Trains, Planes & Automobiles in Nebraska
Nebraska has connected the United States through transportation since its inception in 1867. Today the state has various attractions that highlight the history of the trains, planes and automobiles.
During the construction of the transcontinental railroad, the city of North Platte, Nebraska, emerged as the division headquarters for Union Pacific. Train operation began in 1866, transporting passengers and goods across the country. Today, the train yard at North Platte, named “Bailey Yard” after the former Union Pacific president, has become the largest train yard in the world. The yard spans 2,850 acres and manages 10,000 railroad cars per day.
Trains at Bailey Yard operate 24 hours a day. Visitors can take an elevator to the top of the Golden Spike Tower to get a bird’s eye view of the entire yard. The city also offers tours of the rail yard during the North Platte Rail Days, a three day festival in September that also hosts a variety of adult and kid-friendly events.
A lesser known fact about Nebraska is that the Offutt Air Force Base of Omaha helped make U.S. Air Force equipment and artifacts available to the community. In 1959 the Strategic Air Command (SAC) & Aerospace Museum opened between Lincoln and Omaha. The museum houses many of the U.S. aircraft carriers used during the Cold War. Volunteers have helped restore and reassemble aircrafts to be included in exhibits. Not only does the museum share stories from the Cold War, but it also aims to educate on scientific exploration and technological exploration that support national security efforts.
The museum has a partnership with the University of Nebraska at Omaha that allows for community education events. Throughout the year there are various STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education opportunities for students, teachers, families, and adults who wish to further their knowledge of aerospace. In October, the museum will be celebrating 20 years at its current location with the Journey Through Time Gala.
About 30 miles down the road is the Speedway Motors Museum of American Speed in Lincoln, Nebraska. The museum was founded by “Speedy” Bill Smith and his wife, Joyce Smith, and includes many items from the Smiths’ personal collection that were used during their racing days. The Smiths’ have acquired an extensive line of championship race cars. Over the years as their collection has grown to more than race cars, they have been able to showcase displays on the evolution of cars since the early 1900s.
If you’ve ever wanted to drive an original Model T car, the museum is now offering a driving school specifically for this car. The class explains the mechanics of the car and allows students to practice driving.