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Train from Anchorage to Whittier


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Flying to Anchorage before our cruise out of Whittier. Planning on staying a few nights in Anchorage. If I am looking at the Glacier train correctly, it goes from Anchorage, portage, into Whittier and then on further. On the return it goes back to Whittier. We were wanting to go further south and rather than do the train twice, spend one day to do the transfer. Hoping to get a place to stay then in Whittier, and spend the night before the cruise. ( Cruise departs at 8:30 pm, will we be bored for a whole day in Whittier?) Thought?

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I am not entirely clear as to your intentions. You're starting out at the Anchorage airport, and ending up in Whittier. From the airport, you desire to stay a few nights nights, presumably either near the airport or downtown. There is expressed a desire to "go further south" than Whittier and Portage, but it is not clear how much further south you desire to travel. To Spencer? To Grandview? To Seward? That's going to determine which train or trains you would need to travel upon.


The least complicated alternative would be to board the southbound Glacier Discovery train in downtown Anchorage on the day of the cruise vessel departure at 9:45 a.m. Travel on the train south of Whittier and Portage, either to Spencer, arriving at 1:45 p.m., or to Grandview, arriving at 3:20 p.m. After a short stay at either of those two locations, board the northbound Glacier Discovery train, departing Grandview at 3:30 p.m., or departing Spencer at 4:40 p.m., and alight in Whitter at 6:05 p.m. This would then provide a convenient arrival to the cruise vessel, in advance of its 8:30 p.m. departure.


If you desire to go further south, beyond Grandview and all the way to the southern extremity of the railroad at Seward, the trip becomes more complicated. You could travel on the southbound Coastal Classic train, departing downtown Anchorage at 6:45 a.m., arriving in Seward at 11:05 a.m. After a day in Seward, board the northbound Coastal Classic train, departing Seward at 6:00 p.m., arriving at Girdwood at 8:55 p.m., or downtown Anchorage at 10:15 p.m. You would then spend another night in either Anchorage or Girdwood before boarding the southbound Glacier Discovery train the next day, either in downtown Anchorage at 9:45 a.m., or in Girdwood at 11:00 a.m., arriving in Whittier at 12:05 p.m. I think, however, you might have in mind travel direct from Seward to Whittier, and spend the night in Whittier. That trip, however, cannot be done conveniently. There is an Alaska Cruise Transportation bus that departs Seward at 2:30 p.m. on alternate Mondays, alternate Wednesdays, and every Friday, and you could request that bus driver drop you off at Portage (the bus should pass through Portage at approximately 4:00 p.m.). The northbound Glacier Discovery train will then stop in Portage daily at 5:25 p.m., arriving in Whittier at 6:05 p.m. This might work if you're traveling out of Whittier on Princess Cruises on Wednesday, or on Saturday by spending Friday night in Whittier (though it could be boring spending all day Saturday in Whittier waiting for the vessel's departure), but not very convenient if you're traveling out of Whittier on Holland America Line on Sunday.


Maybe you can clarify what it is you desire to do. This map of Alaska Railroad passenger trains might help (though it does not show the buses to and from Whittier and Seward).

Alaska Railroad Map and Service 3.pdf

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1 hour ago, GTJ said:



Maybe you can clarify what it is you desire to do. This map of Alaska Railroad passenger trains might help (though it does not show the buses to and from Whittier and Seward).

Alaska Railroad Map and Service 3.pdf 103.32 kB · 4 downloads

Thank you for your answer. I meant that we just wanted to do the Glacier Train and confirm that it does come back to Whittier after it makes it way to Grandview. I see that we can make the cruise even that day but appreciate suggestions for a day in Whittier as we would also like to see that town as well. 

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Posted (edited)
9 hours ago, Luv2cruz1000 said:

[I] appreciate suggestions for a day in Whittier as we would also like to see that town as well.

Whittier is on a branch line, meeting the railroad's main line at a junction known as Portage (it was once an actual community, but today is effectively just a train station plus the nearby wildlife refuge). The Coastal Classic train remains on the main line, while the Glacier Discovery train makes a detour to and from Whittier in both directions, southbound and northbound. The timings in Whittier match same day cruise vessel arrivals and departures, the cruise vessels arriving in Whittier in the morning before the first train arrives, and the cruise vessels departing Whittier in the evening after the last train departs. Other passenger trains either remain on the main line, going to Seward, or use the branch line if terminating at Whittier, so it can be a bit confusing absent a railroad map or timetable.


A day in Whittier could be interesting for some people, but would likely be boring to many others. From an urban development perspective, it is fascinating to observe that nearly every resident lives in a single apartment building. There's no traditional community as it is commonly understood, with many freestanding houses and commercial buildings, but a distinct community perhaps more similar to a tenants' association. So if this is intriguing it can make for an interesting day. But for others it could be terribly boring. Just be certain what to expect if you're going to spend a full day in Whittier, vis-à-vis spending an additional day in Anchorage or elsewhere.


Edited by GTJ
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