Eighty very windy, gusty, blustery, blow the RV around the road, miles west of Elm Creek, (site of the tornado), is North Platte Nebraska – home to the Union Pacific's Bailey Yard. So – no we did not have enough sense to just get on out of Nebraska. We just had to visit the Golden Spike Tower from which we could view the Bailey Yard.
The Bailey Yard covers 2,850 acres, is over 8 miles in length and 2 miles wide. The yard has 315 miles of track and every day handles, are you ready for this, 12,000 – 15,000 rail cars. The yard includes a locomotive fueling and servicing center that handles more than 8,500 locomotives per month and pumps 14 million gallons of fuel each month, a locomotive repair shop that can repair 750 locomotives monthly and a car repair facility that handles around 50 cars daily.
The yard has two humps which handle about 4,000 cars daily. These humps are amazing. Both are mounds of dirt about 25 feet high and as rail cars move on to the hump they are uncoupled and they roll down either the east or west bound hump and a computer routes them on to one of 114 “bowl tracks” to be united with trains going to one of dozens of destinations. This is a controlled free-fall kind of operation and fascinating to watch these rail cars moving, for appearances sake, all on their own.
There are 18 receiving and 16 departure tracks. It boggles the mind trying to figure out how anything ever gets where it is supposed to go.
The town of North Platte is bounded on the north by the North Platte River and on the south by – you guessed it – the South Platte River. Currently the North Platte is in flood stage. We were supposed to camp at the Buffalo Bill Ranch but it was closed due to flooding (at least they had an excuse which is more than we can say for the Buffalo Bill Museum back in Le Clair, Iowa. I've sworn off Bill Cody for the rest of this trip). While we were gawking at the river I spoke with an elderly gentleman who has lived here all his life and was taking pictures of the river. He said that he has seen the South Platte flood many times but never before the North Platte.