Bailey Yard

North Platte, Nebraska | C.1866

Photo Credit: Alex Bulli

During the mid-19th century, as railroads crawled west across the continental U.S., settlements known as “Hell on Wheels” towns began to pop up throughout the Plains region. These small settlements, built by Union Pacific railroad workers, were often rife with gambling halls, dance halls, and brothels and would later evolve into railroad towns. Among these was North Platte, Nebraska, home to Bailey Yard.

North Platte’s establishment as a railroad town was due to its proximity to good water and nearby Grand Island, Nebraska, a major hub of the Union Pacific Railroad. In 1866, the town received its first train and within a year it began conducting main line operations. Legendary showman Buffalo Bill even stationed his Scouts Rest Ranch near North Platte so he could easily transport his Wild West Show throughout the country by train.

Since its wild days in the early West, North Platte emerged as a major junction. In 1948, Bailey Yard was upgraded to a “hump yard” where train cars are classified and separated by individual tracks to build out freight trains. Today, Bailey Yard is the world’s largest railroad classification yard covering 2,850 acres with 315 miles of classification track.

Employing over 2,000 Union Pacific employees today, Bailey Yard is open 7 days a week and handles 14,000 rail cars every 24 hours. Each day, 3,000 cars are sorted to become part of trains heading East, West, to Canada, and even Mexico. These trains often transport items from automobiles to consumer goods.

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