Eric A. Hegg Copper River Railway Photograph Album, 1908-1910  PDF

Overview of the Collection

Hegg, Eric A., 1867-1948
Eric A. HeggCopperRiver Railway Photograph Album
1908-1910 (inclusive)
1 album (circa 100 photographic prints) : black and white
Collection Number
Collection of photographs by pioneer Alaska photographer Eric A. Hegg of the construction of the first 50 miles of the CopperRiver and Northwestern Railway, Alaska, 1908-1910.
University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections
Special Collections
University of Washington Libraries
Box 352900
Seattle, WA
Telephone: 206-543-1929
Fax: 206-543-1931
Access Restrictions

The collection is open to the public.

Funding for encoding this finding aid was partially provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Biographical NoteReturn to Top

Eric A. Hegg was born in Sweden in 1867 and moved to Wisconsin with his family in 1870. He opened his first studio in Washburn, Wisconsin, in 1882 at the age of fifteen. After moving in 1888 to New Whatcom on Bellingham Bay, Washington (present day Bellingham), he established additional studios. During this time, Hegg photographed the Lummi Indians and the local industries of fishing and logging. At news of the Klondike gold strike in 1897, he headed for Alaska. He and a partner photographed the gold stampede on the Chilkoot Pass and ran a studio in Dawson, Alaska. Hegg eventually made his way to Cordova, where he was taken on as company photographer for the Guggenheims' construction of the CopperRiver and Northwestern Railway. Hegg left Alaska in 1918 and worked in Hawaii, San Francisco, and Bellingham. He died in San Diego in 1948.

Historical BackgroundReturn to Top

The Alaska Syndicate was formed by the Guggenheims, J.P. Morgan, and two other banking firms to develop the copper resources in the Wrangell Mountain range of southeastern Alaska. The CopperRiver and Northwestern Railway was constructed along the CopperRiver from 1906-1911 to provide access to the Kennecott copper mine, owned by the Kennecott Mines Company, the predecessor of the Kennecott Copper Corporation. Originally, the railway construction terminus was to be at the seaside town of Katalla because of its proximity to the Bering River coal fields, which could provide fuel for smeltering the ore. Katalla, though, had no wharf, and difficult seas prohibited the construction of an effective breakwater for ships' moorage. As a result, the construction effort was often in short supply as tugboats could not meet the off-shore steamers' deliveries. The Alaska Syndicate headquarters moved to Cordova in 1908, 75 miles away by water. Cordova saw the regular arrival of steamships from the lower 48 states to its docks. Several miles of railway already existed to Eyak Lake, built by railroad contractor Michael Heney. Heney was subsequently hired by the Alaska Syndicate to complete the CopperRiver and Northwestern Railway, and his first contract required the completion of the first fifty miles of track to Ambercrombie Landing by the end of 1908.

The railway stretched 200 miles inland to the Kennecott coal deposits. Often the severity of seasonal elements challenged construction. Building the bridge across the CopperRiver from the Miles to the Childs Glaciers required rapid construction to take advantage of the winter months, before chunks of ice floated downstream during heavy spring run-off. At times the elements proved too difficult to conquer, as in the case of the trestle built across the river at milepost 133. The plans showed that a high, permanent bridge was to be constructed, but lengthy time and high cost persuaded the engineers to design a lower, disposable trestle that was allowed to wash out yearly and then be rebuilt. The Miles Glacier Bridge, with four spans and five million tons of steel, was touted as the "million-dollar" bridge, completed in 1910 at the price of $1.4 million.

The final spike of the railway was driven into the ground at the town of Kennicott on March 29, 1911 (the mine and company are spelled "Kennecott," while the town is spelled "Kennicott"). The final cost of the railway, which took a peak crew of 6,000 men nearly five years to construct, was $23,500,000. A week after its completion, the first train of ore moved toward Cordova. The deposit was so rich that the ore averaged 70 percent pure copper. The Alaska Syndicate enjoyed handsome profits for copper during the World War I years, but by 1938, the mine was depleted and the CopperRiver and Northwestern Railway abandoned.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The collection consists of one album of photographs taken by Eric A.Hegg of the construction of the first fifty-plus miles of railway laid by the CopperRiver and Northwestern Railway, 1908. Construction images show bridges, concrete piers, trestles, track laying, camps, freight trains, steam shovel, and river boats. The album begins with images of the beginning of the railway, at the construction headquarters at Cordova, Alaska, and continues along Eyak Lake. Photographs document the progress of construction to the Abercrombie Rapids and Abercrombie Canyon of the CopperRiver, and the Miles and Childs Glaciers. The last photograph in the album depicts the Miles Glacier Bridge, completed in 1910.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top


Container(s) Description Dates
Page item
1 1  Wharf on Copper River at Cordova, Alaska, with beginning of railroad tracks October 13, 1908
2 2 Railroad tracks winding left through rock formations, Mile 1 1908-1910
3 3 Railroad tracks winding right through rock formations, Mile 1 1908-1910
4 4  Team of rowboats on Copper River laying cable August 12, 1908
5 5  Scene of Cordova with wharf on left, town buildings and team of horses on right 1908-1910
6 6  Wharf scene 1908-1910
7 7 Engine on railroad tracks, Mile 1-2 1908-1910
8 8  Aerial view of Cordova with railway crossings and steamboat October 12, 1908
9 9  Buildings and wharf that served as headquarters of the Copper River Railway at Cordova 1908-1910
10 10  Engine on railway tracks over Odiak Bay, Mile 2 1908-1910
11 11  Steamboat entering coastal town with mountain range in distance 1908-1910
12 12  Group of railroad workers posed on wrecking crane and railroad tracks 1908-1910
13 13  Railroad worker and two American Locomotive Co. (ALCO) locomotives, no. 3 and 20 1908-1910
14 14  Interior of the temporary machine shop at Cordova 1908-1910
15 15a  Frieght train with ALCO locomotive no. 20 on tracks, Mile 2 1908-1910
15 15b  Stacks of timber alongside body of water with railroad tracks platform in distance 1908-1910
16 16 Murchison Falls on CopperRiver 1908-1910
17 17  Midnight scene at Eyak Lake in Cordova with men on railroad tracks and mountains in distance 1908-1910
18 18  Railroad tracks leading through trees toward mountains 1908-1910
19 19 Railroad tracks, Mile 4 1908-1910
20 20  Railroad tracks winding by Eyak Lake 1908-1910
21 21  Group of women and child posing by Rainbow Falls at Cordova Bay 1908-1910
22 22 Whitewater river surrounded by forest 1908-1910
23 23 Eyak Lake with snow-covered mountains rising in background 1908-1910
24 24  Railroad worker posing with machine on tracks, Mile 4 1908-1910
25 25 Railroad worker posed on tracks with Mt. Eccle in distance 1908-1910
26 26 Railroad tracks, Mile 5 1908-1910
27 27  Railroad track platform built alongside buildings 1908-1910
28 28 Railroad tracks winding through rocky embankments, Mile 5 1908-1910
29 29  Eyak Lake with mountains in distance 1908-1910
30 30 Gravel pit at Eyak Lake 1908-1910
31 31  Man in canoe along coast of Eyak Lake 1908-1910
32 32  Railroad tracks traveling near gravel pit, Mile 6 1908-1910
33 33 Railroad tracks with gravel pit identified in background, Mile 7 1908-1910
34 34 Railroad tracks crossing bridge at Mile 6, looking toward the flats showing 11 mile tangent 1908-1910
35 35  Railroad tracks crossing over water, Mile 8 1908-1910
36 36  Man in railroad car on tracks passing United Wireless Telegraph Company station, Mile 8 1908-1910
37 37  Railroad tracks crossing flats with snow-capped mountains in distance, Mile 12-11 1908-1910
38 38  Railroad tracks crossing flats as seen from sandy coast, Mile 10-11 1908-1910
39 39  Railroad tracks stretching into distance alongside telegraph lines 1908-1910
40 40  Railroad workers hauling supplies next to camp April 17, 1908
41 41 Group of men on platform next to stacks of logs, Camp 4 1908-1910
42 42  Sheridan Glacier photographed from Copper River Railway 1908-1910
43 43  Railroad crossing over water, Mile 16 1908-1910
44 44  Railroad tracks covered in snow, Mile 17 October 22, 1908
45 45 Railroad tracks and telegraph poles, Mile 18 1908-1910
46 46 Railroad tracks covered in snow, Mile 16 1908-1910
47 47  Gravel train being loaded by railroad workers 1908-1910
48 48  Workers pile driving on the flats to Mile 20 March 17, 1908
49 49  Tracklayers and locomotive at Mile 20 March 17, 1908
50 50  River scene with ducks in water 1908-1910
51 51  River scene with camp and railroad platform in background 1908-1910
52 52 Railroad tracks winding through forest, Mile 20 1908-1910
53 53 Railroad tracks bordered by creeks of melting snow, Mile 19-20 1908-1910
54 54  Snow-covered tracks, Mile 20 1908-1910
55 55  Railroad workers posing on loaded freight train
Labeled: "To the Front."
June 24, 1908
56 56  Railroad tracks passing through Alaganik Flats, Mile 20-21 1908-1910
57 57 Snow-covered tracks, Mile 21-22 1908-1910
58 58  Railroad workers laying track with locomotive in background 1908-1910
59 59  Group of workers posing on a steam shovel at Camp 6, Mile 22 1908-1910
60 60 Railroad tracks traveling through rock cut at Alaganik 1908-1910
61 61 View of Camp 6 through trees and brush 1908-1910
62 62 Railroad junction at Alaganik 1908-1910
63 63 Railroad tracks passing by rock quarry 1908-1910
64 64  Railroad workers freighting construction supplies up Copper River 1908-1910
65 65  Group of workers near rowboat in Alaganik photographed from boat 1908-1910
66 66 Mountain and river scene on the CopperRiver Railway 1908-1910
67 67 Railroad tracks crossing water alongside telegraph poles, Mile 24 1908-1910
68 68 Railroad tracks stretching into distance alongside telegraph poles, Mile 26 1908-1910
69 69  Man posing on railroad tracks beneath large mountains 1908-1910
70 70  Group of men posing in front of tents with railroad tracks in distance, Camp 7 1908-1910
71 71 CopperRiver Railway bridge stretching across the CopperRiver 1908-1910
72 72  Workers constructing concrete piers for Flag Point bridge August 26, 1908
73 73  Alternate view of workers constructing concrete piers for Flag Point bridge 1908-1910
74 74 Railroad tracks platform at Round Island Channel, Mile 28 October 26, 1908
75 75a  Scattered workers near the beginning of Flag Point Bridge 1908-1910
75 75b  Continued view of Flag Point Bridge 1908-1910
75 75c  Abutment No. 1 of Flag Point Bridge, Mile 27 1908-1910
76 76   Bridge construction at Round Island Channel, Mile 28 October 26, 1908
77 77 Bridge construction at Round Island Channel, Mile 28 October 26, 1908
78 78  Group portrait of the officers of the cableship Burnside and the Copper River Railway at the end of tracks August 21, 1908
79 79a  Group of men standing near railroad car and rowboats at beginning of a bridge across the Copper River August 20, 1908
79 79b  Continued view of bridge across the Copper River August 20, 1908
80 80  Officials of Copper River Railway at Miles Glacier October 5, 1908
81 81a  View of railroad tracks, wagons, and brush 1908-1910
81 81b  Copper River & Northwestern locomotive no. 013 at the end of the tracks at Miles Glacier
Handwritten note on back of photographic print: "First locomotive of the C.R. and N.W. Railway. Purchased from the Alaska Northern Railway, Seward, Alaska."
October 5, 1908
82 82  Childs Glacier 1908-1910
83 83a  Childs Glacier 1908-1910
83 83b  Childs Glacier with group of men pulling a rowboat
Written on photographic print: "Copyright 1906."
84 84  Sunset at Childs Glacier 1908-1910
85 85a-c  Miles Glacier 1908-1910
86 86  Railway trestle at the lower end of Abercrombie Canyon, Mile 50-51 October 24, 1908
87 87  Michael James Heney's Camp 18 surrounded by mountain range, Mile 52 September 29, 1908
88 88  Group of men working in the kitchen of Camp 18 1908-1910
89 89  Railroad workers stopping to break camp, Mile 52 October 31, 1908
90 90  Abercrombie Canyon with railroad tracks in background, Mile 52 October 31, 1908
91 91 Construction workers at Abercrombie Canyon September 5, 1908
92 92  Small rapids at Abercrombie Canyon September 28, 1908
93 93  Tents on the bank of Abercrombie Canyon September 28, 1908
94 94 Workers digging and dumping rock at Abercrombie Canyon, Mile 53 September 29, 1908
95 95  Rock workers posing at Abercrombie Canyon, Mile 53 1908-1910
96 96 Workers and machine on tracks at Abercrombie Canyon, Mile 53 October 31, 1908
97 97 Unfinished railroad tracks nearing the head of the Abercrombie Rapids, Mile 54 1908-1910
98 98 CopperRiver above Abercrombie Canyon with the steamer Chitina in winter quarters in the distance 1908-1910
99 99 Unidentified body of water with mountains in background 1908-1910
100 100  Miles Glacier Bridge [Million Dollar Bridge] of the Copper River and Northwestern Railway circa 1910

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Photography of railroads--Alaska
  • Railroad bridges--Alaska--Design and construction--Photographs
  • Railroad construction workers--Alaska--Photographs
  • Railroad tracks--Alaska
  • Railroads--Alaska--Design and construction--Photographs
  • Railroads--Alaska--Photographs
  • Personal Names :
  • Hegg, Eric A., 1867-1948
  • Corporate Names :
  • American Locomotive Company
  • Copper River and Northwestern Railway
  • Geographical Names :
  • Copper River (Alaska)--Photographs
  • Cordova (Alaska)--Photographs
  • Cordova Bay (Alaska)--Photographs
  • Miles Glacier Bridge (Alaska)--Photographs
  • Form or Genre Terms :
  • Photograph albums

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Visual Materials Collections (University of Washington)