Union Pacific's Yards
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This page was last updated on January 3, 2015. (will not be updated)
(Research notes dating from December 29, 1995, with occasional limited updates through 2002.)
Prior to the UP/MP/WP merger of December 1982, Union Pacific operated a rail system that is basically shaped in the form of an hourglass, with the double track railroad between Laramie and Green River, Wyoming, being the choke point of the hourglass.
I highly recommend "North American Railyards" by Michael Rhodes (Voyageur Press, 2014; ISBN 978-0-7603-4609-9)
Eastern District yards
Council Bluffs, Iowa
Union Pacific had, prior to the 1982 merger with MP, 3 other yards in the Kansas City terminal. Armstrong Yard is on the Kansas side and handles the eastbound traffic. 18th Street handles the westbound traffic, and Fairfax yard handles the switching and classification of Kansas City's busy industrial district.
North Platte, Nebraska
When you're talking about important yards on the Union Pacific system, North Platte, Nebraska, first comes to mind. Located in the middle of the plains of Nebraska, North Platte's Bailey Yard is the focal point of UP's 9,700 mile, hourglass-shaped system. Bailey Yard is the eastern gateway to one of the most heavily traveled sections of railroad in the world. People in North Platte say that you can take the business pulse of America by measuring the traffic through UP's Bailey Yard, the country's largest rail yard complex.
[Magazine article] "Builds Second Large Retarder Yard To Improve Operations," Railway Age. October 30, 1948, p.88 (820)
The hump yard at North Platte was opened in 1948 as UP's second hump yard (Pocatello in southeastern Idaho was the first), but it was the railroad's first automatic classification yard. An additional hump, first called Edd H. Bailey Yard (later Bailey East), dedicated to eastbound traffic, was opened in 1968, at which time the original 1948-built hump yard became the westbound (westward) hump yard.
"North Platte retarder yard was the railroad's second retarder yard, the first having been completed at Pocatello in 1947. Construction of North Platte's hump began in April 1948, and the first train was humped on Aug. 28, 1948. Constructed for $3.5 million, the yard covered more than 213 acres and had a capacity for 4,400 cars. An average of 2,400 cars then rolled into the receiving yard daily. The south side of the yard was for eastbounds and the north side for westbounds. The extreme north tracks in the bowl were for freight house cuts. The freight station and transloading terminal was built of reinforced concrete, it had three covered platforms with tracks on either side. On the south side of the bowl, a bad order track was on the south, and local tracks were the next three. The eastbound main is at extreme left. In June 1950, construction was under way for a new short icing chute to ice beer cars from Coors, and meat cars from Monfort and Swift." (High Iron to North Platte, by Arthur E. Stensvad, page 23)
During the late 1960s, North Platte used TR5s 1872/1872B and 1873/1873B. By 1970, four SD7s (UP 454, 456, 458, and 459) were assigned to North Platte, along with most of the 2900-class ALCO C630s. The C630s remained at North Platte until their retirement in 1973. After the C630s moved on to greener pastures, the 2800-class U28Cs were assigned in their place, where they also remained until their retirement in 1979-1981.
Motive power for the North Platte hump yard in September 1975 found SD24s 401, 405, 445, and 447 assigned there, along with two ten-motor slug sets, 454/S2 and 456/S1, and U28Cs 2802, 2805, and 2807.
The old westward hump was replaced in February 1980 when an entirely new, 50-track westbound hump yard (called Bailey West) was completed. The completion of the $40.5 million project greatly increased North Platte's ability to classify and block traffic bound for western points and relieved congestion in the yards in Denver, Cheyenne, Green River, Pocatello, Salt Lake City, and Los Angeles.
At the time of the 1982 merger of UP, MP, and WP, Bailey Yard made up 14 eastbound blocks, along with 11 blocks for C&NW, and 24 for interchange at the Kansas City terminal. The yard also made up 37 westbound blocks, with 8 additional blocks for SP, 9 for WP, and 2 for D&RGW. The "Van Yard" made up approximately 20 intermodal blocks.
Green River, Wyoming
The current major yard in Ogden, Utah, is Riverdale Yard, originally called East Yard when it was built in the early 1940s. The new yard was needed due to the overloaded conditions at the UP/SP joint Ogden terminal, operated by jointly owned Ogden Union Railway and Depot (OUR&D), which dated from the late 1880s. UP and SP continued to jointly use the switching services of the OUR&D until the mid 1980s, after the 1982 merger between UP and Western Pacific which gave UP direct access to the San Francisco Bay Area over the former WP tracks. SP stopped using most of its own yard, located just west of the joint OUR&D yard, after its own 1988 merger with Denver and Rio Grande Western, choosing to use D&RGW's Roper Yard in Salt Lake City as its Utah terminal. The largest portion of the joint OUR&D freight yard was removed after OUR&D itself was dissolved after the 1996 merger of Union Pacific and Southern Pacific, along with the former SP yards and mechanical facilities. In March 2001, a new high speed freight line was completed through the former OUR&D area. Union Pacific continues to use Riverdale Yard today for local traffic to nearby Freeport Center, and for pre-blocking of traffic bound to and from locations in California, the Pacific Northwest, and points east.
From a summary written in March 2000:
Union Pacific is making good progress on its new run through tracks in Ogden. The $12 million project began in mid February and includes 8,000 feet of new mainline trackage through the old Ogden yards, along with two 8,000-foot sidings that will be used as set-out tracks.
For those familiar with the former track layout in Ogden, the new trackage is located where the old UP yard was, north of 31st Street, south of 21st Street, and straight west of Ogden Union Station railroad museum. The old UP yard was removed about two years ago when the city of Ogden reportedly began taxing UP on the amount of rail it had in the city, rather than the number of track switches. The new tracks will be capable of 40 mph operations, and most trains bound for northern California will leave the Riverdale Yard (which remains untouched by the new construction) and proceed west from Ogden onto the causeway across Great Salt Lake.
The new tracks replace almost all of the former trackage once owned by the former Ogden Union Railway & Depot Co., a joint terminal company of both Union Pacific and Southern Pacific, and connect at their south end with the 28th Street Wye that allows traffic to head either south to Salt Lake City, or east to Wyoming. Some of trackage at the wye is also being relocated for better access.
Referring to the foldout map in the back of the first edition  of Ogden Rails, the former UP yard is in red, and the former SP yard is in blue. [see pages 84-85 of the second edition of the same book, published in 2005.] The western part of the SP yard (the old PFE yard) is used to load Ogden's trash trains for their trip to the landfill in eastern Carbon County, and current run-through operations use the eastern portion. The new tracks run north and south right through the middle of the old UP yard, and connect with the former SP tracks at the north end.
The demolition of the old SP shops last June and July was done in part to prepare for this new trackage. (Email to the Streamliner Yahoo discussion group, dated March 29, 2000)
(see also "Ogden Rails")
South-Central District yards
Salt Lake City, Utah
Salt Lake City's North Yard started out in 1907 as a joint facility between the UP-owned Oregon Short Line, and the San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad. The previous yard facilities in Salt Lake City had been located adjacent to the OSL depot in the downtown area which had been the home of the 1870s original rail lines of the Utah Central and the Utah Southern. The new joint yard was located on the northern outskirts of town, in an area that was thought useful for no other purpose. As Salt Lake City grew, so did the development in the area around the North Yard. As early as the late 1960s there was talk of making Salt Lake into a hump yard similar to the one located in Pocatello, Idaho. But these plans have never materialized, and today there is talk of completely replacing the yard with an entirely new one located in the salt grass and alkali flats about ten miles to the west of the city.
[Newspaper article] "New Station, Yard and Terminal Facilities of Harriman Lines at Salt Lake City, Utah", in Railroad Gazette, 12 July 1907.
Las Vegas, Nevada
East Los Angeles, California
Northwestern District Yards
Pocatello was Union Pacific's first hump yard and was opened in 1947 (it was called a retarder yard when first completed). When the new Pocatello hump yard was opened, motive power consisted of single, and later, double sets of new NW2s. As rail traffic grew during the late 1940s, so did the number of trains operating through Pocatello. Train length was also increasing, necessitating increased use of double NW2s as hump power, with their attendant full, six-man switch crews. In a move to reduce the labor costs of double crews, UP went looking for more powerful switchers, and found them at Baldwin in the form of AS-616 heavy duty road switchers. By late 1951, UP had purchased Baldwin AS-616s specifically for assignment to their two hump yards; North Platte and Pocatello, along with other heavy switching duties, including flat switching in Ogden, Utah. During the late 1960's, the power for the hump at Pocatello was U25Bs, back to back. Back-up power for the hump consisted of AS-616s 1260 and 1261, and TR5s 1870/1870B, 1871/1871B, 1876/1876B, and 1877/1877B. The U25Bs were assigned to Pocatello as hump power in mid-1968, after having been completely rebuilt by UP at Omaha. With the retirement of the U25Bs in September 1972, came two 2900-class ALCO C630s. The C630s remained at both Pocatello and North Platte until their retirement in 1973. After the C630s moved on to greener pastures, the 2800-class U28Cs were assigned in their place, where they also remained until their retirement in 1979-1981.
A news item about Union Pacific ordering seven double-rail Model 31 electro-pneumatic car retarders from Union Switch and Signal Company for use at their new Pocatello yard. (Railway Signaling. Volume 40, number 8, August 1947, p.504)
A news item about new two-way radios for Union Pacific's yard offices and Diesel switch engines. Also mentioned was that the new yard at Pocatello cost $2.6 million. (Railway Signaling. Volume 40, number 11, November 1947, p.727)
The Pocatello yard has a 14-track receiving yard, a 28-track classification yard (designed for 40 tracks), and an 11-track departure yard. Other facilities included a car repair yard and a locomotive fueling station. Pocatello is a junction for routes from four directions on Union Pacific. To the south is Salt Lake City and traffic destinations in southern California; to the east is a connection at Granger, Wyoming, with the original 1869 Omaha to Ogden mainline, and all destinations eastward; to the west are the destinations in Oregon and Washington; and to the north is the traffic points in eastern Idaho, and the mineral traffic and connections with Northern Pacific, Great Northern, and Milwaukee Road at Butte, Montana. The lines in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington originate large volumes of fruit, vegetables, lumber, phosphate, and live stock. Points in the Northwest are also the destinations for much coal and manufactured products. The amount of rail traffic through Pocatello varied with the seasons, but in the late 1940s when the new yard was opened, the peak was about 2,200 cars per day. Previously, switching at Pocatello was done in two flat yards that had become inadequate to handle the growing levels of rail traffic being moved through the terminal. The new yard required the purchase of 75 acres and the realignment of 4,400 feet of the adjacent Portneuf River. The ascending portion of the hump grade raises at 2 percent grade, and the descending portion was built with a short stretches of 4 percent, 1.6 percent, and 1.3 grades until a general west to east descending grade of 0.2 percent is attained. Included in the construction of the hump itself was a car inspection point, manned by five inspectors, that allowed inspection, with lighting and plate glass covered inspection pit, of both sides and the under side of each car as it passed over the hump. Access to the inspection pit was gained through a concrete passageway under the crest of the hump. The new yard also included the installation of a new 150-ton Fairbanks-Morse track scale and 30,000 gallon diesel fuel tank to service the seven Diesel switch engines assigned to switching duties in the yard. ("New Classification Yard on Union Pacific". Railway Signaling. Volume 41, number 1 (January 1948), pp.36-43. A general article about the new "recently constructed" yard at Pocatello, Idaho.)
[Magazine article] "This Modern Yard Expedites Traffic", (Railway Age. January 10, 1948, p.120)
Pocatello, Idaho was, along with Nampa, the designated point of concentration for perishable traffic handled by Pacific Fruit Express, drawing traffic from several points in the central and eastern parts of Idaho. PFE built a light repair shop at Pocatello in mid 1926 to complete limited repairs and car cleaning on refrigerator cars. The PFE shops and trackage was expanded and upgraded in about 1949 after the new retarder yard was relocated to the east, allowing PFE to modernize its Pocatello facility. The expansion increased the PFE yard's capacity from 113 cars to 340 cars. In 1957, PFE expanded the Pocatello shop's capabilities to include the maintenance of its growing fleet of mechanical refrigerator cars. Pocatello was chosen over Nampa because of its gateway location to Union Pacific's Northwestern District, and the important perishable traffic that originated there. After the breakup of Pacific Fruit Express in 1978, Pocatello remained then as today, UPFE's only maintenance point. (Thompson, Anthony W., Robert J. Church, and Bruce H. Jones. Pacific Fruit Express. Wilton, California: Central Valley Railroad Publications, 1992)
March 1, 2002
UP ceased operations of its hump yard in Pocatello, Idaho. Opened in 1947, UP closed the hump in 2002 rather than spend an estimated $10 million to overhaul the aging facility. Traffic patterns had shifted in the Northwest, and the Pocatello hump yard had become less important in UP's overall operations. (Trains magazine, August 2002, page 24)
The last locomotive mechanical position in Idaho Falls (working foreman) was abolished in the mid 90s (1995 or 1996). Joe Jones was the last foreman at Idaho Falls and he moved to Pocatello in 1997 after his job was abolished. When Pocatello closed up shop in 2003, Mr. Jones went to North Platte.
Idaho Falls, Idaho
Union Pacific was forced to move part of its lines in northern Oregon in 1950 and 1951 to higher ground because of the construction of McNary Dam on the Columbia River. UP consolidated all of its switching operations and repair facilities in the northwestern Oregon area in a modern yard and terminal at Hinkle, Oregon. The new yard was placed in service in early September 1951, and included a new engine house, with attendant powerhouse, two covered car repair tracks, and a new yard office. Also included was a new employee's clubhouse to provide sleeping and recreation facilities for the train crews that were on rotation away from their home terminals. This clubhouse, erected at a cost of $233,000 was a two story structure with a lounge, a kitchen, a lunchroom, and sixty-three private rooms. (RE&M, Volume 47, number 11, November 1951, p.1014)
The hump yard at Hinkle was opened in 1978.
UP operates two yards at Portland. The flat switching yard at Albina has forty tracks. Barnes Yard, a joint facility with Burlington Northern, has 22 tracks.
Post UP/MP/WP Merger Yards
Livonia Yard (Louisiana)
Officially opened on May 9, 1994. Missouri Pacific purchased the 555-acre site in 1981. Construction of the new yard, located along the T&P mainline in Pointe Coupee Parish, 115 miles west of New Orleans, La., was put on hold until 1992 when UP decided to proceed. Construction progressed throughout 1992 and 1993 as UP dumped almost 5,000 car loads of fill material into this swampy location. Operations began to be transferred to Livonia during mid April 1994 from Addis Yard (near Baton Rouge) and Avondale yard (New Orleans). Addis yard was closed on May 8, 1994, and its clerk employees transferred to the new Livonia Yard. Livonia Yard, with its 27-inch mini hump to aid in switching operations, became the hub of UP's operations in Louisiana in March 1995. (Pacific Rail News, August 1995, page 68)
September 25, 1997
The following comes from the September 25, 1997 issue of Update Line, a weekly employee online news service, published by the Union Pacific Communications Department:
The $20 million expansion of the Livonia, LA yard is nearly complete with new trackage already helping the key terminal handle its growing business.
The expansion added two departure tracks, making a total of eight, with six bowl tracks for a total of 35. Two receiving tracks are to be completed next week. A million-gallon capacity fueling facility also is part of the expansion.
Livonia blocks for Houston and in the future will assemble blocks for Little Rock and eastern gateways at New Orleans.
When it opened in 1994, Livonia was recognized as the nation's most technologivcally advanced switching and classification yard. Its "mini-hump" has a crest just 27 inches high, compared to 12 to 15 feet at older yards. the minicrest and retarders keep car speeds and noise at lower levels.