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Clifford writes a nice overview of the railroads of alaska and the history of development here, which figures into many get rich quick schemes tied to primary resource extraction. Field of Dream's catch phrase was "if you build it they will come," and Alaska has a similar notion about infrastructure for transportation of commodities. Gold in the late 1890s drove a phase of railroad speculation, a financial gold mine for some, and later the colonial vision of making Alaska an outpost of America in the Arctic required rail, marine, riverine and aviation transport coupled with gravel and paved roads. The peak seems to start in WWII and expansion continues to the present, though recently several megaprojects have fallen by the wayside perhaps marking a decline.
The railroad keeps running, though, and always in someone's back pocket is a plan to expand the line to the 48 via Canada or to Siberia through a Stunnel crossing the Bering Straits somewhere.