17 railroad places you need to visit in the Central U.S. or Midwest

Trains editors list their top 17 railroad locations in the American Midwest to watch, ride, or celebrate railroads, railways, and trains
RELATED TOPICS: MIDWEST | RAILFANING
An unusual, short, BNSF Railway train heads south on the Joint Line between Denver and Pueblo, Colo.
An unusual, short, BNSF Railway train heads south on the Joint Line between Denver and Pueblo, Colo.
Trains Staff
A version of this article was originally published in the November 2015 issue of Trains.

1 NORTH PLATTE, NEB. The world’s largest yard merits a spike-shaped observation tower. It covers more than 2,800 acres of land.

2 THE RACETRACK The Chicago, Burlington & Quincy set the pace for commuter trains leaving Chicago; BNSF Railway and Metra action continue the tradition.

3 MASON CITY, IOWA Iowa Traction still moves covered grain hoppers with ancient, bright orange electrics. 

4 MICHIGAN CITY, IND. Street running for the South Shore, America’s last true interurban, from Chicago to South Bend, Ind. 

5 MANITOWOC, WIS. Coal-fired ex-Chesapeake & Ohio carferry still ping-pongs between here and Ludington, Mich. 

6 THE JOINT LINE Jointly operated main lines of BNSF and UP between Denver and Pueblo, Colo., in a model railroad-like setting with heavy tonnage.
A South Shore Line train trundles through city streets in Michigan City, Ind.
A South Shore Line train trundles through city streets in Michigan City, Ind.
TRAINS: Brian Schmidt
7 KANSAS CITY UNION STATION 1914 Jarvis Hunt classic that saw almost 700,000 passengers in 1945. 

8 GRAND ISLAND, NEB. Where UP’s incredibly busy transcon (a headlight every 5 minutes) passes under BNSF’s busy coal line.

9 UNION PACIFIC MUSEUM Only corporate-sponsored railroad museum, where the UP began in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

10 CHICAGO UNION STATION Classic giant American station with a great hall. Find the staircase from “The Untouchables.”

11 MARION, OHIO The restored AC Tower keeps watch over CSX and NS mainline action.
A real railroad car ferry still plies Lake Michigan's water between Wisconsin and Michigan.
A real railroad car ferry still plies Lake Michigan's water between Wisconsin and Michigan.
TRAINS: Brian Schmidt
12 ROCHELLE, ILL. One of the first sanctioned train-watching parks in America, where BNSF and UP cross at grade and fans gather. See Trains Magazine's live streaming railfan camera from Rochelle online.

13 PULLMAN, ILL. Most of the Landmark Pullman factory is gone but George M.’s utopian employees village remains. A study in corporate paternalism.

14 VAUGHAN, MISS. Site of the infamous April 30, 1900, wreck of John Luther “Casey” Jones. Former Illinois Central. There is also a museum nearby.

15 PINE JUNCTION, IND. Ghosts of the Pennsy and the New York Central duke it out in northern Indiana as NS and CSX rush to and from the Windy City. 

16 CRAWFORD HILL Busy BNSF helper district in amazingly hilly northwestern Nebraska. (Directs to a private Flickr photo page) 

17 CINCINNATI UNION TERMINAL A 1933 building, now also a museum, is largest half dome in the western hemisphere. And it still serves Amtrak!
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