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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.