04 November 2010

Ch 11, Pt 2: "Mary Storms into Alaska"

Chapter 11: "Mary Storms 
into Alaska
  pt 2

click on picture for
larger image: these pictures are the one which appear in the book for
this chapter.

Kennecott HQ in NYC
Cordova Wharf in the 1930s  --Laurie
Nyman Collection

They stood at the edge of the ship’s rail looking down at the dock. The
skies were overcast and a light rain fell. A warm, mild wind blew
gently. The main storm had moved on, leaving gradually clearing summer
skies. Below them were steel rails which extended close to the berth. An
observation car was backed up to the ship. In front of the coach, facing
away from the ship, was mogul engine No. 102, quietly puffing steam and
ready to pick up the guests and move on.

“Look, dear. That’s another special private coach down there. They fixed
it up just for us and named it The Kennecott.”

“What? Another Kennecott?”

“Maybe my company lacks imagination, but the staff means well. They
fixed this one up for us to make our run up to the real town of
Kennecott. We’ll have a nice, pleasant trip into the Copper River
valley. You’ll love it. The private car is waiting to take us into town.
In a few days, we’ll ride it up the rails. We have a special staff for
it right here.”

Abandoned coaches at Cordova
CRNW coaches
abandoned at the Cordova roundhouse in 1943. On the left is
Coach No. 100, "The Kennecott."  --Cordova Museum

The coach on the left was the original
business car for the CRNW Railway, later converted to a dining
car, and finally an observation car.

“Stephen, I thought that the first Kennecott looked plain. This one
looks like an ordinary railroad car--and it’s wood, not steel. How
quaint. I don’t like quaint. Is that all they have?”

“That’s the superintendent’s personal car. He had it converted just for
our personal use. It’s very comfortable and it has a nice ride. I know.
I’ve been on it before. You’ll be fine, Darling.”

“Why’d you have to drag that big locomotive along with us?”

“Number 74? It’s the one which will pull us up the line. Great, isn’t

“Stephen, if you drag me along on this trip of yours, I’ll never forgive

“Well, try to forgive me, Mary, because we’re both going. We leave for
Chitina in two days. We’re committed and that’s that.”

The couple walked down the gangplank like royalty, arm-in-arm, smiling
and waving at the small crowd. The appearance was impressive, leaving no
hint of the growing discord which was developing between Stephen and

Mary smiled and pretended she was happy to be in Cordova. Stephen was
satisfied with the deceptive appearance. Mary was well-practiced in
that. They entered the coach from the open deck at the rear. Stephen’s
aid Dermot helped Mary onto the high step from above, while Stephen
pushed from below.

“That’s a most undignified way to enter a coach, Stephen.”

Cordova Wharf Train
CRNW passenger train backed up to the
Cordova wharf   --Candy Waugaman collection

“I’m sorry, dear. It’s just built that way. Look around you.”

The coach had over-sized plate-glass windows which greatly enhanced the
viewing while creating a warm, bright atmosphere. The rear observation
and dining room was tastefully furnished, right down to the the
light-red oak wood finish. The chairs were the plush red velvet which
had become standard in the CRNW coaches, except these were of a higher
grade and were far more comfortable. The high ceiling boasted ornate
chandeliers. It was not up to New York City standards, but it pleasantly
surprised and pleased Mary.

“Stephen, I believe this will do nicely. Plush-frontier ornate decor,
how impressively different. Yes, this will do. I can live with this.”

The other women of the party boarded behind Mary. All sat in the lounge
that had been carefully, tastefully, and expensively designed to display
in a slightly understated way the power and even majesty that was the
company which was best embodied by Stephen Birch himself.

The tracks ran along a curved trestle above the ocean water. When it
reached the shore the train slowed and then stopped at a small depot.

“We’re here, Mary. A wagon will be there waiting to pick us up at the
station. The Windsor is only a few blocks away.”

The hotel was as close to a luxury-class accommodation as one could find
in Alaska in those days. Mary was not impressed, but it would have to
do. This time, since she was still feeling the ill-effects of the ocean
voyage and was not up to her usual impossible self, she kept her
thoughts to herself. She would have plenty of time later to make up for


Windsor Hotel

Windsor Hotel
in Cordova  --Van Cleve Collection


Cordova 1910

1910 Map of
Cordova  -- click for enlarged view   --Simpson

Continue with

Chapter 12: "Mary and Stephen Birch Arrive at Childs Glacier"


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