Copper River and Northwestern Railway

Copper River and Northwestern Railway Chitina Express
Copper River and Northwestern Railway Chitina Express, Cordova Alaska

Geoffrey Bleakley Collection, Makawao, HI.

The Copper River and Northwestern Railway (CR&NW) was the train system that transported copper ore and supplies between the Kennecott mines and Cordova, Alaska from 1911 to 1938. Big Mike Henny constructed the railway despite many geographic challenges included bridging the Kuskulana River canyon, the Copper River northeast of Cordova with the Million Dollar Bridge and numerous trestles. The last railroad spike in the construction, a "copper spike", was driven in March 1911, by Chief Engineer E. C. Hawkins and Superintendent Samuel Murchison at Kennicott.

The CR&NW Railway stretched 196 miles over rivers, canyons, glaciers and through mountains. Built against the impossible challenges of extreme sub-zero temperatures and impenetrable snow, it was nicknamed, "Can't Run and Never Will". Once the copper ore in the Kennecott mines ran out, the last train departed in 1938. In 1941, the Kennecott Corporation donated the railroad right-of-way to the United States "for use as a public highway". Today, part of the railway exists as the McCarthy Road between the towns of Chitina and McCarthy.

Wrangell - St Elias National Park & Preserve

Last updated: February 21, 2023