Not Getting Buffaloed in North Platte

Earlier in our Summer adventure after driving past miles of cornfields and grain elevators from Sterling, Colorado, we crossed the southwest border of Nebraska and arrived in North Platte. We spent the night at an RV campsite by a lake on I 80. It was a welcome relief after two nights with no showers and no water!

The next morning we packed up and headed into the City of North Platte to visit a historical landmark—the home of the famous showman William “Buffalo Bill” Cody. Three years earlier we had visited the museum that bore his name in the City of Cody, Wyoming, and had viewed many posters and historical artifacts from his traveling road shows and I was really enchanted. Since we were in the right place at the right time why not visit his home and ranch too?

As we drove down the main street in North Platte we got fuel and then looked for a latte to share. The Yelp app lead us to a part of town known as the Canteen District. The name came from WW II when it was a favorite train stop for service people en route to their postings to refuel and relax. This area was the commercial downtown of North Platte during the early to mid 20th century and many of the wonderful old buildings remained-some in better states of preservation than others. 

I was especially interested in the 1940’s-50’s vintage neon store signs.

We located the Espresso Shop by Caravan and sat outside to sip our latte and talked to some of the locals. We then went on to find Buffalo Bill’s home. It was located on a huge farm outside of town that now is part of a large state park and recreation area. To get to the farm you passed the Buffalo Bill Rodeo Arena located on Buffalo Bill Drive(do you think they liked their native son)? The farm and house, built as a rest home in between his Wild West shows, is called Scout’s Rest Ranch. There is a large horse barn for his show horses

…And a 1887 2nd Empire style 2 story mansion- the largest and grandest house in the area for its time! 

When we arrived we found out the house and barn were closed—they were short handed due to several staffers contracting Covid. Very disappointing! We walked the grounds and were able to see their small resident herd of Buffalo—mamma and calf were real cute!

Leaving the ranch we headed south then east to the Golden Spike Tower—One of the locals we had spoken with at coffee had recommended it to us. This 8 story observation tower was built overlooking the Bailey Yard and services Union Pacific rail cars. You pay admission on the ground floor and the elevator will take you to the 8th floor viewing area or the 7th floor open air observation deck. Each floor has exhibits chronicling the history of rail cars and their role in the development of the West.

This 2850 acre area is the largest rail yard in the world, with over 12,000 railroad cars handled daily as well as 125 trains! Their service facilities take care of 9,000 locomotives serviced plus 1200 locomotives repaired monthly. Retired railroad volunteers were there to answer our questions regarding train maintenance and management.  Did you know their locomotive fleet burns 18 million gallons of diesel fuel a month? There were at least 750 locomotives on site in various states of condition. It was quite a sight and well worth visiting if you are in the area as you will not see anything like this elsewhere!

We were sad to leave North Platte as we would have liked to have spent more time there, but we shall return!

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