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Down the Road: Visitors can get a panoramic look at Bailey Yard in North Platte, Neb.

Curt Arens, Editor, Nebraska Farmer

August 12, 2022

6 Slides

Built on 2,850 acres and stretching out 8 miles, Union Pacific’s Bailey Yard in North Platte, Neb., is the largest rail yard in the world.

Handling 10,000 rail cars every day, the gigantic rail yard was dedicated in 1968 and is named for former UP president Edd H. Bailey, who released the first rail car at the new yard himself.

It is difficult to fathom the size and scope of this rail yard, but thanks to the Golden Spike Tower and visitor center located along North Homestead Road, guests can take a quick elevator trip up to the seventh floor of the tower — shaped like a railroad spike — to an open-air observation deck to take in the panoramic sights and sounds of the busy rail yard.

From the deck, you can see everything from the east departure tracks to the locomotive repair shop, and the north and south pull tracks, all in constant motion.

Visitors can ride one more floor up for enclosed viewing of the Bailey Yard, along with a display about the renowned North Platte Canteen that offered hospitality and encouragement to more than 6 million U.S. soldiers passing through North Platte on troop trains during World War II.

Great idea

The idea for the unique Golden Spike Tower came in the mid-1990s, because the original UP viewing platform at Bailey was in need of repairs. Community leaders in North Platte acknowledged the importance of Bailey Yard as an operational wonder, so they started thinking of a way to tell the story of UP and the railroad — along with offering viewing options for the rail yard itself.

The Golden Spike Tower was dedicated in 2008, with a lobby that features a “Hall of Fame,” telling the stories of the influential folks who helped build Bailey Yard. Along with model trains and a gift shop, the visitor center offers numerous exhibits explaining how crucial the railroad is to Nebraska and the nation. A flag courtyard proudly flies the 23 state flags representing each state that the UP railroad serves.

Learn more at

About the Author(s)

Curt Arens

Editor, Nebraska Farmer

Curt Arens began writing about Nebraska’s farm families when he was in high school. Before joining Farm Progress as a field editor in April 2010, he had worked as a freelance farm writer for 27 years, first for newspapers and then for farm magazines, including Nebraska Farmer.

His real full-time career, however, during that same period was farming his family’s fourth generation land in northeast Nebraska. He also operated his Christmas tree farm and grew black oil sunflowers for wild birdseed. Curt continues to raise corn, soybeans and alfalfa and runs a cow-calf herd.

Curt and his wife Donna have four children, Lauren, Taylor, Zachary and Benjamin. They are active in their church and St. Rose School in Crofton, where Donna teaches and their children attend classes.

Previously, the 1986 University of Nebraska animal science graduate wrote a weekly rural life column, developed a farm radio program and wrote books about farm direct marketing and farmers markets. He received media honors from the Nebraska Forest Service, Center for Rural Affairs and Northeast Nebraska Experimental Farm Association.

He wrote about the spiritual side of farming in his 2008 book, “Down to Earth: Celebrating a Blessed Life on the Land,” garnering a Catholic Press Association award.

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