Railroads opened up the West, and to many people they were the key to the development of interior Alaska. Federal legislation in 1914 authorized the construction and operation of railroads here. An appointed Alaskan Engineering Commission surveyed and reported to President Wilson, who in April, 1915 selected a route that would follow the old Alaska Central road out of the port of Seward, then push north up the Susitna Valley to Fairbanks. A major construction camp established at Ship Creek on Cook Inlet quickly became the bustling town of Anchorage; but World War I, labor problems and escalating costs delayed completion of the 467 mile line until 1923, when President Harding drove a golden spike at Nenana. Although coal from the Matanuska Valley began moving along the route, economic development was slow because the Government did little to promote traffic. At the beginning of World War II the Alaska Railroad assumed new strategic importance, and an additional port was built at Whittier to supply American military forces in Alaska. In 1984, the State of Alaska purchased the Alaska Railroad from the federal government.