A new train car is hooked to a massive crane in preparation for placement on Whistle Hill in Soldotna, Alaska, on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

A new train car is hooked to a massive crane in preparation for placement on Whistle Hill in Soldotna, Alaska, on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Whistle Hill adds 5th rail car in effort to expand as tourist ‘destination’

“The only thing I’m missing is a caboose.”

A fifth rail car was added to Whistle Hill on Saturday, part of the continuing expansion of the project by the Krull family, who own and operate a variety of businesses at what they are developing as “a destination,” according to Mary Krull.

Krull said the new rail car is a retired unit from the Alaska Railroad, a rail diesel car built in 1953. When it was in operation, it was self-propelled, and could be run either independently or be pulled by a locomotive.

“It was retired by the Alaska Railroad, I think officially, in 2012. They just kept it in their yard for training purposes,” Krull said. “We have a propensity to buy rail cars, and heard that it might be up for sale.”

It was, and so the Krulls brought it home.

Krull said it was a three-day process to move the rail car. She said Weaver Brothers moved it to Whistle Hill. They were originally skeptical whether or not they could make the turns up to the site in their trucks while carrying the large cargo. A driver came with a truck and an empty trailer ahead of the move to practice.

On Saturday, from as far away as the Kenai Spur Highway and Sterling Highway intersection in Soldotna, a massive crane could be seen rising over Whistle Hill. Shortly after noon, the stainless steel rail car was hooked up and moved into place, on a set of tracks behind the building that holds Frames N Things and Brew@602.

“Honestly, this is the first rail car we’ve purchased and added to our development that we don’t have a plan for yet,” Krull said. “She will hibernate over the winter time, then come spring we’ll entertain some ideas we’ve been kicking around and see what we can make of her.”

The rail car joins those built into Brew@602 and Addie Camp, as well as a boxcar and a locomotive also featured on the property.

“The only thing I’m missing is a caboose.”

Development on Whistle Hill won’t stop anytime soon. Krull said that they’re working with the city to extend the sewer line up to the property, and that two more hydroponic farms have been purchased to expand Fresh 365, which produces “a variety of greens, lettuces and herbs,” according to their website.

The Soldotna City Council voted in September to assist in funding expansion of the sewer line, following a proposal by the Krulls submitted in March.

Next summer, the boxcar located adjacent to Addie Camp will be renovated into a guest suite, which Krull said will be put on Airbnb.

Another recent addition is an array of solar panels, installed earlier this summer, which Krull said were only the first of a three-phase expansion.

“We’re pretty committed to renewable energy,” she said. “This first array, the intent is for it to power our current hydroponic farm. There is room for phase two and three; ultimately our goal is to power the entire hill through solar.”

Krull said that Whistle Hill is intended to be a destination.

“Our goal is to provide our community with year-round businesses, to serve our community and certainly to add value to tourism,” she said. “The whole thing started with me trying to repurpose a rail car.”

Reach reporter Jake Dye at jacob.dye@peninsulaclarion.com.

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