NORTH PLATTE is a true railroad town, home to the largest rail classification yard in the world where freight trains are sorted, serviced and repaired as they depart all across North America. Located at the confluence of the North and South Platte Rivers, the town marks the beginning of the Central Nebraska plains -- and not far from the geographic center of the USA.
The extent of the rail yard is mind-boggling, and you can watch activity for hours. An average of 139 trains and 14,000 railroad cars pass through the Bailey Yard every day, as the yard sorts thousands of cars daily. The wide variety of freight cars and locomotives in constant motion makes this a railroad fan's dream! Also, it was great to watch this commerce activity in the veins of America's heartland. It's a positive indicator of the nation's economic health.
For non-rail fans this is the beginning of my journey along the Platte River, which flows east across Nebraska to join the Missouri River south of Omaha. Ahead, the Lincoln Highway follows the Platte River Valley along the corridor where pioneer trails, Pony Express, and main Union Pacific Railroad line cross the state.
The Nebraska territory was included in the 1803 Louisiana Purchase but not considered valuable land. Lewis and Clark explored the plains but didn't find a water route to the Pacific. Instead, they discovered an overland route following the rivers. Early explorers viewed this as a "Great Desert frequented by roving bands of Indians who roam from place to place in search of game." So the first pioneers crossed Nebraska on their way to California or Oregon, believing this land was unfit for cultivation. But Nebraska means "flat water" and the rivers were developed for their power, natural resource, and eventually delivered prosperity to those who settled here.
Week 18, 1412 Miles