social distancing, and café tables will be sanitized every hour and after each use. On Adventure Class trips, such as the Aurora Winter Train, the Wilderness Café car will offer individually packaged items, including grab-and-go sandwiches, wraps, cookies and more.

The company asks anyone who has had recent exposure to the virus, or is experiencing cold- or flu-like symptoms, to refrain from traveling. Alaska Railroad has instituted a flexible cancelation and rebooking policy to accommodate these types of pandemic-related disruptions.


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