Friday, June 8, 2007

How the heck do you get to North Platte?

I know I've been slacking lately, and haven't posted too much. That's because I was on a week-long work trip to one of the centers of the railroading universe, North Platte, Nebraska. "Where?!!" you might very well ask. For when I was told that I would be going to North Platte, I had to do a little Google-mapping and Travelocity-ing myself to figure out how the heck you get to North Platte. The answer is that you fly to Denver, then you rent a car and drive 4 hours to southwestern Nebraska. You could opt to try the once-a-day 8-passenger puddle jumper from Denver to the bustling North Platte Regional Airport, but my colleagues do not recommend that, as inclement weather can turn the once-a-day into the once-a-week flight. So you drive. And on the way there, you amuse yourself by identifying breeds of cattle that you haven't seen much of since your years in New Mexico and Vermont. Or at least that's what I did. I saw lots of Black Angus (them's beef cattle), some Herefords (beef), some Angus-Hereford crosses (beefier beef??), the classic Woody Jackson black-and-white Holstein on a couple of dairy farms (you can smell those well before you get there, if you've been attuned to the aroma by living in Vermont), a few Texas Longhorns (beef again - I wouldn't want to be the one having to milk one of those), and one sort of brindled buckskin colored breed that I've never seen before (gotta look that one up- perhaps a Brown Swiss?).

What is in North Platte, you might ask, that would bring people there? The answer is Union Pacific Railroad's Bailey Yard, which is listed by the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest railyard in the world. If you're a railfan or a "foamer," as they're less flatteringly known (due to tendency to foam at the mouth at the sight of a train), North Platte is Mecca. 120 trains a day; 10,000 railcars every 24 hours.

When I realized those little colored streaks across the photo were all trains and not Impressionist art, I was impressed. The yard is somewhat less impressive when you are driving the eight miles from end to end - the aerial view is definitely the best for the scale.

The other main attraction in the North Platte area is Ole's Big Game Steakhouse. The story is that old Ole made a ton of money with some wise stock market investments, and his wealth freed him to do whatever he wanted, which was apparently to travel the world and shoot everything that moves. Like Noah's Ark, but different. The food is tasty, and the game is plentiful. Definitely worth the trip if you just happen to be in the area.

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