We left the Ribidoux (pronounced like Scooby-Doo with an “R”) RV park in Gering, Nebraska, after spending an extra day to avoid high winds. We were headed south to the world’s largest rail classification yard. It is called the Bailey Yard Center and it is adjacent to the Golden Spike Tower. This massive Union Pacific rail yard is located in North Platte, Nebraska. The Golden Spike Tower is also a Harvest Hosts site that allows you to spend the night in your camper for free. We would have never known about this place if it were not for the Harvest Hosts website.
Golden Spike Tower visitors can take the elevator up to the 8th floor enclosed observation tower. On the top floor there are also retired rail workers who serve as docents and they explain the operation of the trains that travel through this facility. This is a huge 2,850 acre rail yard that stretches over eight miles! This 24-hour complex sorts over 3,000 rail cars a day via the “humps” that determine to which trains the rail cars will be assigned. When the rail car is on the hump, computers determine which track it needs to be on and how it will be directed to it. Computers also calculate the weight, length, distance, etc. and send the rail cars coasting down the hump to precisely link up to an outgoing train. It was amazing to watch the accuracy with which the rail cars are positioned. All told, over 14,000 rail cars pass through Bailey Yard each day.
Locomotive Repair Shop
-The size of three football fields, the shop can repair 750 locomotives a month.
There are also large repair areas and “filling stations” for the trains. This Union Pacific facility services over 8,500 locomotives each month.
1. The Sand Tower
2. East Bound Hump Yard
-The 34 foot rise allows train cars to be sorted for their outbound destination.
3. East Bowl Tracks
-This area, actually shaped like a bowl, has 64 different tracks for trains heading in numerous directions. The bowl keeps the train cars from rolling away until they are hooked to a locomotive and ready to head to their final destination. The hump, bowl, and tracks are duplicated for the west bound trains.
Bailey Yard Headquarters
We had many questions for our docent, including why the locomotives carry sand on board. Turns out that they automatically dispense sand on the wheels when there are icy conditions.
From the tower you have a bird’s eye view of the entire operation. There is an 8th floor enclosed area, plus an outdoor deck facing the railyard.
Our enthusiastic guide proudly reminded us that if this Bailey Yard Center was to shutdown for four days, a third of the U.S. economy would come to a halt.
We were able to park the Bighorn for the night right next to the tower and the ubiquitous Nebraska corn fields.
There is a display about the unique funeral train locomotive that was painted for President George H. W. Bush.
We had already decided to head south from North Platte. There was a cold front heading east behind us and it was going to be in the 20s Fahrenheit at night so it was time to point the Bighorn toward warmer temperatures. When your house is on wheels you can chase the 70 degree temperatures.
Heading south into Kansas, we stumbled into the small town of Wilson, the “Czech Capital of Kansas.” To commemorate this, the town has a very large “Czech” egg on display. One of the accompanying signs states that it took 2,000 volunteer hours just to paint this huge egg. This is obviously a small town with a large amount of pride for their heritage.
We stopped in Hutchinson, KS to visit a dear friend and stayed at the Kansas State Fair campground. There was an HDT (Heavy Duty Truck) group meeting going on while we were there. When the Silverado grows up, that is what it would want to be!
Next we head to Edmond, OK where we will end up staying for a while.