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Lynden companies and employees weather brutal winter storms

Posted on Tue, Apr 03, 2012

Historic storms hit Alaska and Washington this winter and Lynden companies pulled together to keep the freight moving and equipment operating in the harsh temperatures and record snows. Hardest hit is the Railbelt in Central Alaska while Whittier, Fairbanks, Anchorage and Kenai have had adverse weather for most of the winter.  Whittier has had 380 inches of snow this winter, and Valdez has received 403.9 inches of snow and is considered the snowiest locale in America. Cordova and Whittier are not far behind. Anchorage has had over 10 feet of snow this year. “With snowfall expected to be heavy in March*, we have a shot at the all-time record,” says Scott Hicks, Vice President of Operations for Alaska West Express.

Whittier Storm 2012
Conditions at the Alaska Railroad Corp. yard in Whittier, AK.

Compounding problems was a cycle of storms which hampered barge arrivals off and on since October. The Whittier terminal has been dealt further blows by storms which bring heavy snow, then melting conditions. The cold temperatures cause train wheels to freeze onto the tracks and make rail, truck and forklift operations very difficult. “We have experienced crippling conditions for rail and cargo operations,” Scott explains. Excessive ice buildup throughout the terminal shut down all rail movement in or out of Whittier for days. Avalanches caused train delays extending the time required for loading and unloading our barges, and tug crews have battled through storms, rough seas and lengthy voyages. 

snowy trains

“Our crew in Whittier has worked very hard to keep the freight, trains, trucks and barges moving,” Scott says. “They have worked almost every weekend since the first part of November. This includes our drivers shuttling and trucking loads on the weekends to take care of the priority freight for customers. Anchorage yard crews have also worked around the clock to unload trains and keep the trains and trucks moving. Fairbanks crews have battled temperatures as low as minus-60 degrees.”

snowy train

The Nana Provider has been cycled in as a fourth rail barge which has helped maintain weekly service.  “We have received help from multiple Lynden companies and I would like to thank them,” Scott says. “Our partners Western Towboat and the Alaska Railroad also deserve much credit for helping us ‘weather the storm.’” Lynden employees have done an outstanding job through this very difficult time with manpower and schedule changes. It truly is a team effort and a great example of what Lynden is capable of.”

In Washington, winter storms also brought freezing rain, heavy snow and extended road closures on Snoqualmie Pass due to avalanches. The governor declared a state of emergency and waived the hours of service limits for drivers hauling milk from farms to processing plants.

“Our Sunnyside and Moses Lake Milky Way drivers did an extraordinary job given the challenges they faced. They received help from the Portland, Chehalis, Skagit, Whatcom and Seattle services centers to deliver loads and keep our customers from having to dump milk,” says LTI, Inc. President Brad Williamson. Dispatchers met twice a day via teleconference and worked around the clock coordinating with the milk plants. It was an outstanding display of teamwork throughout the organization.”

As a side-note, LTI, Inc. delivered a record amount of road de-icer salt this winter to the Washington Department of Transportation and the City of Seattle. During January, LTI, Inc. trucks moved 30,771 tons of bulk salt from stockpiles at Seattle and Moses Lake to maintenance sites around the state.

* Note: This article was originally written in mid-March, 2012.

Tags: LTI Inc., Alaska West Express, Winter conditions, Alaska Railroad, Alaska shipping, Alaska, WSDOT

Lynden delivers diamonds in the rough for ice carving competition

Posted on Tue, Mar 13, 2012

Each year, Lynden Transport partners with the Alaska Railroad to move huge blocks of ice from Fairbanks to downtown Anchorage for the annual Crystal Gallery of Ice Carving Competition. “The ice, called Arctic Diamond, is highly prized for its clarity,” explains Paul Friese of Lynden Transport in Anchorage.

Ice carving

The Lynden truck above was sculpted by a Chinese championship team in appreciation of Lynden’s contribution to the ice carving event each year.

Once the blocks are cut they are loaded onto Lynden trailers at the harvest site. Lynden’s Fairbanks employees transport the pieces, measuring approximately 3 feet by 6 feet and weighing from 3,500 to 5,000 pounds each, to the Alaska Railroad where the trailers are loaded onto flat cars for the trip to Anchorage. Once they arrive in Anchorage, the trailers are offloaded from the flatcars and the Lynden team hauls them to the event site. 

The Crystal Gallery of Ice is an annual event organized by the Anchorage Downtown Partnership, Ltd. and hosted in Anchorage’s Town Square. "Our site manager made a point of telling me how wonderful Operations Supervisor Andy Collins was to work with during the delivery of the ice for this year’s event", says Cheri Spink, Events and Development Director of Anchorage Downtown Partnership, Ltd.  "This has been true of my experience working with Paul Friese and the Lynden staff over the past seven years.  Lynden Transport is a great community partner and an integral part of the success of the Crystal Gallery of Ice."

Ice carving                                   Photo credit: Kodiak Chamber of Commerce.

Tags: Anchorage, Crystal Gallery of Ice Carving Competition, Alaska Railroad, Lynden Transport

Historic steam engine returns home to Alaska

Posted on Wed, Feb 01, 2012

A piece of Alaska railroad history is now back where it belongs. In December, #557, the last operating steam locomotive in the state, made the journey from a museum in Moses Lake, WA to Seattle where it rode an Alaska Marine Lines barge to Whittier. From there it was off-loaded on a flatbed train car to ride the rails to Anchorage (watch the news video) where it now awaits renovation for its next life with the Alaska Railroad.

The story of the 160,000-pound #557 rides the railslocomotive began in 1944 when it was built for the US Army Transportation Corps and then diverted to Alaska to pull trains for the Alaska Railroad. Old photos show the engine pulling passenger trains from the Anchorage depot to Seward in the 1950s and idling at the roundhouse. It made its last run in 1957 to the state fair in Palmer.

It was finally sold for scrap. Monte Holm, a well-known local and scrap dealer in Moses Lake, WA, purchased the engine from a steel dealer in Everett, WA in 1964. He kept it at his House of Poverty Museum which showcased railroad-related items and was a tribute to his years of riding the rails as a hobo. According to his grandsons, Monte would run the engine through town pulling local residents and even a few visiting dignitaries in an old rail car that was used by Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Harry Truman.

When Monte died in 2006, personal friend Vic Jansen stepped in. Vic and Jim Jansen purchased the engine and decided to donate it to the Alaska Railroad.

#557 arrives"The best thing about the donation of the engine back to the Alaska Railroad is that it will be put back into service for people to ride and enjoy,” Vice says. The Jansens only request was that the engine be restored and operating within eight years and that Monte's relatives be allowed to ride it for free - forever.

“557 is a significant piece of the Alaska Railroad's history and of Alaska's history as well,” said ARRC President and CEO Chris Aadnesen. "We look forward to working with the volunteers and charitable organizations that will be the front line in getting 557 back on the tracks. It is important to us that we make the wishes of Mr. Holm and the Jansens a reality.”  A plaque will be mounted on the engine honoring Monte's efforts to save it from the salvage yard. 

Tags: Lynden, Historic steam engine, Alaska Marine Lines, Monte Holm, Alaska Railroad, Alaska

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