If you’d like to see where East meets West on the Union Pacific railroad line, make tracks for the Golden Spike Tower and Visitor Center in North Platte, Nebraska. The tower is perched above Bailey Yard where 10,000 rail cars are managed each day. From the enclosed eighth floor, visitors get a 360-degree panoramic view of miles of track, the switching facilities, and diesel shop where 750 locomotives are repaired every month. To hear the action on a nice weather day, step outdoors— there’s an open-air platform on the seventh floor. Got questions? Enthusiastic and knowledgeable volunteers, most retired railroad workers, are on hand to answer them. There is seemingly nothing these guys don’t know about trains!
Begin your visit on the ground floor of the very nice Visitor Center that opened in 2008. On your way in, notice the courtyard that proudly flies 23 flags— one for each state that Union Pacific (UP) serves. The center’s welcome video provides an overview of UP and Bailey Yard. Next you’ll want to wander through the interpretive displays and dioramas that tell the history of UP, Bailey Yard and the city of North Platte. There’s a nice gift shop for souvenirs. Elevators will then whisk you upstairs for a bird’s eye view of the action.
In addition to the volunteers in the Tower, informative signs tell you what you’re seeing and provide lots of background information. For example, of the 10,000 rail cars that pass through here every 24 hours, approximately one-third are sorted to make sure the cargo reaches its final destination. The yard sorts about 3,000 cars using the yard’s two humps. The eastbound hump is a 34-foot tall mound and the westbound hump is 20 feet high. These are used to sort four cars a minute into one of the 114 “bowl” tracks—49 tracks for the westbound trains and 65 for eastbound. Altogether, Bailey Yard has 315 miles of track spread over 2,850 acres! It’s also interesting to note that Bailey Yard is named for former Union Pacific president Edd H. Bailey (1905-1988) who worked his way up from a helper in the car repair shop in 1922 to UP president in 1965.
Whether you’re a railroad buff, a history enthusiast, or simply looking for a unique view, you’ll see more trains than you can keep track of at the Golden Spike Tower and Visitor Center in North Platte, Nebraska!
IF YOU GO:
Golden Spike Tower and Visitor Center
1249 N Homestead Rd.
North Platte, NE 69101
May 1 – September 30: Mon-Sun 9am – 7pm
October 1 – April 30: Mon-Sun 10am – 5pm
Adults $7.00; Seniors 55+ $6.00; Students 6-16 $5.00; 5 & under FREE
AAA, Military and Union Pacific Discounts offered
In addition to writing about her travels, Denise Seith is also a treasure hunter and loves a good latté. She and her husband own an online gold prospecting and metal detecting equipment store found at GoldRushTradingPost.com