Thursday, June 28, 2012

Seeing the Best of North Platte

(North Platte, NE) Hi 97  Lo 63 –  (Jim)  We’re only staying here in North Platte for two nights, so we had only today to see the sights. We sped up our morning routine and headed out. The main reason we stopped here was to see the Bailey Rail Yard, the biggest rail yard in the world. It’s eight miles long and has 315 miles of track. Dee and I aren’t real serious rail fans, but we do find trains very interesting and always enjoy it when we see train museums or displays.

At the Bailey yard they’ve constructed a beautiful visitors center along with the 8-story Golden Spike Tower that offers a panoramic view of the entire rail yard.
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Photos don’t do justice to how big the complex is. But here are a few views taken from the open air viewing platform on the seventh story of the tower.
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This is the maintenance shed, where they repair about 1,200 locomotives per month.
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One floor above the open air platform is the enclosed viewing area on the eight floor. They have chairs in front of the windows so you can sit and enjoy watching the action.
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There is a volunteer on hand to describe what’s going on and answer questions. The one we met was a retired conductor.
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He was very knowledgeable about all aspects of the operations going on. And there is ALWAYS something going on. He said there are trains, train cars, or locomotives moving at all times 24/7.
Here’s a wall display that explains the yard graphically. If you click on the photo you can make it bigger and hopefully can read it.
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Here’s a close up of the lower left portion of the photo above.
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And once all the cars are sorted and matched up by destination, they’re sent on their way to points east and west. This one is headed eastbound.
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As you know, Nebraska is corn country. Next to the tower is a corn maze. Our view from seven stories up wasn’t high enough to clearly see the designs, but you can see some of them.
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That was really worth seeing! The sheer magnitude of the operation gives us a new appreciation of the railroad system, and what it takes to keep it running smoothly and efficiently.
To get a closer look at some trains we stopped at the Union Pacific Railroad Museum at Cody Park near downtown North Platte.
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The star of the exhibit is Challenger #3977. It was built in 1943 as a steam engine, and was later converted to an oil burner. There are only two of these beasts left, and this one is the only one on public display. Here's me standing in front of it to give an idea of its size.
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What a monster! There was also a more modern diesel/electric locomotive on display.
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Here’s a mail car and caboose that were attached to the steam locomotive.
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After maxing out our enjoyment of trains, we drove around Cody Park and discovered a small wildlife preserve on the park grounds. There was geese, peacocks, alpacas, a few donkeys, and some deer, including this beautiful elk.
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He came right up to me at the fence looking for a handout. They encourage feeding the animals here. But he turned away disappointed as I had no food to offer him.

Our last destination for the day was the Buffalo Bill Ranch, a state historical park on the north side of North Platte. Col. William F. "Buffalo Bill” Cody was born in 1846. He was a Pony Express Rider at the age of 14. He once rode 322 miles in 21 hours, 40 minutes, exhausting 20 horses. Later he served as a Union dispatch rider and scout in the last part of the Civil War. But he was most famous for his Wild West Shows in the late 1800’s. He was a huge star during that time, and some call him the father of the modern rodeo.
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In 1886, during the heyday of his wild west shows, he build his home in North Platte. He called it “Scout’s Rest,” and raised cattle and horses. The main house, horse barn, and a few other smaller outbuildings have been preserved and designated a state historical park by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.
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The interior has a mixture of original furnishings and reproductions. Buffalo bill himself stands in the parlor to greet visitors.
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The dining room.
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A beautiful corner desk and gun rack.
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The horse barn. Buffalo Bill actually had “Scout’s Rest” painted on the roof when it was built.
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There are two unique architectural features of the barn. The first is the heart with a hole in the middle of it on the peak of the roof. You can just see it in this photo if you click on it to enlarge it.
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He had that put on there as a tribute to Annie Oakley, one of the big stars of his Wild West shows. Annie showed off her shooting ability by shooting through an ace of hearts playing card.
The second unique feature is the ends of the roof beams are shaped like rifle stocks. Pretty neat!
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Inside the barn was the stable room and saddle room.
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We braved the heat and walked around the beautiful grounds. They have a few buffalo in a fenced in area, which was neat, but we’re looking forward to seeing them in the wild when we get to S. Dakota.
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So that was our busy but very enjoyable day! Seeing the Bailey Rail Yard was the highlight. (Thanks Jerry.) After a stop at Walmart for a couple of things we went back home to rest and cool off. Tomorrow we head north to Valentine, NE for a couple of days before moving west again, to the Rapid City, SD area. Maybe it’ll be a little cooler when we get there.


Gypsy said...

Very interesting post. I stayed at a motel in N. Platte on my way to NY, but in Nebraska the motels are just off the highway and you have to drive a few miles to get into town. I guess it's still that way, and I never knew there was much to see in North Platte1

LakeConroePenny,TX said...

Trains always seem to be such a great way to travel, a lot more interesting and romantic than planes.

The train yard is interesting and so are the animals that you met.
Thanks for sharing.
Happy Trails, Penny, TX

Gail Houle said...

Very interesting post. Would never have thought about the railroads until you mentioned going there. Glad you enjoyed it.

Nancy and Bill said...

We've talked about traveling when we cannot or should not be driving an RV anymore. Trains and Cruise Ships are on our list if and when that time comes;o)) Thanks for the tour!!

Mike and Terri said...

Looks like you two had a full day! We stopped in North Platte last year for a few nights but didn't know about the Bailey Rail Yard. We would have gone if we had known about it. Have fun and travel safely. We're looking forward to reading about your travels this summer!

Bob and Jo said...

Lots of great info we have added to our list.

Anonymous said...

those buffalo you see are decendents from his wild west show.