Adventures in the Villa



2021-08-04 – The Oregon Trail caravan … Day 7 – Kearney, NE to Ogallala, NE

Another travel day. We went only about 150 miles, but there were many interesting stops along the way…

But first, we enjoyed the Nebraska scenery…

We were told by our caravan manual to stop off and see The Golden Spike. Well, the only golden spike that I knew of was at Promontory Point, Utah, where the Central Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads completed the transcontinental railroad. So we had no idea what to expect here. Our GPS took us on a wild goose chase around and through several residential neighborhoods until we finally arrived near the railroad tracks. We figured we were getting close. Then we saw the tower:

We figured this was probably worth a stop. We had no idea!

This is The Bailey Classification Yard! We learned a little history:

During the construction of the transcontinental railroad, North Platte was platted as a railroad town by Union Pacific’s Chief Engineer Grenville Dodge.  It was chosen because of its close proximity to good water and its distance from Grand Island, Nebraska. In 1866 the first train rolled through what was known at the time as “Hell on Wheels” town. General Dodge quickly moved to construct major shop facilities and winter quarters and by 1867, main line operations began.  Just two years later on May 10th, East met West at Promontory Summit in Utah, 690 miles east Sacramento and 1,087 miles west of Omaha. The railroad crossed two-thirds of the continent over some of the most difficult terrain on earth. It was called, “The Work of Giants” and it was the end of the frontier, as we knew it.

Today Bailey Yard, named for former Union Pacific president Edd H. Bailey, is the world’s largest train classification yard in the world. Over 3,000 cars are classified (or sorted) to make sure the cargo reaches its final destination. The yard is eight miles long, 1 1/2 miles wide, and at its widest point contains 320 sets or railroad tracks. The yard is located in the midst of key east-west and north-south corridors, on the busiest freight rail line in America, making it a critical component of Union Pacific’s rail network.

Bailey Yard has 17 receiving and 16 departure tracks handling 14,000 rail cars every 24 hours.  The railroad cars are sorted daily in the yard’s eastward and westward yards, nicknamed “hump” yards. Using a mound cresting 34 feet for eastbound trains and 20 feet for those heading west, the hump yards allow four cars a minute to roll gently into any of 114 “bowl” tracks. Here they become part of trains headed for destinations in the East, West and Gulf Coasts of America, as well as the Canadian and Mexican borders. An average of 139 trains per day are comprised of raw and finished goods, such as automobiles, coal, grain, corn, sugar, chemicals, and steel along with consumer goods, including electronics, apparel and other retail products.

To keep America moving forward, the train operations and repair shops at Bailey Yard are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The fueling and service center processes more than 8,500 locomotives each month, using technology like overhead cranes and elevated work bays to maintain fluid operations.

All train movement throughout Bailey Yard is handled through the on-site command center with the latest computerized control systems. The Bailey Yard command center is tied to the Harriman Dispatching Center in Omaha, which controls hundreds of intercity trains daily throughout the company’s 23-state rail system. The Bailey Yard has over 2,500 employees, working 24 hours per day…

So we stopped to take a look… More trains than you can keep track of!

At the observation deck atop the tower we could see the operations, including the hump yards, as the incoming trains are broken up and re-combined into the various outgoing trains.

It was a fascinating opportunity to see how trains really work! We loved it!

We could even see some of our friends parked next to us down below…

So after this exhilarating tour we headed off to the Lincoln County Historical Museum. It was similar to other small county museums…

This one had a rare two story log cabin…

This barbershop was built in 1900…

Typical mercantile building you would see on Main Street in the 1890s…

Then we walked the 1/2 mile to see Scout’s Rest Ranch…

Scout’s Rest Ranch was Buffalo Bill’s retreat and retirement home. He lived here when not traveling with his Wild West shows, and then again after the shows were over…

William Frederick “Buffalo Bill” Cody (February 26, 1846 – January 10, 1917) was an American soldier, bison hunter, and showman. He was born in Le Claire, Iowa Territory (now the state of Iowa), but he lived for several years in his father’s hometown in modern-day Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, before the family returned to the Midwest and settled in the Kansas Territory (now the state of Nebraska).

Buffalo Bill started working at the age of eleven, after his father’s death, and became a rider for the Pony Express at age 15. During the American Civil War, he served the Union from 1863 to the end of the war in 1865. Later he served as a civilian scout for the US Army during the Indian Wars, receiving the Medal of Honor in 1872.

One of the most famous and well-known figures of the American Old West, Buffalo Bill’s legend began to spread when he was only 23. Shortly thereafter he started performing in shows that displayed cowboy themes and episodes from the frontier and Indian Wars. He founded Buffalo Bill’s Wild West in 1883, taking his large company on tours in the United States and, beginning in 1887, in Great Britain and continental Europe.

This is his house at the Scout’s Rest Ranch. It was built in the late 1880s. It is considered to be in the “Second Empire” style, with elements of Italianate and Eastlake detailing. In my opinion, it is a big mess… Look at the shutters. Why were shutters added to the windows? Either to keep the Indians out (not applicable here) or to keep the sun off and to insulate against the cold in winter. Look at these shutters: The cannot do either: they don’t even cover the entire window if they were to be closed… I hate phony stuff like this!

Inside the decoration is “authentic Victorian”… I hate Victorian interiors! It hurts my eyes! That wallpaper is abominable!

The outbuildings were interesting…

The Ice House:

The Spring House: (It would also make a good wine cellar…)

The Cob House: Corn cobs were stored here to burn in the stoves in the house…

Lakes are always nice:

So we set off again, heading west to Ogallala…

We arrived at the RV Park and we were soon set up…

We had our last GAM.

This afternoon as we crossed over to the western-most counties of Nebraska we moved from Central time to Mountain time. But our phones, watches, and the truck GPS have a hard time handling the change. So our clocks have been flipping back and forth between the two zones; we never know what time it is…

An enjoyable time was had by all…

2017-09-15 Westbound; De Smet, South Dakota…

We have a leisurely morning of hot showers and grocery shopping…  We drove about two hours to De Smet, SD.

2017-09-15 Map South Dakota

We pulled into the Ingalls Homestead RV Park.  This is adjacent to the Visitors Center. This is the actual homestead where the Ingalls family lived for several years, about a mile from the town of De Smet.  They have several displays and buildings, from the authentic to the replication.  They also offer covered wagon rides across the prairie.  We weren’t interested in the ride, but it was really cool to see a covered wagon pass by on the horizon:

2017-09-15 LIW 03 Homestead Covered Wagon

They had a real dugout/sod house to view:

2017-09-15 LIW 05 Homestead Dugout

2017-09-15 LIW 06 Homestead Dugout

And here is a replica of the claim shanty Pa built here on the homestead claim:

2017-09-15 LIW 07 Homestead Claim Shanty

It was fun to stand here on the prairie and see what the Ingalls family saw 135 years ago:


2017-09-15 LIW 02a Homestead Prairie

We asked at the visitors center how far it was into town to see the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum there.  We were told that it is less than a mile; she knew, she said, because the Ingalls girls walked to town to go to school every day.  Well, if three little girls could walk to town, certainly we could, too.

It was 1.6 miles to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society…

The first stop was the Surveyors House:

2017-09-15 LIW 15 De Smet Surveyors House

This was the Ingalls family’s first home in De Smet, even before De Smet was started. The Surveyor’s house was built  for the advance crew for the railroad; it was probably built somewhere east of here and dragged along from place to place as the railroad proceeded westward.  Pa Ingalls was asked to stay for the winter after all the railroad crews left to safeguard the railroad equipment, so the Ingalls family moved in.  To them, this was a mansion!  They lived here their first winter in South Dakota, with the house serving as an unofficial hotel/boarding house for settlers coming through on their way west.  The family was living here when Pa walked the 40 miles to Brookings to file his homestead claim.  As soon as he could, Pa built a single room of his claim shanty (see above) and the family moved to the homestead that spring.  At the time, the house was located By the Shores of Silver Lake.  When the Railroad was done with the house, it was bought by a family here and moved to town.  It was later bought by the LIW Memorial Society and moved to this location.

Also on this site is a replica of the Brewster School, where Laura taught when she was 15 years old:

2017-09-15 LIW 14 De Smet Brewster

2017-09-15 LIW 15 De Smet Brewster

Our guide said this replica is probably bigger than the original…

The best thing here is the original schoolhouse, the first school built here in De Smet:

2017-09-15 LIW 12 De Smet School

This is the actual location of the school that the Ingalls girls walked to from the Homestead…

The interior:

2017-09-15 LIW 13 De Smet School

The school had been used as a home for many years before it was acquired by the LIW Memorial Society and restored.  The original blackboards are here… These desks are not original, but the school did have store-bought desks, not the home made desks you saw above in the Brewster School.

After seeing these buildings here we went over through downtown De Smet; Pa built a store here in town as an investment; the family lived in the store during The Long Winter, in 1880-1881.  The store is no longer there, but we were able to see the location, here in “downtown” De Smet:

2017-09-15 LIW 12 De Smet Main Street

We then arrived at the Ingalls house, just around the corner:

2017-09-15 LIW 12 De Smet Ingalls House

The family only lived on the homestead for about seven years; Pa built this house, room by room, and the family lived out their lives here. (Laura never lived here; she had married Almanzo by the time the house was built…)  Carrie and Grace lived here until they married and moved a short distance away.  (Grace lived in Huron, Carrie lived in Keystone…)  Mary, Ma, and Pa lived here for the rest of their lives.  Pa wasn’t much of farmer, and he made his living as a carpenter, Justice of the Peace, and just about any other odd job he could get… They also took in boarders to help pay the bills.  All of the family had had constant health problems, probably due to malnutrition throughout their lives.  Only Laura lived into her 90s.  (Laura died in 1957 in Mansfield, Mo.)

So after this great time seeing the history of this family we walked back to the Villa, hoping to beat the predicted rain; we made it with no problems.  We met our neighbors, who had just pulled in, with tent trailers.  One was from Hull, Iowa, a town full of Dutch people.  This guy had even been an adjunct professor at Dordt College!

Lynda went to walk around the homestead, and she climbed the observation tower to see the views:

2017-09-15 LIW 01 Homestead

2017-09-15 LIW 22 Homestead Villa

There were awesome clouds:

2017-09-15 LIW 10 Homestead Clouds

2017-09-15 LIW 09 Homestead Clouds

Our neighbors had set up their chairs and prepared a campfire.  They invited us to join them… But we politely declined, as we already had begun dinner, and there was football to watch… And then it began to rain. And rain hard.

Our neighbors re-grouped inside their trailers and we settled in for Happy Hours and dinner.  Later that evening we looked out at and saw more beautiful cloud formations, accented with flashes of lightning.  No thunder, just flashes of lightning. Amazing. We had never seen such a thing…

2017-09-15 LIW 11 Homestead Clouds

And an enjoyable time was had by all…







Blog at

Up ↑