Lynden salutes the courage of the men who built the Alaska Highway and those who drove it
Early 1940, an army of intrepid soldiers and civilians fought a torturous campaign in one of the most primitive wilderness areas in North America.
Its mission was to forge an overland link from the United States to the Alaska Territory, which had become vulnerable to attack by the Japanese during World War II.
More than 18,000 soldiers and civilians battled clouds of swarming insects, truck-swallowing swamps, and air so cold a man could freeze to death at his post.
Their weapons included nearly 11,000 pieces of road-building equipment, the guidance of experienced surveyors, and their own stamina.
In eight months, the battle was over and nearly 1,500 miles of rough roadway connected Dawson Creek, British Columbia to Delta Junction, Alaska Territory.
The courage and fortitude of those early road builders are legendary. They built a path through the wilderness that 50 years later remains the major interior link between the continental U.S. and its northernmost state.
In 1954, when Lynden trucks began rolling north through British Columbia and onto the Alaska Highway, a whole new legend was born.
In the beginning: one wagon and two horses move the first freight in Lynden, Washington.
With a pair of fine matching sorrel horses and one sturdy freight wagon, newlyweds Ed and Ethel Austin started one of the first freight hauling businesses in Lynden, Washington.
The company, called Lynden Transfer, delivered everything from sides of beef to the local mail. In addition, Austin made regular runs to Bellingham over roads so muddy that the 20-mile round trip often took all day and half the night.
In 1921, Austin's freight business entered the motorized age with the purchase of a two-and-one-half ton Mack truck. As the company grew, regular runs to Seattle were added, more trucks purchased and new drivers hired.
One of the new drivers hired by Austin in 1940 was Henry "Hank" Jansen. A few years later, Jansen and his partner, Walter B. Craig, purchased the growing freight company which would later become Lynden Transport.
The Alaska Highway opened new frontiers for a growing company ready to expand.
Working at the incredible pace of eight miles per day, thousands of soldiers and civilians carved the Alaska Highway through the wilderness.
Materials to build the road came from several directions, including the Southeast Alaska port of Skagway.
In 1943, the Haines Highway was built, connecting the town of Haines to the Alaska Highway, and providing the first link between Southeast Alaska and the interior.
By 1949, the coordinated effort of 70 private companies turned the rough military road into a highway fit for civilian travel.
A few years later, the Hart Highway in British Columbia cut a path through the Canadian Rockies, providing the much-needed link between the Alaska Highway and roads leading another 500 miles south to Seattle. When this happened, Hank Jansen and Walter Craig began looking north toward the future.
Drivers in the old days used their wits and skill to get them through on the lonely road.
Loaded with 36,000 pounds of fresh beef hanging from hooks in the roof of their van, Lynden drivers Glen Kok and Oscar Roosma rolled into Fairbanks, Alaska.
Their trip over the Alaska Highway took four days, and was the first of thousands to follow for Lynden Transfer.
Drivers on the Alaska Highway had to contend with steep icy grades, curves that could barely accommodate the 60-foot rigs, and temperatures that fell to 50 and 60 degrees below zero.
The Alaska Highway was a primitive, lonely road in those days. Engine trouble in mid-winter tested a driver's skill and courage. Lynden drivers took care of themselves and many times took care of others - they often saved the lives of freezing motorists stranded along the desolate road. Thanks in great part to their dedication, Lynden Transfer became the first trucking company ever to provide regular, dependable trucking service to Alaska.
When the devastating Alaska earthquake hit in 1964, and later, when major flooding destroyed much of Fairbanks, Lynden responded by sending every available vehicle up the Alaska Highway with food, supplies and materials for rebuilding.
The Lynden family grew and Alaska prospered as a pipeline was built to cross the state.
After years of delays, construction began on the 800-mile Alaska pipeline, bringing a new boom to the state's economy.
Trucks rolled over the once-lonely Alaska Highway day and night, hauling supplies, equipment and building materials, as Lynden Transport recorded its 10,000th trip north.
From the mid-1970s through the 1980s, the addition of new companies expanded the expertise of the Lynden family. From delivering packages in Nome to providing service to isolated towns in Southeast Alaska to helping coordinate cleanup of the Valdez oil spill, Lynden companies have held steadfast to Alaska and its people.
Here's to 50 more great years on the Alcan!
As part of the celebration commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Alaska Highway, Lynden Transport has restored one of its original trucks and trailers for another trip north. This time, the cargo is a rolling exhibit that tells the tale of this legendary road, the valiant men who drove it and the drivers today who carry on the tradition.
Carrying on a company commitment to Alaska
The Alaska Highway has been dramatically improved over the years. Winding sections have been straightened, treacherous hills leveled and hundreds of miles of gravel paved. Yet, in ways, it remains much as it once was, a challenging roadway toward a land of midnight sun.
The Lynden companies, too, have grown and changed dramatically from the days when northbound Lynden Transfer drivers heated their soup on truck manifolds and replaced as many as 28 flat tires on a single trip.
Today, the Lynden family of companies provides modern transportation services via land, sea and air, moving freight to and from Alaska and Western Canada. Several subsidiaries provide expertise in logistics and remote site construction for customers throughout Alaska, the Pacific Northwest and Western Canada.
Although Lynden has expanded and diversified over the years, its commitment to Alaska has remained a company touchstone.
Lynden Transport trucks still roll over the Alaska Highway, and, along with Canadian Lynden Transport, continue to serve the oil industry and other Alaska customers.
Alaska West Express specializes in hauling bulk commodities, while Knik Construction builds roads and remote air strips in a state that boasts nearly as many pilots as drivers.
This same commitment is shared by the people of Alaska Marine Lines and Lynden Air Freight as they work to meet the needs of Alaska's citizens and businesses.