The world’s busiest business rail yard calls North Platte home.
Union Pacific Railroad (UP) uses the bailey yard to switch train cars for their final destinations. The Bailey Yard is halfway between Denver and Omaha.
About 150 trains pass through daily. They involve changing an average of 10,000 cars. This is no easy task. The rail yard is 8 miles long and almost 3 miles wide.
About 200 sets of tracks take up 315 miles of rail space in the yards. That is a truly amazing feat to get a car from Train A to Train B.
Every train will eventually pass through North Platte, according a retired UP employee. He is a volunteer at the Golden Spike observation tower.
A lucky train will just stop for a crew change.
Most trains, however, require a stop to switch out cars.
In the old days of the rail business, an employee would have a print out with a rail car’s number and its final destination. The employee would use a truck and drive up and down each train to identify the car and the final stop. Then, it would be moved by other employees.
Now, computers are used to identify the rail cars and which track to put them on for switching.
The rail yard averaged 14-15 trains in position at a time. The trains sit until their final car is attached. That can average 11 hours, according to information at the observation tower.
Watching a rail car get switched is interesting. Basically, it gets separated from its train and sent on down to its final stop. This likely requires being switched to different tracks. There are more than 975 switches. Once on the right track, the car will be connected to the final destination train.
In addition to the switch yards, the Bailey Yard is home to a refueling station and diesel shop (engine workshop).
The best way to view the Bailey rail yard is by going to one of two observation floors at the Golden Spike observation tower.
The seventh floor observation deck is an open-air viewing area. This is a neat place to go during nice weather.
Regardless, ensure you check out the enclosed eighth floor level. It’s the top floor of the tower and has a 360-degree view of the area. There will likely be a volunteer there to visit with.
At the base of the tower is the UP Hall of Fame. Among its members are William Jeffers (former UP president), Buffalo Bill Cody and William Riley Sr. (the first African-American engineer at the rail yard).
The visitor center’s courtyard displays the 23 flags of each state where Union Pacific trains roll through.
The Golden Spike Tower and Bailey Yard should be on everyone’s must-see list when traveling to North Platte.
As a matter-of-fact, we are discussing coming back the weekend of Sept. 19-21 for the annual Rail Fest. This is a celebration between Union Pacific and the city of North Platte. Lisa’s uncle is a huge train enthusiast and we believe he would like the Bailey Yard tour. Visitors can go on to the yard and visit the diesel shop, etc.
About 2,600 people are employed by UP in the North Platte area.
The fest’s website says the following places will be visited via a bus tour: Sites to be included in the bus tour would be the east and west humps, the east and west run-throughs, the diesel shop, the power lead overpass, and the one-spot car repair facility. In addition, could also include a demonstration of how a crew changes the wheels on a railroad car and how a car is set back on the track after a derailment.
For more information on the Golden Spike Tower and Visitor’s center, as well as Baily Yard, please visit the website at http://goldenspiketower.com/.
Rail fest 2014 can be accessed via http://nprailfest.com/.
Disclaimer: Thanks to the North Platte/Lincoln County Visitors Bureau for the complimentary tickets for the Golden Spike Tower. All opinions and views are ours.