The Work of Giants
It was the building of the transcontinental railroad: Omaha, Nebraska on the east to Sacramento, California of the west. North Platte, Nebraska was platted as a railroad town by Union Pacific's Chief Engineer Grenville Dodge because of its close proximity to good water, and its distance from Grand Island, Nebraska. The first train rolled through what was known at the time as "Hell on Wheels" town in 1866. General Dodge quickly moved to construct major shop facilities and winter quarters and by 1867, main line operations began.
Just two years later on May 10th, east met west at Promontory Summit in Utah, 690 miles east of Sacramento and 1,087 miles west of Omaha. The railroad crossed two-thirds of the continent over some of the most difficult terrain on earth. It was called, "The Work of Giants." And it was the end of the frontier, as we knew it.
Through the Years
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, North Platte became home to Buffalo Bill Cody's Scouts Rest Ranch because of its proximity to the railroad. Able to move his Wild West Show by train or by wagon from this location, Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show entertained throughout the U.S. and performed in front of heads of state throughout the world.
From 1941 to 1946, The North Platte Canteen served more than six million members of the armed forces providing home baked goods and a warm welcome to the nation's young men and women as they passed by for a 10-minute stop. The nation was at war, and the volunteers at the North Platte Canteen stepped up to give each serviceperson a welcome break from going to or returning from the war.
Rail passenger service was discontinued in 1971 after operating for some 105 years. Gone are the days of Pullman sleeping cars, dining cars, lounges and coaches. The romance and luxury of passenger trains was done in by automobiles and air travel.
Today Bailey Yard, named for former Union Pacific president Edd H. Bailey, is the world's largest train yard. Covering a massive 2,800 acres, each day Bailey Yard manages 10,000 railroad cars. Of those, 3,000 are sorted daily to make sure the cargo reaches its final destination. You can see it all from the Golden Spike Tower and Visitor Center in North Platte.
Find out more about Bailey Yard and Union Pacific Railroad by visiting our links page on this website.