Hell on Wheels



First a Sidebar:  Studying the map on our approach to Wichita, I realized we were within about 30 miles from the 1888 birthplace of my paternal Grandfather. And so, we began our day by heading southeast of Wichita to the once thriving settlement of Rosalia, Kansas.


There isn’t much left of this unincorporated town, mostly a few dirt streets and ramshackle and/or closed-up buildings. But there was a school and a post office. I decided to try my luck in the post office to see what I might learn.  And I did have luck.  The post office is only open two hours each morning, the woman working was also named Karen, and the single customer was very helpful.  In the end, I had learned about the town’s oil boom days, and how it became a mecca for two physicians competing for male patients with their revolutionary goat “gland” treatment (an early “Viagra”, some things never change). The woman I met took me to her sister’s home across the street and they rounded-up, and presented me with, an extra copy of a book about the town’s history!  Amazing.

After our farewells to our new friends in Rosalia, we headed northwest through Kansas to North Platte, Nebraska. The drive was straight and uncrowded, the scenery rural with green low-rising hills dotted with oil rigs, cattle ranches and wind farms.  For hours it was just us and the farm equipment on the road. We saw trucks ferrying the incredibly long blades for the wind turbines, and others with huge replacement wheels for trains.DSC_0828

The occasional road kill (armadillos won the count) was no hunger deterrent, and we made a quick stop for lunch in Bob Dole’s hometown of Russell.  After Stockton, KS when you came over a rise you could see ahead for miles and miles and the rusty soil color gave way to a sandy-color.

Although you couldn’t tell, altitude was slightly increasing all along, and North Platte was at 2800’.  We went directly to the Golden Spike Tower for a view of the world’s largest railroad yard which primarily services the Union Pacific railroad. The TV show “Hell on Wheels” was based on the construction of this site in the 1860’s as the center of the railroad world.  All trains heading east/west and north/south went through North Platte. The eight story Tower has two observation decks, one inside and one open-air, as well as displays and videos about rail history.  Check it out at: www.GoldenSpikeTower.com

Union Pacific Railroad’s massive Bailey Yard covers 2,850 acres and is eight miles long and over one mile wide. The yard operates 24 hours a day and handles 10,000 railroad cars and about 150 trains every day with an average length of 137 cars.  Locomotives are also overhauled and maintained.

Retired railroad workers are on hand to answer questions and fill in details.  My husband was in heaven, as he learned about what it was like to work for the railroad, details of the yard’s operations and even facts behind the hobos who still travel the rails.

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 Last trivia answers:

Which capitol building is taller, the US or Texas? TEXAS

How high is the star at the center of the rotunda in the Texas capitol building? 218’

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