North Platte, Nebraska has a place to see that my father, the train addict, would just love. Open just over a year, the Golden Spike Tower allows an aerial view of Union Pacific's Bailey Railroad Yard.
It costs $5 to go in, although I should have asked for a discount because the elevator wasn't working. Only 8 stories high, I figured I could walk. What they didn't tell me was that each story was 24 steps high.
Whew! Made it! At least there are chairs up here.
Bailey Yard is the largest classification yard in the world; drawing railfans from all over. The massive yard covers 2,850 acres, reaching a total length of eight miles.
Every 24 hours, it handles 10,000 railroad cars. Of those, 3,000 are sorted daily in the yard's eastward and westward yards, nicknamed "hump yards". By pushing cars over a mound, these two hump yards allow four cars a minute to roll gently into any of 114 "bowl" tracks where they become part of trains headed for dozens of destinations.
This shows the eastbound bowl and "hump." You can see cars in the back about to be "humped." They send 1-3 cars at a time into the bowl, and there are 3 brake retarders on the line to slow the cars to 2 mph.
In this Google Earth picture, the East bowl is on the left and the West bowl on the upper right. There is a total of 351 miles of track in the yard. The Golden Spike Tower is at the very bottom, a little to the right.
On the bottom left is the diesel repair facility, which can repair 20 cars per hour, and runs 24 hours per day. They fix 750 locomotives annually.
An aerial view of my rig!