Alaska Railroad Television Show

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Re: Alaska Railroad Television Show

Postby highwayman » Sun Jan 04, 2015 12:38 am

I've been reading this thread tonight and chuckling at those posters that are discussing with each other the arguments between dispatchers and train crews and think everybody is wasting their words. Guys chill out; it's a TV reality show. Nothing in these shows is real. These conversations most likely did not take place. If these conversations appeared in the show, it is because it was in the script. All of theses reality shows are just as planned out, choreographed, rehearsed, and staged as any TV sitcom, drama, or soap opera. It is not a documentary. Anything coming out of Hollywood is not real.
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Re: Alaska Railroad Television Show

Postby 1976conrail » Tue Jan 06, 2015 1:26 am

This show is is really over the top. I like when the alerter on the engine goes off and say they hit a detector .then the engineer says that a sensor is telling them there military load is loose! Wow, I have worked for a railroad going on 17 years and I cringe all the goofy stuff they make up to the show more intresting . If all the m&w equipment keeps breaking you think they fire whose in control of maintaining it.i also like Wanda the breakman , shes yelling at people that stuff is taking to long , who does she think she is! . Like when she said the military vehicles(mine resistant vehicles) had to get to there destination on time, like the army needed them ASAP like there was IEDs around fairbanks. In reality that flat car probably sat in the yard for 24 plus hours until a local yard switcher delivered it to the military base. What about when they have a 10 MPh speed restriction over bridges, when they show the train going over a bridge with the military vehicle faster then 10. And please producers of the show stop showing the crew on a SD70 then the next shot of the engines the are on the GPS 40s
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Re: Alaska Railroad Television Show

Postby Zeke » Thu Jan 08, 2015 10:32 am

The unintended consequence of all that goofiness is, to us railroad people, it really is a comedy show. I'm sure it's not what the producers intended. LOL
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Re: Alaska Railroad Television Show

Postby MaineCoonCat » Thu Jan 08, 2015 3:07 pm

As hokey as it is I still find it more entertaining than most of the stuff that "passes" for entertainment on TV. Now if we could just get RFD-TV some new videos for "Trains and Locomotives"..
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Re: Alaska Railroad Television Show

Postby SlackControl » Mon Jan 12, 2015 3:04 pm

There certainly is a fascination with all things Alaska. Seems like there are tons of "reality documentaries" on various things in Alaska. I admit, Alaska is very intriguing to me. But, the only two Alaska related shows I watch are Railroad Alaska and Alaska State Troopers. Having 10 years of experience under my belt as a railroad employee, some of the scenarios that play out are obviously scripted, dramatized and manufactured, and the conversations the crew members have in the cab seem a little cheesy at times, I still find it a great show to watch. Some people even suggested they would like to see a more realistic and comprehensive look into how the ARR works, but there has to be a fine balance between keeping it simple so those who don't work for a railroad can follow, and a certain flare for what would otherwise make for a boring TV show. If they only showed a train running straight through on a sunny day and no variables, and focused the camera on the crew in the cab, which most likely could go quite a while without saying anything to each other, and not getting any radio transmissions for a while, it would be pretty boring. I'm hoping for at least one more season. Perhaps the camera crews could document the train that delivers the passenger cars to the cruise ports connecting with the cruise ships. Also, is like to see a little coverage of some of the local freights on the branch lines.

If anyone can answer this for me, thank you: The "homesteaders" or "off gridders", is it more expensive to purchase land in the area that the Alaska passenger trains are allowed to make flag stops? I would think the access to the railroad would be a valuable asset. Is there even still land to acquire? Are there specific locations where a train can be flagged down, a preferred method of flagging the train down, and a lower speed restriction for the flag train to follow to allow safe stopping in the event of being flagged down? What kind of rates apply to passengers and cargo to and from the flag stops?
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Re: Alaska Railroad Television Show - "Ice Dagger" episode

Postby MaineCoonCat » Mon Jan 12, 2015 9:15 pm

Watching the "Ice Dagger" episode tonight on my DVR got me wondering.. It seems to me that I've seen photos of locomotives with bars mounted on them to knock down hanging ice in tunnels etc.. Maybe I'm wrong but I'm wondering why the ARR doesn't outfit their locomotives with something like this.
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Re: Alaska Railroad Television Show

Postby jogden » Thu Jan 15, 2015 9:52 pm

Zeke wrote:The scenery is breathtaking. What a place to run trains. That roadbed is in top notch shape and I was surprised to see a CTC type signal system as I figured traffic was not busy enough to warrant the cost of a first class signal system. How many trains a day between Anchorage and Fairbanks I wonder ? The trains seem to be moving along pretty good on the straight line. What's the MAS for freight and passenger ?


MOW keeps our roadbed in good shape. When we do have a temporary restriction, it is usually only around for a few days before they get the problem fixed.

Most of the territory is dark, with Track Warrant Control as the method of operation. We have three sections of CTC. One section is the 12-mile Whittier Branch, the biggest section is a 90 mile area from south Anchorage to Kashwitna, and there is a CTC island for Hurricane, where we have a siding.

Between Anchorage and Fairbanks we run two trains per day in the winter, and four to six in the summer. However, there are more trains on that track that do not make the entire trip between Anchorage and Fairbanks. In the summer we also have two trains per day operating between Healy and Anchorage, one that operates out and back from Talkeetna to Hurricane, and gravel trains that operate between Anchorage and Palmer and another one that operates to Kashwitna. On some days we have additional trains that are chartered by cruise lines that also operate over part or all of the line.

Speeds vary a lot, with the lowest being 10mph over some bridges and around some curves. The tightest mainline curve on the railroad is in excess of 14 degrees. The maximum speed on the railroad is 60mph, in the CTC near Anchorage. Most of the dark territory is 49mph for freight and 59mph for passenger. It really just depends where you are at, we have a couple pages of speed changes in the timetable.

1976conrail wrote: This show is is really over the top. I like when the alerter on the engine goes off and say they hit a detector .then the engineer says that a sensor is telling them there military load is loose! Wow, I have worked for a railroad going on 17 years and I cringe all the goofy stuff they make up to the show more intresting.


Yeah...filming goes like this typically:
You meet up with the film crew at the start of the shift. They put on a microphone and tell you to "just be yourself," and "act like we are not even here." They insist they are trying to capture normal operations and get a few shots of life as usual on the railroad. Well that is fine for a bit, but then they decide they want a close up. And if you have never been filmed for television, you probably have never thought about how close the camera is for those close up shots. It is right in your face, and it is pretty hard to act like it is not there! Eventually they get bored with switching, so the producer (I think that is his title) starts telling you to say stuff on the radio. Whoever is filming the other crew members tells them how to reply. There is no written script, but they try to make things a little more exciting by adding stuff. As you are filming it, you're thinking about how their lines are taking away from all credibility, but you also have to remind yourself that you are there to get the work done, film crew or not. Eventually, eight months later you see the episodes on TV, and they are pieced together from so many different days filming that it is barely recognizable as something you were involved in! So most of the yelling, shouting, or goofy comments is not due to incompetence of the railroaders, but due to the lines they are told to say, or the fact that the lines are possibly pieced together from several different conversations spread across several days.

For the record, I ended up on the editing room floor, which was quite fine with me!

Zeke wrote:The unintended consequence of all that goofiness is, to us railroad people, it really is a comedy show. I'm sure it's not what the producers intended. LOL


Even Alaska Railroaders laugh at it! :wink:

SlackControl wrote:If anyone can answer this for me, thank you: The "homesteaders" or "off gridders", is it more expensive to purchase land in the area that the Alaska passenger trains are allowed to make flag stops? I would think the access to the railroad would be a valuable asset. Is there even still land to acquire? Are there specific locations where a train can be flagged down, a preferred method of flagging the train down, and a lower speed restriction for the flag train to follow to allow safe stopping in the event of being flagged down? What kind of rates apply to passengers and cargo to and from the flag stops?


I am not sure about the price of land out there, but rail access is a relative thing. Most of the off gridders actually do not live right next to the tracks, the way the show would have you believe. Most get dropped off at a trail, and then they use a snow machine (snow mobile to everyone in the Lower 48) or a 4-wheeler to get to their cabin. There are some right near the tracks, but not all, not even the majority. Access to the railroad is definitely an asset, because the only other way in to most of those places would be via helicopter. Land in that area is often difficult to find, because most of the available land was homesteaded and has been kept in the family. Since homesteading stopped, a lot of that area has actually been designated state park, so while a lot of land is still vacant, it is not available to buy. Those properties that are already there can continue to be used, and could even be sold, but no new properties are being sold. Properties in that area do not come up for sale very often though. Even if people decide to move onto the grid, so to speak, they usually keep the cabin as a place to get away.

For flagging the train down, most people stand near the tracks and wave frantically until the engineer blows the horn in response. The train can be flagged down anywhere between Talkeetna and Hurricane. When passengers board, they tell the Conductor the milepost they are traveling to, and we stop there to drop them off. For the regulars, the train crew usually knows where they are headed when they board. There are only so many people out there, and you get to know the people that live out there and ride the train often.

Fares are calculated depending on distance. For the regulars, we sell ticket books with ten tickets in them. I believe they are $95. If they are traveling only within the area between Talkeetna and Hurricane, there are basically three zones, if you will. Each fare zone costs them one ticket out of that book. The fare zones are from Talkeetna to MP 250, MP 250 to MP 270, and MP 270 to Hurricane. Talkeetna is near MP 226, and Hurricane is near MP 284. If they are travelling beyond Talkeetna or Hurricane, we keep a fare chart handy to refer to. Some people come all the way in to Anchorage. Usually they know what the fare is and will have money ready when they board. The whole fare collection system on that train is probably a little looser than it is on most trains in the Lower 48. Once in a while you get someone who is down to their last ticket in that book, but left their check book at home, and need to get somewhere that requires two tickets. You take the one, and just tell them to bring the money next time. The next time they are on the train, they buy a new book and you take the one missing ticket out then. The railroad and the train crews generally have a pretty good relationship with the people who live off grid.

papabarn wrote:It seems to me that I've seen photos of locomotives with bars mounted on them to knock down hanging ice in tunnels etc.. Maybe I'm wrong but I'm wondering why the ARR doesn't outfit their locomotives with something like this.


Years ago, Alaska Railroad did do this. Now we have a custom built rack for that, which is designed to lock into the container twist locks on a flat car. MOW takes care of deicing the tunnels, using a Hi Rail or something to shove a flat car with this rack on it through.

All the tunnels we have left are in avalanche prone areas, so they send out an avalanche patrol ahead of the trains anyway, and they take care of the ice if there is any.
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Re: Alaska Railroad Television Show

Postby MaineCoonCat » Thu Jan 15, 2015 10:41 pm

Great info! Thanks James!
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Re: Alaska Railroad Television Show

Postby Zeke » Thu Feb 12, 2015 10:49 pm

James , I concur and thanks for taking the time to flesh out the nuts and bolts part of the operation. Looks like a real first class operation from here run by professionals.
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Re: Alaska Railroad Television Show

Postby Engineer Spike » Sun Nov 22, 2015 1:18 pm

I liked the part where the dispatcher tells the conductor who works with Wanda that they are being held for a meet, or MOW. He tells the dispatcher that it is unacceptable.

Are the crews on a mileage based pay, flat rate, or hourly? They say their in a hurry. I know that it is scripted, but most railroaders want to dip into the cheese a little bit. I laugh because one of the older engineers here used to say that he wanted to outlaw where they would have to send on St. Bernards to find him.
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Re: Alaska Railroad Television Show

Postby Lmiller » Thu Nov 26, 2015 8:01 am

It's an ok show , so over dramatized like most of them....
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Re: Alaska Railroad Television Show

Postby The RR Authority » Thu Nov 26, 2015 1:33 pm

Like all reality shows, there is very little reality to it. And what is the black woman sitting in the cab and playing a brakeman for? Are they trying to show us how diverse they are? All she does is take up space. And takes a job away from somebody else.
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Re: Alaska Railroad Television Show

Postby nessman » Sun Dec 06, 2015 10:17 pm

Watching the bridge girder episode now. When the engineer is "talking" on the radio and not pressing the microphone button - you know it's all scripted BS.
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Re: Alaska Railroad Television Show

Postby litz » Mon Dec 07, 2015 3:01 pm

They do capture and air some neat footage, though.

Those bridge girders were indeed quite close to the cliff face.
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Re: Alaska Railroad Television Show

Postby jogden » Sat May 21, 2016 6:59 pm

Engineer Spike wrote:I liked the part where the dispatcher tells the conductor who works with Wanda that they are being held for a meet, or MOW. He tells the dispatcher that it is unacceptable.

Are the crews on a mileage based pay, flat rate, or hourly? They say their in a hurry. I know that it is scripted, but most railroaders want to dip into the cheese a little bit. I laugh because one of the older engineers here used to say that he wanted to outlaw where they would have to send on St. Bernards to find him.


Just remember, 95% of what you see is scripted on the fly by the director standing behind the camera, and most of the in cab shots are in the second unit, while another crew (who is not distracted by the director behind the camera) actually runs the train.

Crews are paid hourly and are rarely in much of a hurry. We try to get the work done safely and efficiently, without killing time unnecessarily, but we are rarely in as much of a hurry as the television show would lead you to believe.
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