Thursday, September 21, 2023


Short stop at Golden Spike Tower and Bailey Yard, the biggest rail yard in the world!

This week’s short stop on our trip back north was at Golden Spike Tower and Bailey Yard, the biggest rail yard in the world! 10,000 railway cars a day are sorted out, put on the right track and sent toward their destination. You can see the Golden Spike Tower for miles on the flat plain. That flat land is one reason that North Platte, Nebraska, was chosen as its location. The tower houses a museum and viewing platforms on the 7th and 8th floors with views of the massive East and West yards. The open-air 7th floor was particularly breathtaking.

Bailey Yard

The Bailey Yard was named after the former Union Pacific president, Edd H. Bailey. He believed in a better way to expedite sorting out rail cars. The property is more than 2,850 acres stretching eight miles. There are rail cars as far as you can see. With around 2,000 employees, it operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Bailey railroad yard Courtesy of Golden Spike Tower

The original Golden Spike

The original Golden Spike was pounded into the track where the Union Pacific met the Central Pacific at Promontory Summit, Utah. The Bailey Yard is where the east and westbound trains meet.

Servicing the rail cars

This is a central locomotive repair shop for all of the Union Pacific lines. There is a sand tower to fill the sand tanks at the front of the engine. The sand is used to spray on the track when more traction is needed and for emergency stops.

Engine maintenance and repair

Trains are kept in their departure line to do maintenance and repairs when possible. There is also an on-site facility that repairs 18 to 20 cars per hour. They change more than 10,000 wheels a year!

East and west hump yards

The east and west hump yards are mounds raised 20-34 feet to control speed and gently roll the rail car to one of the 64 different bowl tracks. The train car moves slowly down about 20 feet into a concave “bowl” to keep it in control as it awaits departure. The hump yards handle four rail cars per minute!

Run with electricity

Surprising to me was that the locomotives run on electricity. The diesel engines on the locomotives turn a turbine that generates electricity. The diesel tanks on the side of the locomotive hold around 4,000 gallons of diesel. The large tanks of diesel at the edges of the yard hold more than 4 million gallons of diesel fuel!

Supported the war effort

Union Pacific Army train courtesy Golden Spike Tower

The golden age of railroad travel

The first passenger cars were built in 1909 after a 1907 prototype. While dining cars have been discontinued, the dishes reflect that grand time.

Great experience

It was quite the experience with lots of learning and friendly and knowledgeable staff. The observation decks are staffed with retired railroad employees with vast experience and information. This is a railroad town and rail worker jobs are handed down from one generation to the next.

N Dixon
Sunset from the motorhome

Boondocking with Harvest Hosts

This was a Harvest Hosts location and as we boondocked in the parking lot, I was lulled to sleep by the whistles, clangs and moving rail cars. My husband, though, wore earplugs. The Golden Spike Tower accepts four Harvest Host RVs at a time and a suggested spend is $20. Our two senior discount tickets totaled $16 and it was easy to round up well over $20 after I made it through the gift shop.

For more information on the Golden Spike Tower and Bailey Yard, click here.



Nanci Dixon
Nanci Dixon
Nanci Dixon has been a full-time RVer living “The Dream” for the last six years and an avid RVer for decades more! She works and travels across the country in a 40’ motorhome with her husband. Having been a professional food photographer for many years, she enjoys snapping photos of food, landscapes and an occasional person. They winter in Arizona and love boondocking in the desert. They also enjoy work camping in a regional park. Most of all, she loves to travel.


  1. You said that, “There is also an on-site facility that repairs 18 to 20 cars per hour.”

    Perhaps the RV industry could duplicate this. 🙂

  2. Like you Nanci, we spent a day at the visitor center as well. It was a great way to just enjoy the weather and view on the observation deck. In fact, it’s an informative and cost appreciable way to spend a day. “Big Boy” arrived in town when we were there so that was a bonus. I had no clue what it was about but went to see it show up because it seemed pretty much everyone in town was excited on its arrival.

    I’m not a fan of sleeping in parking lots. The view just isn’t for me so we stayed at the I-80 Lakeside Campground for the two days we were passing through North Platte. They charge a reasonable rate for full hookups and have a friendly staff if anyone’s curious.

    The Golden Spike Tower is definitely worth the stop.

  3. I loved riding the trains during my college years across Iowa, Illinois and Indiana; sleeping births, dining cars and lounge cars. What a treat and treated like a king, Visiting the rail yards at the Union Stock Yards, living across from the Illinois Central switching yards. Loading and unloading box cars as a job while going to school. Falling off a box car which left me with the back that I have today. lol Thanks for the memories, Nanci.

  4. Unless I missed notice of their demise, Amtrak still has dining cars. In 2002 we took the Empire Builder from Columbus, WI to Seattle, WA. We had a small cabin with berths. Meals in the dining car were great and served on china and linen tablecloths.

  5. In the tower you can watch a video of the Orphan Train. It was how street orphans in the big cities in the east like NY had orphans removed from the streets and shipped out west stopping in North Platte and adopted out – some to loving families and some to farmers looking for extra help. You can buy the video on PBS or maybe your local library has it in the video section. During WWII the troop trains stopped here while heading for the coast. The local ladies rotated to the station to provide coffee and sandwiches to the troops.

    The humps used to connect the cars to the different trains use computer controls that measure several parameters like wind speed, temperature and others to control the speed of the cars as they move into position. The guides in the towers are former railroaders and a wealth of in-depth information. Fascinating visit.

  6. My son and I stayed there on our trip west last fall, what a great HH experience to share. I have a picture of our rig just about exactly where yours is and taken from the same vantage point! Thank you for rekindling that memory today.


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