Built on 2,850 acres and stretching out 8 miles, Union Pacific’s Bailey Yard in North Platte, Neb., is the largest rail yard in the world.
Handling 10,000 rail cars every day, the gigantic rail yard was dedicated in 1968 and is named for former UP president Edd H. Bailey, who released the first rail car at the new yard himself.
It is difficult to fathom the size and scope of this rail yard, but thanks to the Golden Spike Tower and visitor center located along North Homestead Road, guests can take a quick elevator trip up to the seventh floor of the tower — shaped like a railroad spike — to an open-air observation deck to take in the panoramic sights and sounds of the busy rail yard.
From the deck, you can see everything from the east departure tracks to the locomotive repair shop, and the north and south pull tracks, all in constant motion.
Visitors can ride one more floor up for enclosed viewing of the Bailey Yard, along with a display about the renowned North Platte Canteen that offered hospitality and encouragement to more than 6 million U.S. soldiers passing through North Platte on troop trains during World War II.
The idea for the unique Golden Spike Tower came in the mid-1990s, because the original UP viewing platform at Bailey was in need of repairs. Community leaders in North Platte acknowledged the importance of Bailey Yard as an operational wonder, so they started thinking of a way to tell the story of UP and the railroad — along with offering viewing options for the rail yard itself.
The Golden Spike Tower was dedicated in 2008, with a lobby that features a “Hall of Fame,” telling the stories of the influential folks who helped build Bailey Yard. Along with model trains and a gift shop, the visitor center offers numerous exhibits explaining how crucial the railroad is to Nebraska and the nation. A flag courtyard proudly flies the 23 state flags representing each state that the UP railroad serves.
Learn more at goldenspiketower.com.