(Last Updated On: April 2, 2008)
Originally posted on my Thrillhead Blog
Whittier is one of the most interesting places I have ever visited.
To get there from Anchorage, you have to go through a tunnel. But, this is no ordinary tunnel. The tunnel is over two miles long and only allows passage in one direction. The tunnel is a single lane for cars AND railroad. When you drive through it on a car, you are actually driving on the railroad tracks themselves. When driving through this tunnel I learned that railroad tracks are actually quite slippery! Because of the need for sharing the tunnel for both cars and trains in both directions, you can only go through the tunnel once every hour. The tunnel actually has a schedule, like a bus or a ferry. The cost is $12.
The tunnel entrance.
The Portage Tunnel is the second longest highway tunnel and longest combined rail and highway tunnel in North America.
The tunnel ports you to the beautiful Prince William Sound.
Whittier was first built during WWII by the military. There are lots of rumors of why this place was built. Many state that Whittier was a secret spy facility. Other sources say it was simply built as a port and railroad terminus. Regardless, Whittier was built and was used by the military until 1960.
The Buckner Building is a large building in Whittier, Alaska; for many years it was the largest building in Alaska, and was sometimes called the “city under one roof.” It was completed in 1953, but was seriously damaged in the 1964 Alaska earthquake and was then abandoned.
The Hodge Building (now Begich Towers- no picture) was completed in 1953, and is often referred to as the “city under one roof”. At one time it was the largest building in Alaska. The Begich Building, today, is a condominium, housing nearly all of Whittier’s residents.
The hotel where we stayed.
Evidence of Whittier’s Railroad history is evident throughout the port.
In a small town like Whittier, where everyone knows everyone else, being a tourist is quite interesting. Some of the locals are quite bored and befriend the tourists for entertainment. We experienced a bit of this here. Whittier is an interesting place to visit, although not a place where you’d want to stay for long. Nevertheless, the mountains are amazing, the scenery is stunning, and the community is unique.