Having worked on a major project at the office for nearly a year — and, to a lesser extent, needing to take a break from my studies in order to create my commercial for the Union Pacific’s “Great Big Rollin’ Railroad” video remake contest — Deb and I planned a rather ambitious two-week road trip across the Midwest. As planned, the trip contained several key elements that made this trip one of our most anticipated journeys and it did not disappoint.
The General Idea
The timing of the trip was dictated by the annular eclipse which occurred on May 20, 2012. After studying multiple possible locations, with the help of Google Maps, I picked a location on the Union Pacific’s Caliente Subdivision at Barclay, Nevada to view and photograph the eclipse from. I have never chased on the Caliente Subdivision before and this location offered a decent alignment between the center-line of the eclipse and the UP trackage. My hope was to get a photo of a train with the eclipse occurring in the background. Once the eclipse had subsided, we were clear to go anywhere and do anything.
In considering additional possible destinations for the remainder of our trip, and thus the route as well, I decided that this would be a perfect opportunity to go see several places we have always wanted to visit. For me that were the mainlines in Wyoming, including the famous Powder River Basin, and Nebraska. For Deb it was the historic overland trails in that part of the country and Yellowstone National Park. She is a big fan of wildlife and there are few better locations to see wildlife than Yellowstone.
For the uninitiated, the region we chose to visit is steeped with historical significance as the Nebraska/Wyoming area is where the main routes of the immigrant and homesteader trails pass through. Deb and I have always appreciated the struggles of the American pioneers and mountain men that led the way west. In fact, the American western history is one of our favorites periods. As such, our two desires dovetailed nicely together — we would chase trains on the heavily trafficked mainlines throughout Nebraska and Wyoming and visit key historical locations that we have always read about. Yellowstone National Park turned out to be the icing on the cake.
After much discussion and even bartering, we decided on a route that would afford us an opportunity to see the following locations and sites:
- Solar Eclipse Train Shot - Barclay, NV - UP’s Caliente Subdivision
- Golden Spike National Historic Site - Promontory, UT
- UP’s Evanston Subdivision from Ogden, UT to Granger, WY
- Jackson Hole, WY, the Grand Tetons, and Yellowstone National Park
- Independence Rock State Historic Site
- Casper WY, and the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center
- Powder River Basin - Bill, WY - BNSF’s and UP’s Orin Subdivision
- Bailey Yard - North Platt, NE (Golden Spike Visitor’s Center)
- Nebraska Mainlines - UP’s South Morrill, Kearney, and Columbus Subdivisions
- UP’s Harriman Dispatch Center - Omaha NE
- Cheyenne, WY - UP’s Sidney Subdivision
- UP’s Moffat Tunnel and UP’s Moffat Tunnel Subdivision
- UP’s Gila and Yuma Subdivisions
- …and all historic points in-between!
Due to the length of the trip and the distances involved, we had to forgo a few locations such as Devil’s Tower, Mount Rushmore, and the Badlands of South Dakota. Also the return portion of the trip, in which we chose to return by a different route than taken during our outbound track, was expendable, should it be necessary.
Hurry Up and Wait
We had about five weeks to prepare our gear and make final preparations. We both looked forward to the trip immensely and the weeks before passed every so slowly it seemed. We packed anything and everything that we thought we might need along the way and then I packed some more stuff — tow gear, emergency equipment, and personal protection devices — just in case.
It turned out to be a great trip, despite some things not going in our favor, to say the least. In the next post, we’ll begin our Big Trip!