From 1901 to 1909, Valdez’s newspapers were filled with headlines eagerly announcing the formation of a railroad to be built from Valdez. Promoters and financiers were encouraged by the success of Alaska’s gold rush. As many as a dozen railroads were proposed with Valdez as a terminus, yet most of these did not even get past the initial proposal stage. The biggest obstacle? There was only one way out of town from Valdez: Keystone Canyon. Any railroad coming out of Valdez would need to secure the right-of-way through the canyon, making the route out of town one that was hotly contested.
The Copper River & Northwestern Railway was carving a path through Keystone Canyon. They had the means to do so: the railroad was backed by the Guggenheim and Morgan families (a k a the Alaska Syndicate). Their competitors, the Alaska Home Railway organized by H. D. Reynolds, vowed to build a locally-sponsored railroad “no matter what”. To discourage the Home Railway, the Guggenheims posted a crew of watchmen and a barricade across the entrance to Keystone Canyon.
On September 25, 1907, the Alaska Home Railway men attempted to force the issue. Guggenheim workers attempted to stop the Home Railway crew as they approached the canyon entrance with their work tools. Reportedly, William O’Neil of the CR&NW was seized by some of the advancing men, and a gunfight followed. One man was killed and several were injured. A wave of outrage swept Valdez afterward, with public opinion blaming the Guggenheims. The Alaska Home Railway suffered as well. Reynolds, always a schemer, closed his bank and left town, leaving many of the Home Railway supporters in debt. The Guggenheim syndicate chose Cordova as the terminus for the Copper River & Northwestern Railway. The Copper River & Northwestern ran from Covdova to the Kennecott Mines, deep in the heart of the Wrangell Mountains, with a spur line to Chitina. The CR&NW ran until 1938.