My sister-in-law and her husband recently returned from a western vacation and one of the stops that they made was at Bailey Yard, the Union Pacific's big rail classification yard located in North Platte, Nebraska. Knowing that I'd be really interested in what they saw there, they were quick to let me know about their trip when they returned.
Bailey Yard is big. It is the world's largest railroad yard, covering some 2,850 acres with 315 miles of track! Those 315 miles of track are all interconnected with some 985 track switches. There are approximately 2,600 employees assigned to the yard.
And the yard is busy, 24/7... approximately 155 trains arrive & depart the yard daily. As you would suspect, these trains are all over the board in terms of the cargoes that they carry. About half of that traffic is coal mined in the area headed to power plants along both coasts. The balance is mixed freight with a few local runs thrown in just for good measure.
Bailey hosts two hump yards; one going in each direction. Approximately 1,500 cars are sorted in each one during the typical day. Cars are pushed up an incline then over the hump. As they gain downward speed, various track switches are thrown to direct them onto the correct classification track to make up a particular train. Along the way, built in speed retarders slow the car so that it just barely arrives at its location and (usually) gently bumps into the next car, making the coupling connection.
Activities of the yard can be observed from the Golden Spike Tower. The tower is a seven-story observation tower that allows one to see most of the entire yard although some parts of it are at a distance due to the yard's overall size. There are both an indoor and outdoor observation deck so one has their choice of vantage points depending on the weather at the time of their visit.
Needless to say, one of the things I want to do some day is to visit Bailey Yard and spend some "quality time" at the observation tower. Now THAT'S my idea of a good vacation destination! It's probably a good thing that Janet doesn't typically read my postings here.