Railroad Activity in Fremont, Nebraska
I grew up in Fremont, Nebraska, which continues to see a lot of railroad activity even as mergers take place and lines are abandoned.
The main rail traffic through Fremont is the Union Pacific's Overland Route, a transcontinental route from Council Bluffs, Iowa, to Roseville, California. This is the route famously taught in history with its completion commemorated by driving a Golden Spike in Promontory Point, Utah.
While grain elevators line the tracks and hoppers can be seen switched around, the heavy traffic comes from the full coal trains coming from or empties going to Wyoming, interspersed with intermodal trains carrying goods, or refrigerated box cars carrying perishables, across the nation.
It would seem that a train passes through Fremont every 3 minutes. You can't go long without hearing a horn in the distance.
The mainlines through Fremont were so numerous that they literally criss-crossed. Burlington Northern came up from the south, crossed the Union Pacific and CNW tracks at three diamond crossings, and curved around the west side of town as it headed north where it crossed another CNW track at another diamond crossing.
Trains also serviced the coal fueled power plant in town. I lived near the power plant and could always hear the hum which coupled with the occasional high pressure release of steam and the constant sounds of trains coming and going, gives Fremont its unique soundscape.
Chicago and North Western used to come into Fremont from three directions. The north from Norfolk, the southwest from Lincoln, and the northeast from Blair. At one time the CNW track coming from the north even split to run along both the east and west sides of town making Fremont a railroad island. By the early 1980s, Chicago and North Western abandoned both the section of track coming in from Norfolk to the north, and the track heading over the Platte to Lincoln on the west side of town. Union Pacific now runs over the track coming in from Blair before joining the Transcontinental Route.
The track from Fremont to Norfolk was was built in 1869 by the Fremont, Elkorn and Missouri Valley Railroad, nicknamed the "Cowboy Line," and was later aquired by Chicago North Western in 1903.
In the early 1980s an excursion railroad, the Fremont, Elkhorn Valley Railroad (FEVR) was established and aquired the line from Fremont to Norfolk from the CNW (though the FEVR only ran as far north as Hooper, Nebraska). For the first few years of operation it used a steam locomotive which was later sold to an operation in the Smoky Mountains. The Fremont Dinner Train was a separate operation from the FEVR but utilized the FEVR locomotive power and track. After a bridge washed out the railroad could no longer run up to Hooper and instead terminated in Nickerson.
By 2015 the dinner train moved operations out of state and the FEVR has shut down thus ending operations on what was believed to be the oldest track laid in Nebraska.
The Union Depot which serviced both Union Pacific and Chicago and North Western was gone before I could remember. The Chicago and North Western Freight house still stands as does the Burlington Depot.
I was joined by Grant for a day filled with train watching in March of 2010. There was no shortage of rail activity in Fremont that day. Switching, mixed freight, and unit trains (both empty and full), came through. The employees were nice, even waving, smiling, and giving a few extra rings or toots, as we kept a safe distance in public areas such as lots and sidewalks.
In March of 2011, I set up a microphone in the backyard of my childhood home to record the sounds of the night in Fremont. Though I recorded for fifty minutes, I condensed it to the following 20 minute clip. It can be described best as a sleep aide for train enthusiasts as distant train horns call out into the night, sometimes receiving a response from another train passing through.