Rep. DeLena Johnson and her husband Steve took an eight-mile walk on Sunday along the riverbed of the Matanuska River, when the couple came across an artifact from yesteryear — a piece of riveted steel from when the railroad was torn up and rerouted north to Fairbanks.
There was a time, Johnson said, when the railroad went to Chickaloon because of the high-quality coal at Wishbone Hill. That coal was valuable because it was used to fire the warships in World War I.
But in 1923, when President Warren Harding drove the golden spike at the Nenana, signaling the completion of the railroad to Fairbanks, the tracks to Chickaloon had all been torn up and left to rust.
Rep. Johnson doesn’t know who took a can of yellow spray paint to the rusting steel with the words “DANGER UNEXPLODED ORDINANCE,” but she found it amusing, misspelled “ordnance” notwithstanding. It’s a bit of graffiti on a 10-foot-tall item of railroad trash that looks like … well, her friends on Facebook had all sorts of amusing theories.
The riverbed is littered with steel that was dumped by the railroad as they tore up the tracks to Chickaloon, but the “Apollo space capsule” behind her in the photo is an artifact that perhaps railroad historians will be able to identify.