Tuesday, June 19, 2012
NORTH PLATTE, NE (NET Radio) - Sitting three stories above Union Pacific's Bailey Yard, Merle Stillwell has a job many boys and girls would love - but his role as yard master is not child's play.
"It's my job to bring the trains into North Platte, get 'em into the bowl correctly, so I can tell the guy on the other end he's got enough cars to build the train," Stillwell said.
"The bowl" is an area, comprising dozens of tracks, where cars are sent - usually one or two at a time - to connect to a train different from the one they arrived on.
Bailey Yard handles 14,000 rail cars every day, 3,000 of which are sorted.
"These trains can weigh anything from 2,000 tons to maybe 25,000 tons, which is quite heavy."
To assist moving something this big, Union Pacific Railroad employs a seemingly unlikely ally: gravity.
Stillwell observes the yard from above a man-made hill - one of two at Bailey Yard - that make a big difference on the flat plains west of North Platte. The humps, as they are known, replace the work a locomotive would otherwise do.