A Rat’s Nest of Rails
Tundra, Ice, Mosquitoes, and Permafrost: Saga of the Alaska Railroad
That the Alaska Railroad was ever built is astonishing. It was constructed over the most treacherous terrain in the world during the most violent political era in US history. The workforce included anarchists, Bolsheviks, socialists, syndicalists, and labor union organizers against the backdrops of the First World War, Spanish Influenza, the Russian Revolution, American troops in Siberia to keep Russian Socialism from our shore, Japan's relentless gobbling of colonies from Southeast Asia to Siberia, and the Great Red Scare. It was built by the United States military to supply the United States Navy with coal and, in the process, closed coal mining in the Territory of Alaska—to the great anger of the private sector. Then there were the scammers, land speculators, Natives and their land claims, black and discrimination, sedition, wages in scrip, permafrost, freeze up/breakup, ration stamps, and environmental damage. A Rat's Nest of Rails is an in-the-weeds look at what it took to construct the only government-funded railway in American history.