Lincoln County historical sites and family fun | TheFencePost.com

Lincoln County historical sites and family fun

Golden Spike Tower and Visitor Center

North Platte’s heritage stretches back into the past along the steel rails of the Union Pacific tracks that first reached what was to become the largest railroad yard in the world on Nov. 9, 1866. Through nearly constant expansion and reinvestment, Bailey Yard now covers nearly 3,000 acres, with more than 300 miles of track handling 150 trains made up of 15,000 rail cars each day.

All of this incredible action can be seen from the seventh and eighth floor observations decks of the Golden Spike Tower and Visitor Center (1249 N. Homestead Road, 308-532-9920). Completed in June of 2008, the tower provides not only a birds-eye view of the workings of Bailey Yard, but is staffed with enthusiastic and knowledgeable retired railroaders who volunteer their time to share their love of the railroad with their guests. Visitors to the eighth floor enjoy fully-enclosed comfort, while the seventh floor is open to the elements as well as the sounds of the rumbling diesel engines and the clanging of the rail cars as they are sorted in the two hump yards. Throughout the tower, educational displays highlight the history of the yard, milestone events and the people who made it all happen.

One of those important historical figures is Col. William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody. Cody gained his name hunting buffalo to feed the thousands of hungry gandy dancers who built the railroad, although he was under contract with the Kansas Pacific Railroad to the south, not the Union Pacific. Cody arrived in the North Platte area on May 20, 1869, scouting for the Fifth U.S. Calvary under the command of Brvt. Major General E.A. Carr. Their destination was Fort McPherson, an important frontier fort located south of the modern village of Maxwell. Fort McPherson is now Nebraska’s only National Cemetery (12004 South Spur 56A, Maxwell 308-582-4433).

Buffalo Bill liked the area so much he moved his family out and founded a 4,000 acre ranch that he named “Scouts Rest”. In 1882, he was asked by North Platte’s town fathers to organize an Independence Day celebration that he named “The Old Glory Blowout.” The modern-day spectator sport of Rodeo traces its roots back to these festivities, which were held in what is now Cody Park. Cody’s destiny found him in the organization of this event, and less than two years later he took his “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World” on the road, eventually appearing in 1,182 cities in 13 countries and 48 U.S. States.

Today Cody’s legacy in North Platte is memorialized in the Buffalo Bill State Historical Park (2921 Scouts Rest Ranch Road 308-535-8035). His Victorian mansion, Scouts Rest barn and 250 acres of the original ranch are maintained by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. The mansion is decorated for the holidays each year for “Christmas at the Codys” held the week before Christmas. The location of the forerunner of the Wild West Show is commemorated by the Wild West Memorial at the entrance to Cody Park (1400 N. Jeffers), featuring a bronze statue of Cody donated to North Platte by the people of the United Kingdom to honor the esteem in which they held him. A 20,000 piece hand-carved miniature replica of the Wild West Show can be seen at Fort Cody Trading Post (221 Halligan Drive, 308-532-8081), near the junction of Interstate 80 and Highway 83.

In addition to Fort McPherson National Cemetery, tribute is paid to Nebraska’s military veterans at the 20th Century Veterans Memorial (2811 S. Jeffers, 308-532-6579), honoring the five major branches of the armed forces and the five major conflicts of the 20th century with larger than life bronze statues and a 15 foot tall brick bas-relief mural.

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Buffalo Bill’s accomplishments in the arena of showmanship are celebrated each year in Nebraska’s official state celebration, NebraskaLand Days, featuring rodeo, concerts, parades, art shows, stage shows, food and much more, held in mid-June. North Platte’s largest amateur rodeo can be found in Sutherland on July 3 and 4, complete with kids’ games, parade, community barbecue and other activities.

One of the most memorable milestones in North Platte’s long association with Union Pacific Railroad came during World War II. At that time, the majority of troop movements across the U.S. were conducted over Union Pacific’s main line, which traveled right through the heart of North Platte. One week after the attack on Pearl Harbor, North Platte residents responded to a rumor that the Nebraska National Guard Troop D, containing North Platte boys would be coming through. They gathered to meet the train with gifts, homemade goodies and lots of love. When it arrived, it carried Troop D all right, only from Kansas not Nebraska. After several moments of uncomfortable silence, one young woman broke the impasse by declaring that she wasn’t going to take her goodies home, she was going to share them when the boys on the train. Everyone else followed suit. A week later that same young woman, Rae Wilson wrote a letter to the editor that appeared in the North Platte Bulletin urging the town to rally to the cause and start a Canteen.

She found support not only among the citizens, but also from Union Pacific Railroad, which donated the use of the dining room in their Depot. Beginning on Christmas Day 1941 and continuing until April 1st, 1946, this incredible group of volunteers met each and every troop train that came through town, sometimes greeting upwards of 5,000 troops each day. For the duration of its existence, more than 6.5 million service personnel would rush through the doors of the North Platte Canteen for a few moments of warmth and hospitality before heading off to the various fronts of World War II.

Although the Depot was demolished in the early 1970s, the location is denoted by a plaque and memorial park just behind the Parkade Plaza on Front Street in downtown North Platte. The story of the North Platte Canteen, consisting of letters from service men and women, ledgers, memorabilia and photographs is told at the Lincoln County Historical Museum (2403 N. Buffalo Bill Ave., 308-534-5640).

The Lincoln County Historical Museum also contains the largest collection of Native American Artifacts located in Nebraska outside the state Historical Museum and memorabilia from North Platte and Lincoln County’s early years, as well as a Frontier Village complete with churches, schools, Pony Express Station, homes and businesses.

In another nod to North Platte’s railroad heritage, Cody Park contains a Railroad Museum, complete with the only Challenger steam locomotive on static public display, a 6900 series diesel locomotive (the largest ever made) several railroad cars and a restored Depot. In Memorial Park another steam engine, a Union Pacific Class 2-8-0, makes its home.

In 2007, a group of businessmen and community activists from North Platte’s “Original Town” – that area north of the Union Pacific tracks – decided that North Platte needed a festival celebrating all of that railroad heritage, and the annual Rail Fest was inaugurated. Not only does the annual event, held in Cody Park the third weekend in September attract more than 10,000 visitors, the organizers were successful in having North Platte named “Rail Town USA ®” by an act of Congress in 2008. Expect many more tributes to the importance of Union Pacific Railroad in North Platte in the coming years.

The Native Americans who called this area home long before the advent of western civilization and Union Pacific Railroad also left their mark. Twenty-five miles south of North Platte, the Dancing Leaf Cultural Learning Center (6100 East Opal Springs Road, Wellfleet, 308-963-4233) is home to a recreated earthen lodge typical of the Upper Republican culture of 800 to 1300 years ago. The hosts at Dancing Leaf, Les and Jan Hosick, guide guests on a journey back in time that can include an overnight stay in the lodge. The Hosicks also maintain an archeological museum that contains a history of the many fossil type-specimens that have been found in the area, including Archie, the Imperial Mammoth fossil that was unearthed nearby and is now on display in Elephant Hall at the University of Nebraska State Museum in Lincoln.

Other Native American history can be found at the Stones and Bones Gallery and Emporium (105 E. 2nd St., Hershey 308-368-7400), which is a unique gallery of art and artifacts and a premier private collection of native Stone Age artifacts from rural western Nebraska.

If the kids get restless with all this history during a visit to North Platte, their fun hasn’t been forgotten. The North Platte Area Children’s Museum (314 N. Jeffers St. 308-532-3512) is a fun hands-on learning center offering children a place to experience the wonders of science, technology, culture and the arts in a unique and interactive atmosphere. Add even more fun at Cody Go-Karts (805 Halligan Dr. 308-534-8277). There are rides and games for the entire family, including water slides, go kart racetracks, bumper boats and miniature golf. The kiddie attractions in Cody Park (1400 N. Jeffers) include an antique carousel, tiny Ferris wheel and other rides, a wonderful concession stand and an animal display that includes ducks, geese, peacocks, deer, elk, llamas and donkeys. Centennial Park and the North Platte Recreation Complex (1300 McDonald Rd., 308-535-6772) offer a skateboard park, indoor pool and waterslide, indoor basketball and racquetball courts and weight training equipment.

Fun for adults isn’t neglected either, with four public golf courses in the area, Indian Meadows (9 holes, 2746 W. Walker Rd., 308-532-6955), Iron Eagle (18 holes, 2401 Halligan Dr., 308-535-6730), Lake Maloney (18 holes, 608 Birdie Lane, 308-532-9998) and Oregon Trail (9 hole, 31200 Tower Road Sutherland, 308-386-4653.) Another kind of golf – disc golf – can be found at the Flight For 9 course in Cody Park.

Other outdoor recreation opportunities abound, including the shooting sports at Lincoln County Wildlife Gun Club (100 Eagles Nest Rd., 308-532-1694) and Seifer Farms Sporting Clays (1442 S. Seifer Rd., Sutherland (308) 386-8962). Water fun can be had on the three lakes within the Lincoln County borders, Sutherland Reservoir, Lake Maloney and Jeffrey Lake, as well as the Interstate lakes and both the North and South Platte rivers.

If arts and culture are more the nature of a visit to North Platte, there is the Art and Gift Gallery (516 N. Dewey, 308-534-1946) which features five galleries showcasing the work of member artists in the largest co-op gallery in the state. The historic Neville Center for the Performing Arts (301 East 5th St., 308-532-8559) hosts four live theater productions each season as well as performances of the Town Hall Lecture Series, Community Concert Association and other shows each year.

For a little wine to accompany a cultural visit to North Platte, Feather River Vineyards (5700 SE State Farm Rd., 308-696-0078) is open for tastings, private parties and group tours.

Information about all the attractions, activities and events in the communities in Lincoln County can be found at the North Platte/Lincoln County Convention and Visitors Bureau. The office can be reached by phone at (308) 532-4729, by email at mclark@visitnorthplatte.com or on the Internet at http://www.visitnorthplatte.com, http://www.facebook.com/VisitNorthPlatte, http://www.twitter.com/NorthPlatteNEBR.

North Platte’s heritage stretches back into the past along the steel rails of the Union Pacific tracks that first reached what was to become the largest railroad yard in the world on Nov. 9, 1866. Through nearly constant expansion and reinvestment, Bailey Yard now covers nearly 3,000 acres, with more than 300 miles of track handling 150 trains made up of 15,000 rail cars each day.

All of this incredible action can be seen from the seventh and eighth floor observations decks of the Golden Spike Tower and Visitor Center (1249 N. Homestead Road, 308-532-9920). Completed in June of 2008, the tower provides not only a birds-eye view of the workings of Bailey Yard, but is staffed with enthusiastic and knowledgeable retired railroaders who volunteer their time to share their love of the railroad with their guests. Visitors to the eighth floor enjoy fully-enclosed comfort, while the seventh floor is open to the elements as well as the sounds of the rumbling diesel engines and the clanging of the rail cars as they are sorted in the two hump yards. Throughout the tower, educational displays highlight the history of the yard, milestone events and the people who made it all happen.

One of those important historical figures is Col. William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody. Cody gained his name hunting buffalo to feed the thousands of hungry gandy dancers who built the railroad, although he was under contract with the Kansas Pacific Railroad to the south, not the Union Pacific. Cody arrived in the North Platte area on May 20, 1869, scouting for the Fifth U.S. Calvary under the command of Brvt. Major General E.A. Carr. Their destination was Fort McPherson, an important frontier fort located south of the modern village of Maxwell. Fort McPherson is now Nebraska’s only National Cemetery (12004 South Spur 56A, Maxwell 308-582-4433).

Buffalo Bill liked the area so much he moved his family out and founded a 4,000 acre ranch that he named “Scouts Rest”. In 1882, he was asked by North Platte’s town fathers to organize an Independence Day celebration that he named “The Old Glory Blowout.” The modern-day spectator sport of Rodeo traces its roots back to these festivities, which were held in what is now Cody Park. Cody’s destiny found him in the organization of this event, and less than two years later he took his “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World” on the road, eventually appearing in 1,182 cities in 13 countries and 48 U.S. States.

Today Cody’s legacy in North Platte is memorialized in the Buffalo Bill State Historical Park (2921 Scouts Rest Ranch Road 308-535-8035). His Victorian mansion, Scouts Rest barn and 250 acres of the original ranch are maintained by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. The mansion is decorated for the holidays each year for “Christmas at the Codys” held the week before Christmas. The location of the forerunner of the Wild West Show is commemorated by the Wild West Memorial at the entrance to Cody Park (1400 N. Jeffers), featuring a bronze statue of Cody donated to North Platte by the people of the United Kingdom to honor the esteem in which they held him. A 20,000 piece hand-carved miniature replica of the Wild West Show can be seen at Fort Cody Trading Post (221 Halligan Drive, 308-532-8081), near the junction of Interstate 80 and Highway 83.

In addition to Fort McPherson National Cemetery, tribute is paid to Nebraska’s military veterans at the 20th Century Veterans Memorial (2811 S. Jeffers, 308-532-6579), honoring the five major branches of the armed forces and the five major conflicts of the 20th century with larger than life bronze statues and a 15 foot tall brick bas-relief mural.

Buffalo Bill’s accomplishments in the arena of showmanship are celebrated each year in Nebraska’s official state celebration, NebraskaLand Days, featuring rodeo, concerts, parades, art shows, stage shows, food and much more, held in mid-June. North Platte’s largest amateur rodeo can be found in Sutherland on July 3 and 4, complete with kids’ games, parade, community barbecue and other activities.

One of the most memorable milestones in North Platte’s long association with Union Pacific Railroad came during World War II. At that time, the majority of troop movements across the U.S. were conducted over Union Pacific’s main line, which traveled right through the heart of North Platte. One week after the attack on Pearl Harbor, North Platte residents responded to a rumor that the Nebraska National Guard Troop D, containing North Platte boys would be coming through. They gathered to meet the train with gifts, homemade goodies and lots of love. When it arrived, it carried Troop D all right, only from Kansas not Nebraska. After several moments of uncomfortable silence, one young woman broke the impasse by declaring that she wasn’t going to take her goodies home, she was going to share them when the boys on the train. Everyone else followed suit. A week later that same young woman, Rae Wilson wrote a letter to the editor that appeared in the North Platte Bulletin urging the town to rally to the cause and start a Canteen.

She found support not only among the citizens, but also from Union Pacific Railroad, which donated the use of the dining room in their Depot. Beginning on Christmas Day 1941 and continuing until April 1st, 1946, this incredible group of volunteers met each and every troop train that came through town, sometimes greeting upwards of 5,000 troops each day. For the duration of its existence, more than 6.5 million service personnel would rush through the doors of the North Platte Canteen for a few moments of warmth and hospitality before heading off to the various fronts of World War II.

Although the Depot was demolished in the early 1970s, the location is denoted by a plaque and memorial park just behind the Parkade Plaza on Front Street in downtown North Platte. The story of the North Platte Canteen, consisting of letters from service men and women, ledgers, memorabilia and photographs is told at the Lincoln County Historical Museum (2403 N. Buffalo Bill Ave., 308-534-5640).

The Lincoln County Historical Museum also contains the largest collection of Native American Artifacts located in Nebraska outside the state Historical Museum and memorabilia from North Platte and Lincoln County’s early years, as well as a Frontier Village complete with churches, schools, Pony Express Station, homes and businesses.

In another nod to North Platte’s railroad heritage, Cody Park contains a Railroad Museum, complete with the only Challenger steam locomotive on static public display, a 6900 series diesel locomotive (the largest ever made) several railroad cars and a restored Depot. In Memorial Park another steam engine, a Union Pacific Class 2-8-0, makes its home.

In 2007, a group of businessmen and community activists from North Platte’s “Original Town” – that area north of the Union Pacific tracks – decided that North Platte needed a festival celebrating all of that railroad heritage, and the annual Rail Fest was inaugurated. Not only does the annual event, held in Cody Park the third weekend in September attract more than 10,000 visitors, the organizers were successful in having North Platte named “Rail Town USA ®” by an act of Congress in 2008. Expect many more tributes to the importance of Union Pacific Railroad in North Platte in the coming years.

The Native Americans who called this area home long before the advent of western civilization and Union Pacific Railroad also left their mark. Twenty-five miles south of North Platte, the Dancing Leaf Cultural Learning Center (6100 East Opal Springs Road, Wellfleet, 308-963-4233) is home to a recreated earthen lodge typical of the Upper Republican culture of 800 to 1300 years ago. The hosts at Dancing Leaf, Les and Jan Hosick, guide guests on a journey back in time that can include an overnight stay in the lodge. The Hosicks also maintain an archeological museum that contains a history of the many fossil type-specimens that have been found in the area, including Archie, the Imperial Mammoth fossil that was unearthed nearby and is now on display in Elephant Hall at the University of Nebraska State Museum in Lincoln.

Other Native American history can be found at the Stones and Bones Gallery and Emporium (105 E. 2nd St., Hershey 308-368-7400), which is a unique gallery of art and artifacts and a premier private collection of native Stone Age artifacts from rural western Nebraska.

If the kids get restless with all this history during a visit to North Platte, their fun hasn’t been forgotten. The North Platte Area Children’s Museum (314 N. Jeffers St. 308-532-3512) is a fun hands-on learning center offering children a place to experience the wonders of science, technology, culture and the arts in a unique and interactive atmosphere. Add even more fun at Cody Go-Karts (805 Halligan Dr. 308-534-8277). There are rides and games for the entire family, including water slides, go kart racetracks, bumper boats and miniature golf. The kiddie attractions in Cody Park (1400 N. Jeffers) include an antique carousel, tiny Ferris wheel and other rides, a wonderful concession stand and an animal display that includes ducks, geese, peacocks, deer, elk, llamas and donkeys. Centennial Park and the North Platte Recreation Complex (1300 McDonald Rd., 308-535-6772) offer a skateboard park, indoor pool and waterslide, indoor basketball and racquetball courts and weight training equipment.

Fun for adults isn’t neglected either, with four public golf courses in the area, Indian Meadows (9 holes, 2746 W. Walker Rd., 308-532-6955), Iron Eagle (18 holes, 2401 Halligan Dr., 308-535-6730), Lake Maloney (18 holes, 608 Birdie Lane, 308-532-9998) and Oregon Trail (9 hole, 31200 Tower Road Sutherland, 308-386-4653.) Another kind of golf – disc golf – can be found at the Flight For 9 course in Cody Park.

Other outdoor recreation opportunities abound, including the shooting sports at Lincoln County Wildlife Gun Club (100 Eagles Nest Rd., 308-532-1694) and Seifer Farms Sporting Clays (1442 S. Seifer Rd., Sutherland (308) 386-8962). Water fun can be had on the three lakes within the Lincoln County borders, Sutherland Reservoir, Lake Maloney and Jeffrey Lake, as well as the Interstate lakes and both the North and South Platte rivers.

If arts and culture are more the nature of a visit to North Platte, there is the Art and Gift Gallery (516 N. Dewey, 308-534-1946) which features five galleries showcasing the work of member artists in the largest co-op gallery in the state. The historic Neville Center for the Performing Arts (301 East 5th St., 308-532-8559) hosts four live theater productions each season as well as performances of the Town Hall Lecture Series, Community Concert Association and other shows each year.

For a little wine to accompany a cultural visit to North Platte, Feather River Vineyards (5700 SE State Farm Rd., 308-696-0078) is open for tastings, private parties and group tours.

Information about all the attractions, activities and events in the communities in Lincoln County can be found at the North Platte/Lincoln County Convention and Visitors Bureau. The office can be reached by phone at (308) 532-4729, by email at mclark@visitnorthplatte.com or on the Internet at http://www.visitnorthplatte.com, http://www.facebook.com/VisitNorthPlatte, http://www.twitter.com/NorthPlatteNEBR.

North Platte’s heritage stretches back into the past along the steel rails of the Union Pacific tracks that first reached what was to become the largest railroad yard in the world on Nov. 9, 1866. Through nearly constant expansion and reinvestment, Bailey Yard now covers nearly 3,000 acres, with more than 300 miles of track handling 150 trains made up of 15,000 rail cars each day.

All of this incredible action can be seen from the seventh and eighth floor observations decks of the Golden Spike Tower and Visitor Center (1249 N. Homestead Road, 308-532-9920). Completed in June of 2008, the tower provides not only a birds-eye view of the workings of Bailey Yard, but is staffed with enthusiastic and knowledgeable retired railroaders who volunteer their time to share their love of the railroad with their guests. Visitors to the eighth floor enjoy fully-enclosed comfort, while the seventh floor is open to the elements as well as the sounds of the rumbling diesel engines and the clanging of the rail cars as they are sorted in the two hump yards. Throughout the tower, educational displays highlight the history of the yard, milestone events and the people who made it all happen.

One of those important historical figures is Col. William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody. Cody gained his name hunting buffalo to feed the thousands of hungry gandy dancers who built the railroad, although he was under contract with the Kansas Pacific Railroad to the south, not the Union Pacific. Cody arrived in the North Platte area on May 20, 1869, scouting for the Fifth U.S. Calvary under the command of Brvt. Major General E.A. Carr. Their destination was Fort McPherson, an important frontier fort located south of the modern village of Maxwell. Fort McPherson is now Nebraska’s only National Cemetery (12004 South Spur 56A, Maxwell 308-582-4433).

Buffalo Bill liked the area so much he moved his family out and founded a 4,000 acre ranch that he named “Scouts Rest”. In 1882, he was asked by North Platte’s town fathers to organize an Independence Day celebration that he named “The Old Glory Blowout.” The modern-day spectator sport of Rodeo traces its roots back to these festivities, which were held in what is now Cody Park. Cody’s destiny found him in the organization of this event, and less than two years later he took his “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World” on the road, eventually appearing in 1,182 cities in 13 countries and 48 U.S. States.

Today Cody’s legacy in North Platte is memorialized in the Buffalo Bill State Historical Park (2921 Scouts Rest Ranch Road 308-535-8035). His Victorian mansion, Scouts Rest barn and 250 acres of the original ranch are maintained by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. The mansion is decorated for the holidays each year for “Christmas at the Codys” held the week before Christmas. The location of the forerunner of the Wild West Show is commemorated by the Wild West Memorial at the entrance to Cody Park (1400 N. Jeffers), featuring a bronze statue of Cody donated to North Platte by the people of the United Kingdom to honor the esteem in which they held him. A 20,000 piece hand-carved miniature replica of the Wild West Show can be seen at Fort Cody Trading Post (221 Halligan Drive, 308-532-8081), near the junction of Interstate 80 and Highway 83.

In addition to Fort McPherson National Cemetery, tribute is paid to Nebraska’s military veterans at the 20th Century Veterans Memorial (2811 S. Jeffers, 308-532-6579), honoring the five major branches of the armed forces and the five major conflicts of the 20th century with larger than life bronze statues and a 15 foot tall brick bas-relief mural.

Buffalo Bill’s accomplishments in the arena of showmanship are celebrated each year in Nebraska’s official state celebration, NebraskaLand Days, featuring rodeo, concerts, parades, art shows, stage shows, food and much more, held in mid-June. North Platte’s largest amateur rodeo can be found in Sutherland on July 3 and 4, complete with kids’ games, parade, community barbecue and other activities.

One of the most memorable milestones in North Platte’s long association with Union Pacific Railroad came during World War II. At that time, the majority of troop movements across the U.S. were conducted over Union Pacific’s main line, which traveled right through the heart of North Platte. One week after the attack on Pearl Harbor, North Platte residents responded to a rumor that the Nebraska National Guard Troop D, containing North Platte boys would be coming through. They gathered to meet the train with gifts, homemade goodies and lots of love. When it arrived, it carried Troop D all right, only from Kansas not Nebraska. After several moments of uncomfortable silence, one young woman broke the impasse by declaring that she wasn’t going to take her goodies home, she was going to share them when the boys on the train. Everyone else followed suit. A week later that same young woman, Rae Wilson wrote a letter to the editor that appeared in the North Platte Bulletin urging the town to rally to the cause and start a Canteen.

She found support not only among the citizens, but also from Union Pacific Railroad, which donated the use of the dining room in their Depot. Beginning on Christmas Day 1941 and continuing until April 1st, 1946, this incredible group of volunteers met each and every troop train that came through town, sometimes greeting upwards of 5,000 troops each day. For the duration of its existence, more than 6.5 million service personnel would rush through the doors of the North Platte Canteen for a few moments of warmth and hospitality before heading off to the various fronts of World War II.

Although the Depot was demolished in the early 1970s, the location is denoted by a plaque and memorial park just behind the Parkade Plaza on Front Street in downtown North Platte. The story of the North Platte Canteen, consisting of letters from service men and women, ledgers, memorabilia and photographs is told at the Lincoln County Historical Museum (2403 N. Buffalo Bill Ave., 308-534-5640).

The Lincoln County Historical Museum also contains the largest collection of Native American Artifacts located in Nebraska outside the state Historical Museum and memorabilia from North Platte and Lincoln County’s early years, as well as a Frontier Village complete with churches, schools, Pony Express Station, homes and businesses.

In another nod to North Platte’s railroad heritage, Cody Park contains a Railroad Museum, complete with the only Challenger steam locomotive on static public display, a 6900 series diesel locomotive (the largest ever made) several railroad cars and a restored Depot. In Memorial Park another steam engine, a Union Pacific Class 2-8-0, makes its home.

In 2007, a group of businessmen and community activists from North Platte’s “Original Town” – that area north of the Union Pacific tracks – decided that North Platte needed a festival celebrating all of that railroad heritage, and the annual Rail Fest was inaugurated. Not only does the annual event, held in Cody Park the third weekend in September attract more than 10,000 visitors, the organizers were successful in having North Platte named “Rail Town USA ®” by an act of Congress in 2008. Expect many more tributes to the importance of Union Pacific Railroad in North Platte in the coming years.

The Native Americans who called this area home long before the advent of western civilization and Union Pacific Railroad also left their mark. Twenty-five miles south of North Platte, the Dancing Leaf Cultural Learning Center (6100 East Opal Springs Road, Wellfleet, 308-963-4233) is home to a recreated earthen lodge typical of the Upper Republican culture of 800 to 1300 years ago. The hosts at Dancing Leaf, Les and Jan Hosick, guide guests on a journey back in time that can include an overnight stay in the lodge. The Hosicks also maintain an archeological museum that contains a history of the many fossil type-specimens that have been found in the area, including Archie, the Imperial Mammoth fossil that was unearthed nearby and is now on display in Elephant Hall at the University of Nebraska State Museum in Lincoln.

Other Native American history can be found at the Stones and Bones Gallery and Emporium (105 E. 2nd St., Hershey 308-368-7400), which is a unique gallery of art and artifacts and a premier private collection of native Stone Age artifacts from rural western Nebraska.

If the kids get restless with all this history during a visit to North Platte, their fun hasn’t been forgotten. The North Platte Area Children’s Museum (314 N. Jeffers St. 308-532-3512) is a fun hands-on learning center offering children a place to experience the wonders of science, technology, culture and the arts in a unique and interactive atmosphere. Add even more fun at Cody Go-Karts (805 Halligan Dr. 308-534-8277). There are rides and games for the entire family, including water slides, go kart racetracks, bumper boats and miniature golf. The kiddie attractions in Cody Park (1400 N. Jeffers) include an antique carousel, tiny Ferris wheel and other rides, a wonderful concession stand and an animal display that includes ducks, geese, peacocks, deer, elk, llamas and donkeys. Centennial Park and the North Platte Recreation Complex (1300 McDonald Rd., 308-535-6772) offer a skateboard park, indoor pool and waterslide, indoor basketball and racquetball courts and weight training equipment.

Fun for adults isn’t neglected either, with four public golf courses in the area, Indian Meadows (9 holes, 2746 W. Walker Rd., 308-532-6955), Iron Eagle (18 holes, 2401 Halligan Dr., 308-535-6730), Lake Maloney (18 holes, 608 Birdie Lane, 308-532-9998) and Oregon Trail (9 hole, 31200 Tower Road Sutherland, 308-386-4653.) Another kind of golf – disc golf – can be found at the Flight For 9 course in Cody Park.

Other outdoor recreation opportunities abound, including the shooting sports at Lincoln County Wildlife Gun Club (100 Eagles Nest Rd., 308-532-1694) and Seifer Farms Sporting Clays (1442 S. Seifer Rd., Sutherland (308) 386-8962). Water fun can be had on the three lakes within the Lincoln County borders, Sutherland Reservoir, Lake Maloney and Jeffrey Lake, as well as the Interstate lakes and both the North and South Platte rivers.

If arts and culture are more the nature of a visit to North Platte, there is the Art and Gift Gallery (516 N. Dewey, 308-534-1946) which features five galleries showcasing the work of member artists in the largest co-op gallery in the state. The historic Neville Center for the Performing Arts (301 East 5th St., 308-532-8559) hosts four live theater productions each season as well as performances of the Town Hall Lecture Series, Community Concert Association and other shows each year.

For a little wine to accompany a cultural visit to North Platte, Feather River Vineyards (5700 SE State Farm Rd., 308-696-0078) is open for tastings, private parties and group tours.

Information about all the attractions, activities and events in the communities in Lincoln County can be found at the North Platte/Lincoln County Convention and Visitors Bureau. The office can be reached by phone at (308) 532-4729, by email at mclark@visitnorthplatte.com or on the Internet at http://www.visitnorthplatte.com, http://www.facebook.com/VisitNorthPlatte, http://www.twitter.com/NorthPlatteNEBR.

North Platte’s heritage stretches back into the past along the steel rails of the Union Pacific tracks that first reached what was to become the largest railroad yard in the world on Nov. 9, 1866. Through nearly constant expansion and reinvestment, Bailey Yard now covers nearly 3,000 acres, with more than 300 miles of track handling 150 trains made up of 15,000 rail cars each day.

All of this incredible action can be seen from the seventh and eighth floor observations decks of the Golden Spike Tower and Visitor Center (1249 N. Homestead Road, 308-532-9920). Completed in June of 2008, the tower provides not only a birds-eye view of the workings of Bailey Yard, but is staffed with enthusiastic and knowledgeable retired railroaders who volunteer their time to share their love of the railroad with their guests. Visitors to the eighth floor enjoy fully-enclosed comfort, while the seventh floor is open to the elements as well as the sounds of the rumbling diesel engines and the clanging of the rail cars as they are sorted in the two hump yards. Throughout the tower, educational displays highlight the history of the yard, milestone events and the people who made it all happen.

One of those important historical figures is Col. William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody. Cody gained his name hunting buffalo to feed the thousands of hungry gandy dancers who built the railroad, although he was under contract with the Kansas Pacific Railroad to the south, not the Union Pacific. Cody arrived in the North Platte area on May 20, 1869, scouting for the Fifth U.S. Calvary under the command of Brvt. Major General E.A. Carr. Their destination was Fort McPherson, an important frontier fort located south of the modern village of Maxwell. Fort McPherson is now Nebraska’s only National Cemetery (12004 South Spur 56A, Maxwell 308-582-4433).

Buffalo Bill liked the area so much he moved his family out and founded a 4,000 acre ranch that he named “Scouts Rest”. In 1882, he was asked by North Platte’s town fathers to organize an Independence Day celebration that he named “The Old Glory Blowout.” The modern-day spectator sport of Rodeo traces its roots back to these festivities, which were held in what is now Cody Park. Cody’s destiny found him in the organization of this event, and less than two years later he took his “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World” on the road, eventually appearing in 1,182 cities in 13 countries and 48 U.S. States.

Today Cody’s legacy in North Platte is memorialized in the Buffalo Bill State Historical Park (2921 Scouts Rest Ranch Road 308-535-8035). His Victorian mansion, Scouts Rest barn and 250 acres of the original ranch are maintained by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. The mansion is decorated for the holidays each year for “Christmas at the Codys” held the week before Christmas. The location of the forerunner of the Wild West Show is commemorated by the Wild West Memorial at the entrance to Cody Park (1400 N. Jeffers), featuring a bronze statue of Cody donated to North Platte by the people of the United Kingdom to honor the esteem in which they held him. A 20,000 piece hand-carved miniature replica of the Wild West Show can be seen at Fort Cody Trading Post (221 Halligan Drive, 308-532-8081), near the junction of Interstate 80 and Highway 83.

In addition to Fort McPherson National Cemetery, tribute is paid to Nebraska’s military veterans at the 20th Century Veterans Memorial (2811 S. Jeffers, 308-532-6579), honoring the five major branches of the armed forces and the five major conflicts of the 20th century with larger than life bronze statues and a 15 foot tall brick bas-relief mural.

Buffalo Bill’s accomplishments in the arena of showmanship are celebrated each year in Nebraska’s official state celebration, NebraskaLand Days, featuring rodeo, concerts, parades, art shows, stage shows, food and much more, held in mid-June. North Platte’s largest amateur rodeo can be found in Sutherland on July 3 and 4, complete with kids’ games, parade, community barbecue and other activities.

One of the most memorable milestones in North Platte’s long association with Union Pacific Railroad came during World War II. At that time, the majority of troop movements across the U.S. were conducted over Union Pacific’s main line, which traveled right through the heart of North Platte. One week after the attack on Pearl Harbor, North Platte residents responded to a rumor that the Nebraska National Guard Troop D, containing North Platte boys would be coming through. They gathered to meet the train with gifts, homemade goodies and lots of love. When it arrived, it carried Troop D all right, only from Kansas not Nebraska. After several moments of uncomfortable silence, one young woman broke the impasse by declaring that she wasn’t going to take her goodies home, she was going to share them when the boys on the train. Everyone else followed suit. A week later that same young woman, Rae Wilson wrote a letter to the editor that appeared in the North Platte Bulletin urging the town to rally to the cause and start a Canteen.

She found support not only among the citizens, but also from Union Pacific Railroad, which donated the use of the dining room in their Depot. Beginning on Christmas Day 1941 and continuing until April 1st, 1946, this incredible group of volunteers met each and every troop train that came through town, sometimes greeting upwards of 5,000 troops each day. For the duration of its existence, more than 6.5 million service personnel would rush through the doors of the North Platte Canteen for a few moments of warmth and hospitality before heading off to the various fronts of World War II.

Although the Depot was demolished in the early 1970s, the location is denoted by a plaque and memorial park just behind the Parkade Plaza on Front Street in downtown North Platte. The story of the North Platte Canteen, consisting of letters from service men and women, ledgers, memorabilia and photographs is told at the Lincoln County Historical Museum (2403 N. Buffalo Bill Ave., 308-534-5640).

The Lincoln County Historical Museum also contains the largest collection of Native American Artifacts located in Nebraska outside the state Historical Museum and memorabilia from North Platte and Lincoln County’s early years, as well as a Frontier Village complete with churches, schools, Pony Express Station, homes and businesses.

In another nod to North Platte’s railroad heritage, Cody Park contains a Railroad Museum, complete with the only Challenger steam locomotive on static public display, a 6900 series diesel locomotive (the largest ever made) several railroad cars and a restored Depot. In Memorial Park another steam engine, a Union Pacific Class 2-8-0, makes its home.

In 2007, a group of businessmen and community activists from North Platte’s “Original Town” – that area north of the Union Pacific tracks – decided that North Platte needed a festival celebrating all of that railroad heritage, and the annual Rail Fest was inaugurated. Not only does the annual event, held in Cody Park the third weekend in September attract more than 10,000 visitors, the organizers were successful in having North Platte named “Rail Town USA ®” by an act of Congress in 2008. Expect many more tributes to the importance of Union Pacific Railroad in North Platte in the coming years.

The Native Americans who called this area home long before the advent of western civilization and Union Pacific Railroad also left their mark. Twenty-five miles south of North Platte, the Dancing Leaf Cultural Learning Center (6100 East Opal Springs Road, Wellfleet, 308-963-4233) is home to a recreated earthen lodge typical of the Upper Republican culture of 800 to 1300 years ago. The hosts at Dancing Leaf, Les and Jan Hosick, guide guests on a journey back in time that can include an overnight stay in the lodge. The Hosicks also maintain an archeological museum that contains a history of the many fossil type-specimens that have been found in the area, including Archie, the Imperial Mammoth fossil that was unearthed nearby and is now on display in Elephant Hall at the University of Nebraska State Museum in Lincoln.

Other Native American history can be found at the Stones and Bones Gallery and Emporium (105 E. 2nd St., Hershey 308-368-7400), which is a unique gallery of art and artifacts and a premier private collection of native Stone Age artifacts from rural western Nebraska.

If the kids get restless with all this history during a visit to North Platte, their fun hasn’t been forgotten. The North Platte Area Children’s Museum (314 N. Jeffers St. 308-532-3512) is a fun hands-on learning center offering children a place to experience the wonders of science, technology, culture and the arts in a unique and interactive atmosphere. Add even more fun at Cody Go-Karts (805 Halligan Dr. 308-534-8277). There are rides and games for the entire family, including water slides, go kart racetracks, bumper boats and miniature golf. The kiddie attractions in Cody Park (1400 N. Jeffers) include an antique carousel, tiny Ferris wheel and other rides, a wonderful concession stand and an animal display that includes ducks, geese, peacocks, deer, elk, llamas and donkeys. Centennial Park and the North Platte Recreation Complex (1300 McDonald Rd., 308-535-6772) offer a skateboard park, indoor pool and waterslide, indoor basketball and racquetball courts and weight training equipment.

Fun for adults isn’t neglected either, with four public golf courses in the area, Indian Meadows (9 holes, 2746 W. Walker Rd., 308-532-6955), Iron Eagle (18 holes, 2401 Halligan Dr., 308-535-6730), Lake Maloney (18 holes, 608 Birdie Lane, 308-532-9998) and Oregon Trail (9 hole, 31200 Tower Road Sutherland, 308-386-4653.) Another kind of golf – disc golf – can be found at the Flight For 9 course in Cody Park.

Other outdoor recreation opportunities abound, including the shooting sports at Lincoln County Wildlife Gun Club (100 Eagles Nest Rd., 308-532-1694) and Seifer Farms Sporting Clays (1442 S. Seifer Rd., Sutherland (308) 386-8962). Water fun can be had on the three lakes within the Lincoln County borders, Sutherland Reservoir, Lake Maloney and Jeffrey Lake, as well as the Interstate lakes and both the North and South Platte rivers.

If arts and culture are more the nature of a visit to North Platte, there is the Art and Gift Gallery (516 N. Dewey, 308-534-1946) which features five galleries showcasing the work of member artists in the largest co-op gallery in the state. The historic Neville Center for the Performing Arts (301 East 5th St., 308-532-8559) hosts four live theater productions each season as well as performances of the Town Hall Lecture Series, Community Concert Association and other shows each year.

For a little wine to accompany a cultural visit to North Platte, Feather River Vineyards (5700 SE State Farm Rd., 308-696-0078) is open for tastings, private parties and group tours.

Information about all the attractions, activities and events in the communities in Lincoln County can be found at the North Platte/Lincoln County Convention and Visitors Bureau. The office can be reached by phone at (308) 532-4729, by email at mclark@visitnorthplatte.com or on the Internet at http://www.visitnorthplatte.com, http://www.facebook.com/VisitNorthPlatte, http://www.twitter.com/NorthPlatteNEBR.

North Platte’s heritage stretches back into the past along the steel rails of the Union Pacific tracks that first reached what was to become the largest railroad yard in the world on Nov. 9, 1866. Through nearly constant expansion and reinvestment, Bailey Yard now covers nearly 3,000 acres, with more than 300 miles of track handling 150 trains made up of 15,000 rail cars each day.

All of this incredible action can be seen from the seventh and eighth floor observations decks of the Golden Spike Tower and Visitor Center (1249 N. Homestead Road, 308-532-9920). Completed in June of 2008, the tower provides not only a birds-eye view of the workings of Bailey Yard, but is staffed with enthusiastic and knowledgeable retired railroaders who volunteer their time to share their love of the railroad with their guests. Visitors to the eighth floor enjoy fully-enclosed comfort, while the seventh floor is open to the elements as well as the sounds of the rumbling diesel engines and the clanging of the rail cars as they are sorted in the two hump yards. Throughout the tower, educational displays highlight the history of the yard, milestone events and the people who made it all happen.

One of those important historical figures is Col. William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody. Cody gained his name hunting buffalo to feed the thousands of hungry gandy dancers who built the railroad, although he was under contract with the Kansas Pacific Railroad to the south, not the Union Pacific. Cody arrived in the North Platte area on May 20, 1869, scouting for the Fifth U.S. Calvary under the command of Brvt. Major General E.A. Carr. Their destination was Fort McPherson, an important frontier fort located south of the modern village of Maxwell. Fort McPherson is now Nebraska’s only National Cemetery (12004 South Spur 56A, Maxwell 308-582-4433).

Buffalo Bill liked the area so much he moved his family out and founded a 4,000 acre ranch that he named “Scouts Rest”. In 1882, he was asked by North Platte’s town fathers to organize an Independence Day celebration that he named “The Old Glory Blowout.” The modern-day spectator sport of Rodeo traces its roots back to these festivities, which were held in what is now Cody Park. Cody’s destiny found him in the organization of this event, and less than two years later he took his “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World” on the road, eventually appearing in 1,182 cities in 13 countries and 48 U.S. States.

Today Cody’s legacy in North Platte is memorialized in the Buffalo Bill State Historical Park (2921 Scouts Rest Ranch Road 308-535-8035). His Victorian mansion, Scouts Rest barn and 250 acres of the original ranch are maintained by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. The mansion is decorated for the holidays each year for “Christmas at the Codys” held the week before Christmas. The location of the forerunner of the Wild West Show is commemorated by the Wild West Memorial at the entrance to Cody Park (1400 N. Jeffers), featuring a bronze statue of Cody donated to North Platte by the people of the United Kingdom to honor the esteem in which they held him. A 20,000 piece hand-carved miniature replica of the Wild West Show can be seen at Fort Cody Trading Post (221 Halligan Drive, 308-532-8081), near the junction of Interstate 80 and Highway 83.

In addition to Fort McPherson National Cemetery, tribute is paid to Nebraska’s military veterans at the 20th Century Veterans Memorial (2811 S. Jeffers, 308-532-6579), honoring the five major branches of the armed forces and the five major conflicts of the 20th century with larger than life bronze statues and a 15 foot tall brick bas-relief mural.

Buffalo Bill’s accomplishments in the arena of showmanship are celebrated each year in Nebraska’s official state celebration, NebraskaLand Days, featuring rodeo, concerts, parades, art shows, stage shows, food and much more, held in mid-June. North Platte’s largest amateur rodeo can be found in Sutherland on July 3 and 4, complete with kids’ games, parade, community barbecue and other activities.

One of the most memorable milestones in North Platte’s long association with Union Pacific Railroad came during World War II. At that time, the majority of troop movements across the U.S. were conducted over Union Pacific’s main line, which traveled right through the heart of North Platte. One week after the attack on Pearl Harbor, North Platte residents responded to a rumor that the Nebraska National Guard Troop D, containing North Platte boys would be coming through. They gathered to meet the train with gifts, homemade goodies and lots of love. When it arrived, it carried Troop D all right, only from Kansas not Nebraska. After several moments of uncomfortable silence, one young woman broke the impasse by declaring that she wasn’t going to take her goodies home, she was going to share them when the boys on the train. Everyone else followed suit. A week later that same young woman, Rae Wilson wrote a letter to the editor that appeared in the North Platte Bulletin urging the town to rally to the cause and start a Canteen.

She found support not only among the citizens, but also from Union Pacific Railroad, which donated the use of the dining room in their Depot. Beginning on Christmas Day 1941 and continuing until April 1st, 1946, this incredible group of volunteers met each and every troop train that came through town, sometimes greeting upwards of 5,000 troops each day. For the duration of its existence, more than 6.5 million service personnel would rush through the doors of the North Platte Canteen for a few moments of warmth and hospitality before heading off to the various fronts of World War II.

Although the Depot was demolished in the early 1970s, the location is denoted by a plaque and memorial park just behind the Parkade Plaza on Front Street in downtown North Platte. The story of the North Platte Canteen, consisting of letters from service men and women, ledgers, memorabilia and photographs is told at the Lincoln County Historical Museum (2403 N. Buffalo Bill Ave., 308-534-5640).

The Lincoln County Historical Museum also contains the largest collection of Native American Artifacts located in Nebraska outside the state Historical Museum and memorabilia from North Platte and Lincoln County’s early years, as well as a Frontier Village complete with churches, schools, Pony Express Station, homes and businesses.

In another nod to North Platte’s railroad heritage, Cody Park contains a Railroad Museum, complete with the only Challenger steam locomotive on static public display, a 6900 series diesel locomotive (the largest ever made) several railroad cars and a restored Depot. In Memorial Park another steam engine, a Union Pacific Class 2-8-0, makes its home.

In 2007, a group of businessmen and community activists from North Platte’s “Original Town” – that area north of the Union Pacific tracks – decided that North Platte needed a festival celebrating all of that railroad heritage, and the annual Rail Fest was inaugurated. Not only does the annual event, held in Cody Park the third weekend in September attract more than 10,000 visitors, the organizers were successful in having North Platte named “Rail Town USA ®” by an act of Congress in 2008. Expect many more tributes to the importance of Union Pacific Railroad in North Platte in the coming years.

The Native Americans who called this area home long before the advent of western civilization and Union Pacific Railroad also left their mark. Twenty-five miles south of North Platte, the Dancing Leaf Cultural Learning Center (6100 East Opal Springs Road, Wellfleet, 308-963-4233) is home to a recreated earthen lodge typical of the Upper Republican culture of 800 to 1300 years ago. The hosts at Dancing Leaf, Les and Jan Hosick, guide guests on a journey back in time that can include an overnight stay in the lodge. The Hosicks also maintain an archeological museum that contains a history of the many fossil type-specimens that have been found in the area, including Archie, the Imperial Mammoth fossil that was unearthed nearby and is now on display in Elephant Hall at the University of Nebraska State Museum in Lincoln.

Other Native American history can be found at the Stones and Bones Gallery and Emporium (105 E. 2nd St., Hershey 308-368-7400), which is a unique gallery of art and artifacts and a premier private collection of native Stone Age artifacts from rural western Nebraska.

If the kids get restless with all this history during a visit to North Platte, their fun hasn’t been forgotten. The North Platte Area Children’s Museum (314 N. Jeffers St. 308-532-3512) is a fun hands-on learning center offering children a place to experience the wonders of science, technology, culture and the arts in a unique and interactive atmosphere. Add even more fun at Cody Go-Karts (805 Halligan Dr. 308-534-8277). There are rides and games for the entire family, including water slides, go kart racetracks, bumper boats and miniature golf. The kiddie attractions in Cody Park (1400 N. Jeffers) include an antique carousel, tiny Ferris wheel and other rides, a wonderful concession stand and an animal display that includes ducks, geese, peacocks, deer, elk, llamas and donkeys. Centennial Park and the North Platte Recreation Complex (1300 McDonald Rd., 308-535-6772) offer a skateboard park, indoor pool and waterslide, indoor basketball and racquetball courts and weight training equipment.

Fun for adults isn’t neglected either, with four public golf courses in the area, Indian Meadows (9 holes, 2746 W. Walker Rd., 308-532-6955), Iron Eagle (18 holes, 2401 Halligan Dr., 308-535-6730), Lake Maloney (18 holes, 608 Birdie Lane, 308-532-9998) and Oregon Trail (9 hole, 31200 Tower Road Sutherland, 308-386-4653.) Another kind of golf – disc golf – can be found at the Flight For 9 course in Cody Park.

Other outdoor recreation opportunities abound, including the shooting sports at Lincoln County Wildlife Gun Club (100 Eagles Nest Rd., 308-532-1694) and Seifer Farms Sporting Clays (1442 S. Seifer Rd., Sutherland (308) 386-8962). Water fun can be had on the three lakes within the Lincoln County borders, Sutherland Reservoir, Lake Maloney and Jeffrey Lake, as well as the Interstate lakes and both the North and South Platte rivers.

If arts and culture are more the nature of a visit to North Platte, there is the Art and Gift Gallery (516 N. Dewey, 308-534-1946) which features five galleries showcasing the work of member artists in the largest co-op gallery in the state. The historic Neville Center for the Performing Arts (301 East 5th St., 308-532-8559) hosts four live theater productions each season as well as performances of the Town Hall Lecture Series, Community Concert Association and other shows each year.

For a little wine to accompany a cultural visit to North Platte, Feather River Vineyards (5700 SE State Farm Rd., 308-696-0078) is open for tastings, private parties and group tours.

Information about all the attractions, activities and events in the communities in Lincoln County can be found at the North Platte/Lincoln County Convention and Visitors Bureau. The office can be reached by phone at (308) 532-4729, by email at mclark@visitnorthplatte.com or on the Internet at http://www.visitnorthplatte.com, http://www.facebook.com/VisitNorthPlatte, http://www.twitter.com/NorthPlatteNEBR.

North Platte’s heritage stretches back into the past along the steel rails of the Union Pacific tracks that first reached what was to become the largest railroad yard in the world on Nov. 9, 1866. Through nearly constant expansion and reinvestment, Bailey Yard now covers nearly 3,000 acres, with more than 300 miles of track handling 150 trains made up of 15,000 rail cars each day.

All of this incredible action can be seen from the seventh and eighth floor observations decks of the Golden Spike Tower and Visitor Center (1249 N. Homestead Road, 308-532-9920). Completed in June of 2008, the tower provides not only a birds-eye view of the workings of Bailey Yard, but is staffed with enthusiastic and knowledgeable retired railroaders who volunteer their time to share their love of the railroad with their guests. Visitors to the eighth floor enjoy fully-enclosed comfort, while the seventh floor is open to the elements as well as the sounds of the rumbling diesel engines and the clanging of the rail cars as they are sorted in the two hump yards. Throughout the tower, educational displays highlight the history of the yard, milestone events and the people who made it all happen.

One of those important historical figures is Col. William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody. Cody gained his name hunting buffalo to feed the thousands of hungry gandy dancers who built the railroad, although he was under contract with the Kansas Pacific Railroad to the south, not the Union Pacific. Cody arrived in the North Platte area on May 20, 1869, scouting for the Fifth U.S. Calvary under the command of Brvt. Major General E.A. Carr. Their destination was Fort McPherson, an important frontier fort located south of the modern village of Maxwell. Fort McPherson is now Nebraska’s only National Cemetery (12004 South Spur 56A, Maxwell 308-582-4433).

Buffalo Bill liked the area so much he moved his family out and founded a 4,000 acre ranch that he named “Scouts Rest”. In 1882, he was asked by North Platte’s town fathers to organize an Independence Day celebration that he named “The Old Glory Blowout.” The modern-day spectator sport of Rodeo traces its roots back to these festivities, which were held in what is now Cody Park. Cody’s destiny found him in the organization of this event, and less than two years later he took his “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World” on the road, eventually appearing in 1,182 cities in 13 countries and 48 U.S. States.

Today Cody’s legacy in North Platte is memorialized in the Buffalo Bill State Historical Park (2921 Scouts Rest Ranch Road 308-535-8035). His Victorian mansion, Scouts Rest barn and 250 acres of the original ranch are maintained by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. The mansion is decorated for the holidays each year for “Christmas at the Codys” held the week before Christmas. The location of the forerunner of the Wild West Show is commemorated by the Wild West Memorial at the entrance to Cody Park (1400 N. Jeffers), featuring a bronze statue of Cody donated to North Platte by the people of the United Kingdom to honor the esteem in which they held him. A 20,000 piece hand-carved miniature replica of the Wild West Show can be seen at Fort Cody Trading Post (221 Halligan Drive, 308-532-8081), near the junction of Interstate 80 and Highway 83.

In addition to Fort McPherson National Cemetery, tribute is paid to Nebraska’s military veterans at the 20th Century Veterans Memorial (2811 S. Jeffers, 308-532-6579), honoring the five major branches of the armed forces and the five major conflicts of the 20th century with larger than life bronze statues and a 15 foot tall brick bas-relief mural.

Buffalo Bill’s accomplishments in the arena of showmanship are celebrated each year in Nebraska’s official state celebration, NebraskaLand Days, featuring rodeo, concerts, parades, art shows, stage shows, food and much more, held in mid-June. North Platte’s largest amateur rodeo can be found in Sutherland on July 3 and 4, complete with kids’ games, parade, community barbecue and other activities.

One of the most memorable milestones in North Platte’s long association with Union Pacific Railroad came during World War II. At that time, the majority of troop movements across the U.S. were conducted over Union Pacific’s main line, which traveled right through the heart of North Platte. One week after the attack on Pearl Harbor, North Platte residents responded to a rumor that the Nebraska National Guard Troop D, containing North Platte boys would be coming through. They gathered to meet the train with gifts, homemade goodies and lots of love. When it arrived, it carried Troop D all right, only from Kansas not Nebraska. After several moments of uncomfortable silence, one young woman broke the impasse by declaring that she wasn’t going to take her goodies home, she was going to share them when the boys on the train. Everyone else followed suit. A week later that same young woman, Rae Wilson wrote a letter to the editor that appeared in the North Platte Bulletin urging the town to rally to the cause and start a Canteen.

She found support not only among the citizens, but also from Union Pacific Railroad, which donated the use of the dining room in their Depot. Beginning on Christmas Day 1941 and continuing until April 1st, 1946, this incredible group of volunteers met each and every troop train that came through town, sometimes greeting upwards of 5,000 troops each day. For the duration of its existence, more than 6.5 million service personnel would rush through the doors of the North Platte Canteen for a few moments of warmth and hospitality before heading off to the various fronts of World War II.

Although the Depot was demolished in the early 1970s, the location is denoted by a plaque and memorial park just behind the Parkade Plaza on Front Street in downtown North Platte. The story of the North Platte Canteen, consisting of letters from service men and women, ledgers, memorabilia and photographs is told at the Lincoln County Historical Museum (2403 N. Buffalo Bill Ave., 308-534-5640).

The Lincoln County Historical Museum also contains the largest collection of Native American Artifacts located in Nebraska outside the state Historical Museum and memorabilia from North Platte and Lincoln County’s early years, as well as a Frontier Village complete with churches, schools, Pony Express Station, homes and businesses.

In another nod to North Platte’s railroad heritage, Cody Park contains a Railroad Museum, complete with the only Challenger steam locomotive on static public display, a 6900 series diesel locomotive (the largest ever made) several railroad cars and a restored Depot. In Memorial Park another steam engine, a Union Pacific Class 2-8-0, makes its home.

In 2007, a group of businessmen and community activists from North Platte’s “Original Town” – that area north of the Union Pacific tracks – decided that North Platte needed a festival celebrating all of that railroad heritage, and the annual Rail Fest was inaugurated. Not only does the annual event, held in Cody Park the third weekend in September attract more than 10,000 visitors, the organizers were successful in having North Platte named “Rail Town USA ®” by an act of Congress in 2008. Expect many more tributes to the importance of Union Pacific Railroad in North Platte in the coming years.

The Native Americans who called this area home long before the advent of western civilization and Union Pacific Railroad also left their mark. Twenty-five miles south of North Platte, the Dancing Leaf Cultural Learning Center (6100 East Opal Springs Road, Wellfleet, 308-963-4233) is home to a recreated earthen lodge typical of the Upper Republican culture of 800 to 1300 years ago. The hosts at Dancing Leaf, Les and Jan Hosick, guide guests on a journey back in time that can include an overnight stay in the lodge. The Hosicks also maintain an archeological museum that contains a history of the many fossil type-specimens that have been found in the area, including Archie, the Imperial Mammoth fossil that was unearthed nearby and is now on display in Elephant Hall at the University of Nebraska State Museum in Lincoln.

Other Native American history can be found at the Stones and Bones Gallery and Emporium (105 E. 2nd St., Hershey 308-368-7400), which is a unique gallery of art and artifacts and a premier private collection of native Stone Age artifacts from rural western Nebraska.

If the kids get restless with all this history during a visit to North Platte, their fun hasn’t been forgotten. The North Platte Area Children’s Museum (314 N. Jeffers St. 308-532-3512) is a fun hands-on learning center offering children a place to experience the wonders of science, technology, culture and the arts in a unique and interactive atmosphere. Add even more fun at Cody Go-Karts (805 Halligan Dr. 308-534-8277). There are rides and games for the entire family, including water slides, go kart racetracks, bumper boats and miniature golf. The kiddie attractions in Cody Park (1400 N. Jeffers) include an antique carousel, tiny Ferris wheel and other rides, a wonderful concession stand and an animal display that includes ducks, geese, peacocks, deer, elk, llamas and donkeys. Centennial Park and the North Platte Recreation Complex (1300 McDonald Rd., 308-535-6772) offer a skateboard park, indoor pool and waterslide, indoor basketball and racquetball courts and weight training equipment.

Fun for adults isn’t neglected either, with four public golf courses in the area, Indian Meadows (9 holes, 2746 W. Walker Rd., 308-532-6955), Iron Eagle (18 holes, 2401 Halligan Dr., 308-535-6730), Lake Maloney (18 holes, 608 Birdie Lane, 308-532-9998) and Oregon Trail (9 hole, 31200 Tower Road Sutherland, 308-386-4653.) Another kind of golf – disc golf – can be found at the Flight For 9 course in Cody Park.

Other outdoor recreation opportunities abound, including the shooting sports at Lincoln County Wildlife Gun Club (100 Eagles Nest Rd., 308-532-1694) and Seifer Farms Sporting Clays (1442 S. Seifer Rd., Sutherland (308) 386-8962). Water fun can be had on the three lakes within the Lincoln County borders, Sutherland Reservoir, Lake Maloney and Jeffrey Lake, as well as the Interstate lakes and both the North and South Platte rivers.

If arts and culture are more the nature of a visit to North Platte, there is the Art and Gift Gallery (516 N. Dewey, 308-534-1946) which features five galleries showcasing the work of member artists in the largest co-op gallery in the state. The historic Neville Center for the Performing Arts (301 East 5th St., 308-532-8559) hosts four live theater productions each season as well as performances of the Town Hall Lecture Series, Community Concert Association and other shows each year.

For a little wine to accompany a cultural visit to North Platte, Feather River Vineyards (5700 SE State Farm Rd., 308-696-0078) is open for tastings, private parties and group tours.

Information about all the attractions, activities and events in the communities in Lincoln County can be found at the North Platte/Lincoln County Convention and Visitors Bureau. The office can be reached by phone at (308) 532-4729, by email at mclark@visitnorthplatte.com or on the Internet at http://www.visitnorthplatte.com, http://www.facebook.com/VisitNorthPlatte, http://www.twitter.com/NorthPlatteNEBR.