Friday, October 23, 2009

North Platte, Nebraska

Golden Spike Tower & Visitor Center

Drive to the north west corner of North Platte, Nebraska to find the Union Pacific Railroad's Bailey Yard. An eight story tower with an indoor and outdoor observation deck staffed with a guide to answer your questions and explain what is taking place.

  • The yard covers 2,850 acres reaching a length of eight miles. From the north to the south of the yard are a total of 301 sets of tracks!
  • Every 24 hours the yard handles 15,000 railroad cars. 3,000 of the cars are sorted in their eastward and westward yards.
  • The "hump yards" use a mound cresting from 20 to 34 feet which allow four cars a minute to roll gently into any of the 114 "bowl" tracks where they become part of trains headed for dozens of destinations. These cars are computer controlled & braked as they head down the hump, but a person has to pull the pin and later hook up the hoses between the cars. Papa Jim remembers that when they used to get rail cars of bagged fertilizer in the end bags were always broken. That is because before computers there was no control of the speed of the cars coming off the "hump". The resulting jolt when it hit the next car caused the breakage. When they started shipping cars by rail, something had to be done to prevent the damage to them. The brake controls were invented!
  • A diesel repair facility provides "one-stop" servicing to trains and a locomotive repair shop. The shop replaces 10,000 pairs of wheels yearly and has a fleet of trucks to repair small defects in the train. It is possible to repair 18 to 20 cars per hour, with round the clock shifts. 750 locomotives are fixed annually.
  • Every locomotive horn is tested in the yards, also. They have to have the legal decibels of loudness & sufficient air to make them work.

  • Commodities passing through these yards include refrigerators, TV's, coal, automobiles, potatoes, fruit, wine, lumber, corn, sugar, steel, chemicals, and cars.
  • A sand tower fills each engine with a special sand that is used for traction on the rails in the snow & ice.

  • A diesel fill station fills locomotives with 14 million gallons of diesel fuel every month. The fuel is transferred by a pipeline directly from a nearby refinery!
  • A coal train has at least 125 coal cars. 36 full coal trains go east and 36 empty coal trains go west into Wyoming each day.
My pictures hardly give you a feeling for the enormity of the place. We spent over 2 hours watching and talking to the guide! A picture of the tower and a video of the yards in action is available at

Isn't it amazing the knowledge and abilities the Lord gives us in order to deal with the circumstances we need to survive in this world system.

Thanks for traveling with us!
Prairie Schooners

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