The Union Pacific Railroad will consolidate its North Platte railcar-sorting operations in Bailey Yard’s newest and westernmost “hump yard,” the railroad said Tuesday.
“We do not anticipate changes at Bailey Yard will have a significant impact on the estimated 1,600 employees who are based in North Platte,” U.P. spokeswoman Raquel Espinoza said in an official statement.
She cited “improved customer shipment processing times” as the main factor in U.P.’s decision to make Bailey a single classification yard.
Bailey continues to play “a critical role on the Union Pacific network,” Espinoza said. “The changes are a testament to the team’s operational excellence and safe, reliable service to customers.”
Tuesday’s announcement nonetheless marks a major operational change at what long has been considered the world’s largest rail classification yard.
It sets aside the 64-track eastbound “hump yard” that opened in 1968. The entire yard was named that year for then-U.P. President and former North Platte resident Edd Bailey, also namesake of Bailey Avenue.
Bailey’s workers went through several rounds of layoffs and other job reductions after Union Pacific unveiled its “Unified Plan 2020” in late 2018. Another followed the March onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gary Person, president and CEO of the North Platte Area Chamber and Development Corp., said the announcement “again drives home the critical importance for North Platte to diversify its economy.”
But “I take them at their word that (Bailey) remains a critical part of their operation,” as U.P. leaders also said early this year, he said.
“A lot of the other (U.P.) yards lost their humps” before Tuesday, but “thankfully, we’ve got employees who work very hard and are very good at what they do.”
COVID-19’s economic impact “has accelerated a lot of plans for companies” to become more efficient, Person said.
But he noted that demands on Bailey also could change as “we get past this (pandemic) and get back to a normal economic cycle and (U.P.) traffic picks up.”
Bailey’s roots were sunk in 1948, when U.P. opened a 42-track “retarder yard” as its first automatic classification yard.
That original hump, which replaced a 20-track flat yard, was devoted to westbound traffic when the eastbound “double hump” opened 20 years later just to its south.
The 1948 retarder yard was replaced in 1980 with the 50-track “Bailey West” hump, where all traffic now will be sorted.
Bailey’s post-World War II origin marked the last major stamp on North Platte of native son William M. Jeffers, Union Pacific president from 1937 to 1946 and a board member until shortly before his 1953 death.
North Platte was founded as a U.P. “division point” when the tracks of America’s first transcontinental railroad arrived in November 1866 at the townsite laid out by Chief Engineer Grenville M. Dodge.
Below is the original statement from Union Pacific:
Union Pacific will begin operating Bailey Yard as a single classification yard, due to improved customer shipment processing times.
All rail shipments will be sorted on the west side of Bailey Yard, which plays a critical role on the Union Pacific network. The changes are a testament to the team’s operational excellence and safe, reliable service to customers. We do not anticipate changes at Bailey Yard will have a significant impact on the estimated 1,600 employees who are based in North Platte.
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