Alaska Railroad track reopens near Girdwood after avalanche debris derailed train

Alaska railroad freight train

A section of Alaska Railroad track along Turnagain Arm has been repaired and is open again after a freight train ran into avalanche debris south of Girdwood earlier this week.

A train carrying 7,000 tons of freight from Whittier was derailed Tuesday after it plowed into avalanche debris near rail mile post 71.5 — near Mile 87 of the Seward Highway. Since then, the Alaska Railroad Corp. has been working to repair the damaged section of track.

In a prepared statement Friday evening, the railroad said crews completed repairs to the track by late afternoon. The mainline track was reopened at 4:30 p.m., the railroad said, “allowing trains to resume as needed.”

Two locomotives were completely derailed when the freight train collided with the debris, and a third had partially derailed. According to the Alaska Railroad, the third and final locomotive is still on the scene, but is not in the way of train traffic. It will be re-railed sometime next week, the railroad said, depending on safety conditions.

train, avalanche, Alaska Railroad, Seward Highway

No one was injured in the accident, though debris was spread roughly 300 feet across the railroad tracks. Crews conducted avalanche control work in the area in order to make the track repairs.

The slide happened along a section of track along Turnagain Arm that’s particularly prone to avalanches due to its terrain and large snowfalls in the area.

Dangerous avalanche conditions are forecast this weekend in the mountains from Girdwood to Seward, and human-triggered avalanches could be likely despite seemingly calm weather, according to the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center.