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 As I strolled around the tower, I had a 360 degree view of Bailey Yard and the Platte River Valley. I decided to take a quick elevator ride down one floor to see how the seventh floor open-air platform differed. The view was much the  same from the two observation decks but the lower one was windy and cooler.


Lots of information about Bailey Yard along the walls

I returned upstairs and began browsing the pictures and information displayed on the inner walls. Bailey Yard is what is known as a classification yard in railroad terminology. A ‘classification yard’ is a switch yard, where trains are taken apart, cars and locomotives serviced and repaired, reassembled and sent out again.

The Guinness Book of World Records recognizes Bailey Yard as the world’s largest railroad yard, containing more than 315 miles of tracks and processing more than 150 trains a day. Bailey Yard is eight miles long and up to three miles wide. That is room for a lot of trains.

Bailey Yard's story began long ago with the coming of the railroad. Railroads companies were granted land to build and towns sprang up as the workers settled temporarily in a base camp to build the tracks. Entrepreneurs followed and established trading posts to meet the needs. Two such men, William Peniston and Andrew Miller, established a trading post in what is now North Platte in 1866. Anew town of about 3,000 grew around their trading post. When the section was completed and the workers moved on west in 1867. The town was depleted. It had only about 150 occupants left.

The Golden Spike Tower

As the tracks were completed settlers were now able to the area more easily and quickly. Union Pacific built a round house there and once more the town began to boom. This roundhouse was the predecessor of the present day Bailey Yard.

The original Union Pacific's viewing platform was degenerating rapidly by the mid-1990s. Some of the local community leaders came up with the idea of the Golden Spike Tower and Visitor Center as a place where visitors could get a birds-eye view of Bailey Yard. The tower opened on June 26, 2008 and has been drawing visitors ever since.

They choose the name "Golden Spike" because North Platte, Nebraska is where east meets west on Union Pacific's rail line. They decided that since east met west in Promontory Summit, Utah, when the Transcontinental Railroad was built that name it also fit here. Union Pacific and Central Pacific building from Omaha, Nebraska, and Sacramento, California, respectively met and drove the golden spike to open up the west.

View of Bailey Yard from the tower
The courtyard facing Golden Spike Tower and Visitor Center features the 23 flags representing each state Union Pacific Railroad serves. There is also a Memorial Brick Pavilion is paved  with commemorative bricks  each bearing the name of a person for which the brick was purchased.

In front of the Golden Spike Tower and Visitor Center sits a vintage dining car that is currently being renovated. When completed, the car will let you step back in time to the golden age of rail and experience a real railroad dining car with all the amenities.  

If admiring the rail yard from this lofty perch is not enough for you, visit during RailFest and you can actually take a tour of the yard and get up close and personal with the cars and people that make up Union Pacific. While you are communing with the trains don't become so enthralled that you forget there will be food venders, entertainment of all kinds and lots of visiting trains. It's an annual event held in September.

Stop at the Visitor Center in the Tower on your way out for Union Pacific Railroad and Nebraska memorabilia.

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