December 3, 1886 the first train entered what was known as “Hell on Wheels,” a mobile town that followed the construction of the railroad. It wintered in North Platte, Nebraska that year.
Union Pacific Bailey’s Railroad Yard today is the largest hump classification yard in the world. It was named to honor a former Union Pacific president. A hump classification yard is where trains come in from each direction and are deposited on top of a hill to be regrouped to continue it’s travels through out North America. Bailey Yard covers a total expanse of 2,850 acres and is over 8 miles in length and 2 miles wide. The yard has 200 separate tracks. A computer controls the release of each car down a hill that is then guided onto a specific track in the yard to group with other cars going to the same destination.
We went to the observation tower to watch with fascination as the trains were assembled.
Although it was a hazy day, you can see the cars coming down the hill to be guided onto a specific track.
After the train is assembled, it takes off into the sunset. Over 10,000 cars are “humped” by 985 switches forming 155 trains each day.
From when a train car enters the yard until it is sent on it’s way is no more than 11 hours. Therefore, tomorrow morning, all these cars will be gone.
Interesting fact (at least to me): Diesel trains do not run on the diesel, rather they run on electricity. The diesel powers a generator on the train which produces the electricity to power the train.
Here the engines are loaded with sand, which is spread on the tracks by the train to give the wheels traction: