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TRIP TO THE Golden Spike Tower

By Bob Knobbe, TLMRC   


In June of 2013 I decided to take a trip to North Platte, NE to see Union Pacific’s Golden Spike Tower and visitor center over looking Bailey Yard. Bailey Yard is the world’s largest railroad yard. Bailey Yard is named for Ed H. Bailey a former UP president. It is 2 ½ miles wide and 8 miles long. It is in operation 24/7 365 days a year.


The yard is the center of UP’s vast rail system between Chicago and the west coast. The yard is approximately 750 miles west of the Chicago area.

The yard headquarters houses the yard superintendent and staff who manage the yard, terminal train dispatchers, mangers, locomotive mangers and train crews.

The yard has a large locomotive repair shop that handles all repairs. It can handle 750 engines a month for repairs and inspections.

There are two hump yards at Bailey. One for East and one for West bound trains. The yards have a total of 114 bowl tracks with 18 receiving and 16 departing tracks. The East hump is raised 34 feet and west is raised 20.1 feet. Both humps face East due to the contour of the land.

There are also East bound and West bound run through tracks for unit trains that just stop for new crews and fuel. 14 million gallons of diesel fuel are pumped each month at Bailey. There is also a main fueling area for locomotives located by the diesel shop.

There are two towers, one east bound and one West bound. This is where the yardmaster controlling the departures and train makeup for departures occurs.

There is a one spot track area for the repair of cars that can handle 50 cars a day. There is also in train repair done while trains wait on the departure tracks.


tripadvisor.com photo

TheGolden Spike Tower is eight stories high with an enclosed 360 degree view of the yard and the Platte River Valley on the top floor. One floor below the top is an open balcony with a 180 degree view. There are educational displays and a video about the Union Pacific plus a gift shop with souvenirs.


I spent most of the day there taking video and still pictures. You are able to come and go all day on the same ticket. I left and went to lunch and took video of four trains East of town on the main line being careful not to be on railroad property.


All in all it’s a great place to visit.

Photos and Story by Bob Knobbe, TLMRC Golden Spike Award holder

Top tower photo by Indianarailroads.org


Join us in the “Greatest Hobby” as a member of the TLMRC.

Updated 06/13/14