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A Day in Nebraska Featuring The Rock Island Depot Railroad Museum 5/20/2021

by Chris Guenzler

We awoke at the Best Western Crossroads of the Bluffs in Council Bluffs and after checking out, we went to Cracker Barrel for breakfast. I then took Elizabeth to Kenefick Park in Omaha for her visit and my second.

Kenefick Park Information

Two of the greatest locomotives ever to power Union Pacific Railroad sit at the southwest point of the Lauritzen Gardens property, highly visible to passersby on Interstate 80 and welcoming motorists to Nebraska. On grand display are Centennial No. 6900 - the largest and most powerful diesel-electric locomotive ever built - and Big Boy No. 4023 - the world's largest steam locomotive. Featuring several plazas, seating areas, a grand staircase, "canyon" stone walls, interpretive signage, sculpture and walkways, the park documents Union Pacific Railroad's role in the development of Omaha and the West. The park bears the name of former Union Pacific Chairman and CEO John C. Kenefick, and is landscaped with native plants and grasses maintained by Lauritzen Gardens horticulture staff. Kenefick Park is open to the public with no admission charged. Free parking is available at Lauritzen Gardens, and a sidewalk/ramp (accessible from the southwest end of the parking lot) and stairway lead visitors from the parking lot to the park.

The flags at the top of the stairs.

There are many informational facts located on the walls as you make your way to the locomotives.

At the top you have your first view of the DD40AX.

On your left is Union Pacific Big Boy.

John Kenefick, whom I met in Pocatello, Idaho during the city's centennial in 1982.

The Union Pacific shield between the front of the locomotives.

Union Pacific 4-8-8-4 4023 "Big Boy".

Union Pacific Centennial Diesel DD40AX 6900.

Both locomotives shown with the United States and Union Pacific flag between them.

Information about the Centennial locomotive.

Information about the Big Boy.

The Big Boy and Centennial view looking out over Iowa.

Photographs and history of the Big Boy.

Photograph and history of the Centennial.

Views on my down back to the parking lot. From here, I drove us back to Council Bluffs and showed Elizabeth the Rock Island depot.

The Rock Island Council Bluffs station built in 1898 and houses the Rails West Museum. We left here and I drove us to Lincoln, Nebraska.

Passing Kenefick Park on Interstate 80, Elizabeth used my camera to catch the Big Boy and Centennial display as we passed.

First we found a caboose at Lancaster County Fairgrounds in Havelock.

Burlington Northern caboose 12132 owned by the Lincoln Area Railway Historical Society.

Burlington and Missouri River (Chicago, Burlington and Quincy) station from Roca, 16.8 miles south of Havelock. We next drove into downtown Lincoln.

The modern Amtrak station in Lincoln built in 2012 and serves the California Zephyr.

A block away, we found Centennial Station.

Chicago, Burlington and Quincy caboose 13614, painted as Lincoln Station Burlington Northern 10200.

Chicago, Burlington and Quincy 4-6-0 710 built in 1901.

Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Centennial station built in 1927.

Rock Island Lincoln station built in 1893 and now Union Bank and Trust.

Unknown extended cupola caboose with Union Bank and Trust markings.

Our last stop in Lincoln was the Omaha, Lincoln and Beatrice Interurban Railway Terminal Building.

On the way to Fairbury, we found Farmers Cooperative JLCX GP10 101, originally Chicago and North Western GP7 1589, another locomotive that went to the Paduach Shops. We arrived in Fairbury and while I started taking pictures, Elizabeth met one of the volunteers who was gardening. She happily showed us around.

Rock Island Depot Railroad Museum Information

The Rock Island Railroad Depot is one of two such remaining brick depots in Nebraska and is the largest depot still in existence between Chicago and Denver. Of the 36 Rock Island depots built in Nebraska, the Fairbury Depot is the only one that has been restored to its historical integrity. Fairbury's Depot, which housed the Western Division Headquarters of the Rock Island Railroad, is now a Rock Island Railroad museum. It houses Rock Island Railroad artifacts and displays, memorabilia donated by former railroad employees and their families. When you visit the Fairbury Rock Island Railroad Depot, you'll see the restored main lobby, ticket office, lounges and baggage areas. A large model train display is sure to delight visitors of all ages. The second floor once housed the trainmaster's office, superintendent's office, telegrapher and dispatch rooms. These areas have been converted into a conference room, curator's office, model train room and restored telegraph room. The beautiful gardens that once graced the front of the Rock Island Depot have been restored and highlight the Rock Island Railroad Memory Wall, constructed by Endicott Clay Products. The Rock Island Railroad Depot has meeting room space available for special programs and meetings, and also a gift shop specializing in train souvenirs. Museum hours are Sunday from 1-5 pm, with tours by appointment.

Chicago and North Western wedge snowplow X262749 built from the oil tender of a steam locomotive.

It is now time to enter this wonderful building.

Rock Island timetables and other memorabelia.

Railroad spitoons.

Looking into the ticket office.

The benches in the waiting room.

The Town's courthouse and a hotel were made out of toothpicks by a 92-year-old gentleman.

Order of Railway Conductors certificate.

Rock Island conductor and engineer mannequins.

More railroad memorabelia.

Rock Island employees over the years board.

Rock Island history display.

Riding the Rock Island Rocket information board.

Rock Island conductor uniform.

More of the station benches and a miniature Rock Island caboose.

A university student's thesis on the history of the town of Fairbury and the Rock Island station.

The Rock Island's premier passenger train.

More Rock Island memorabelia.

The station's oil-fired stove.

A railroad safe.

Railroad lanterns.

Looking into the concession area of the station. We were then taken upstairs.

The superintendent's desk.

The rather large model railroad as seen through the door's window as the key could not be located.

The trainmaster's office with the furniture coming from the courthouse. We next went into the telegraphy room.

The Union Pacific dispatching board from Evanston to Green River.

Telegraph equipment is on display in this room.

The view from the second floor window. We took the elevator back down to the first floor.

A picture of the Rock Island Rocket.

You see this model train as you come off the elevator.

Rock Island freight train led by 5047.

The Fairbury station timetable board.

The concession area.

Looking back into the waiting room.

Union Pacific memorabelia.

The Rock Island map. We returned outside.

The Rock Island Fairbury station built in 1914.

The Rock Island Memory Wall.

Rock Island motorcar 9047 once used as depot at Hebron, Nebraska to replace the original Hebron depot destroyed by tornado around 1953.

Also on the grounds is the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy station from Kesterson, moved here after Washington County, Kansas Railroad Museum closed.

Union Pacific GP38-2 831 at Fairbury.

If you look closely, you can see a Union Pacific train crossing the Kyle Railroad tracks in Fairbury.

Rock Island baggage cart at the front of the station. We thanked our host and gave her my card and a donation. We were both very impressed by the collection they had amassed and it is the ultimate Rock Island Railroad museum.

On The Road To Alliance

We left the Fairbury museum and knew there was a steam engine in town so went in search of it. At Fairbury City Park, we found it.

Union Pacific 2-8-0 421 built in 1900 and donated in 1956.

Union Pacific caboose 24626, built in 1971 as Rock Island 17208 and donated in 1987. From here we drove to Geneva.

Grand Trunk Western 0-8-0 8374 built in 1929.

A unidentified flat car.

Chicago, Burlington and Quincy 12-1 sleeper "Nasby" built in 1921 and converted to maintenance-of-way 250669.

As we continued along Highway 6 toward Hastings, we found the wooden Chicago, Burlington and Quincy station in Inland.

RLCX 909 and RLCX slug 155 east of Hastings.

RLCX slug 155, ex. Kansas City Southern.

RLCX SW900 909 built as Youngstown Sheet and Tube 901. We drove the rest of the way into Hastings to our next steam engine.

Union Pacific caboose 25441 built in 1959 and donated to the Hastings Museum in 1989.

Union Pacific 2-8-0 237 built in 1906.

The plaque for this steam engine. We stopped at Walmart so that Elizabeth could get more film. Continuing along the way, we next drove to the Stuhr Museum in Grand Island. While we had visited this last year, we wanted pictures without children as there was a school tour occuring during our visit. We paid to get in and were informed that there was also a Railroad Town. This needed investigation, so we did just that.

Union Pacific 2-8-0 437 built in 1900. From here we drove to the Railroad Town and parked.

Chicago, Burlington and Quincy wooden caboose 127 built 1884.

Denver and Rio Grande box car 3346.

The Union Pacific depot from Oconto, Nebraska, 92.5 miles from Grand Island.

Union Pacific railway post office car 2064.

Unknown combine.

Unknown passenger car.

Union Pacific wooden caboose 5280.

They have a gallows turntable.

A handcar that is used in non-COVID times.

The semaphore signal.

One last view of the Oconto station. We left the Stuhr Museum and headed toward Alliance on Nebraska Highway 2.

A good Cumulonimbus cloud was brewing but did not drop on us.

BNSF 9273 West at Cairo.

BNSF 9309 East west of Sweetwater.

The DPUs for BNSF 9309 were BNSF 9279 and BNSF 9295.

BNSF 5897 East near Litchfield.

This one had a single DPU 8563.

BNSF 9095 West had a single unit near Mason City. We stopped in Broken Bow for dinner at Subway. Fortified, we continued on.

BNSF 7599 East east of Dunning. We continued west and as I drove, we caught up to another westbound coal train. This train had a surprise for us.

BNSF 6382 West with ES44AC 6111, one of the 25th Anniversary units, as the third locomotive, at Hyannis. I continued to drive west and Elizabeth used my camera in an attempt to get me more pictures.

Here are the results of my lovely wife's efforts as we paced the train.

The storms stayed to the west as we made our way to Alliance. We checked in at the Alliance Hotel and Suites then I used the sauna tub to relax while Elizabeth did her regular things on the Internet. We then wrote one of the stories while it poured and thundered outside and called it a night.