Yakutat to Situk

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  • States: Alaska   
  • Railroads: Y&S   

The Yakutat and Southern Railroad

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Photo by Lew Picton, August 2008.

The Yakutat and Southern Railroad was a unique railroad in the United States: its sole freight commodity was raw fish. Not only that, its schedule depended on both the tide each day, and the fishing season itself; thus, the railroad would lay dormant during the winter.

The Y&S began operations in 1903, with the express purpose of hauling fresh-caught raw fish from the Situk River to the cannery wharf in Yakutat, 11 miles to the north. Fishermen would bring their salmon to Johnson Slough on the Situk River and load it onto a Y&S train. The train would then take the fish north to Yakutat, where they would be off-loaded at a canning facility, where they would be canned and shipped from Monti Bay, a deep-water port within Yakutat.

The cannery in Yakutat which was served by the Y&S filed for bankruptcy in 1971, thus bringing to an end the Y&S and the over 60 years of hauling raw fish. Surprisingly, the cannery is still operated today, but is not served by any railroad. Various Y&S equipment can be found in a city park about a mile outside of Yakutat.

A unique and interesting story. The "Other Sites and Information" link provided a great deal of information.

Does anyone know if the cannery still receives fish from the Situk River, and if so, has anyone ever thought of looking into re-opening the railroad? Accordingly, is the right-of-way still intact or railbanked, or has it been sold off or returned to local landowners?

Kevin M. Smith
Cicero, NY
10/10/2010

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Yes, the processing plant (Old Cannery) receives salmon from the Situk River and a number of other rivers as well. Today, the road that was built in 1973, allows trucks to haul the fish to town for processing (fresh and frozen).

There are plans to renovate the railroad and restore the locomotives and cars. The right of way is still intact and the first 4 miles have been temporarily restored into a trail.

Larry Powell
Yakutat, AK
1/6/2011

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My Dad was the last engineer on the Yakutat and Southern RR.

My twin brother and I were very lucky to ride the rail line on the tender of the locomotive many times during that summer.

I have a few pictures (slides) of the train left from my Dad's collection. Living in Yakutat was an experience I have carried with me my whole life. I would like very much to return someday. Bob Snyder

Bob Snyder
Montesano, WA
6/29/2011

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I've been to Yakutat for steelhead fishing in Spring twice(2011, 2001).

I was just concentrating in fishing itself.

Yakutat was very small and fish-dependent town.

One day I had found a ruin track in Lower trail. After checking website, I noticed Yakutat has a deep story on train, fishing, and World War II. Indeed, interesting.

Tic Tac
Japan
1/26/2012

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Shortened Link: http://a-r.us/06o
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