North Platte, Nebraska

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North Platte, Nebraska
Golden Spike Tower and visitor center at Union Pacific's Bailey Yards
Golden Spike Tower and visitor center at Union Pacific's Bailey Yards
Location of North Platte within Lincoln County and Nebraska
Location of North Platte within Lincoln County and Nebraska
Coordinates: 41°08′10″N 100°45′47″W / 41.136°N 100.763°W / 41.136; -100.763Coordinates: 41°08′10″N 100°45′47″W / 41.136°N 100.763°W / 41.136; -100.763
CountryUnited States
 • MayorBrandon Kelliher[1]
 • Total13.42 sq mi (34.76 km2)
 • Land13.24 sq mi (34.28 km2)
 • Water0.19 sq mi (0.48 km2)
2,802 ft (854 m)
 • Total23,390
 • Density1,785.96/sq mi (689.57/km2)
Time zoneUTC−6 (Central (CST))
 • Summer (DST)UTC−5 (CDT)
ZIP codes
69101, 69103
Area code(s)308
FIPS code31-35000
GNIS feature ID0831719[3]

North Platte is a city in and the county seat of Lincoln County, Nebraska, United States.[5] It is located in the west-central part of the state, along Interstate 80, at the confluence of the North and South Platte Rivers forming the Platte River. The population was 23,390 at the 2020 census.[6]

North Platte is a railroad town; Union Pacific Railroad's large Bailey Yard is located within the city. Today, North Platte is served only by freight trains, but during World War II the city was famous for the North Platte Canteen. Tens of thousands[7] of volunteers from North Platte and surrounding towns met the troop trains passing through North Platte, offering coffee, sandwiches, dessert, and hospitality to nearly seven million servicemen.[7][8]

North Platte is the principal city of the North Platte Micropolitan Statistical Area, which includes Lincoln, Logan, and McPherson counties.


North Platte was established in 1866 when the Union Pacific Railroad was extended to that point.[9] It derives its name from the North Platte River.[10][11]

On July 13, 1929, black businessman and North Platte resident, Louis "Slim" Seeman, shot and killed Edward Green, a white North Platte police officer,[12][13] leading to the formation of white mobs combing the city, and ordering black residents to leave North Platte.[14] Fearing mob violence, most of North Platte's black residents fled.[14]

The incident began on Friday, July 12, 1929, when Seeman agreed to leave town rather than paying a $100 fine for abusing Ada Miller, a woman living with him at the time. Seeman was placed on a westbound train, but apparently jumped off while the train was at a near standstill near the edge of town. Upon seeing Seeman, Miller reported his presence to the North Platte police, who went to the Seeman's business, The Humming Bird Inn. Green went upstairs while Officer George S. Fitzgibbons searched for Seeman downstairs. Fitzgibbons was about to join Green upstairs when he heard a shotgun blast and saw Officer Green fall to the floor, dead. Soon after, a posse of local men searched for Seeman, who had been hiding in his business. Divergent opinions exist on the nature of his death, but he was dragged from his business with a fatal gunshot to his heart.[12]

The North Platte Canteen was one of the largest volunteer efforts of World War II.  It began on December 17, 1941 when the families and friends of the local Nebraska National Guard unit (Company D) came to the North Platte Depot to give them their Christmas presents.  As the train pulled into the depot, the families began to crowd up to the train cars in anticipation.  The excitement abruptly came to an end as they looked up and down the train for their boys and none were to be found.  Company D had really come, but it was from the Kansas National Guard.

Everyone stood in disbelief, but finally, one person stepped forward and gave their presents to the troops.  Soon, everyone else followed.  The amazement and happiness expressed by the soldiers at receiving these gifts sparked an idea in Rae Wilson’s mind.

Wilson, a local store clerk, wrote into the North Platte Daily Bulletin newspaper the next day to raise support for a canteen that would meet every troop train stopping in North Platte.  She figured, if the North Platte Red Cross ladies could run a canteen during World War I, it could be done again.  Little did she know how big the effort would become.

The North Platte Canteen met its first troop train on December 25, 1941. Baskets of goodies were prepared across the street from the depot at the Cody Hotel.  When it arrived, the troops had to stay on the train for security reasons, so the women handed the cookies, fruit, cigarettes, and magazines up through the windows.  Before long, though, security lessened and, simultaneously, the number of troops coming through the city became too great for the facilities at the hotel.

Wilson then contacted William “Bill” Jeffers, who was both a local resident and President of the Union Pacific Railroad. She asked him if the canteen could be run in the vacant lunchroom at the depot.  He immediately agreed and preparations were made to move in as soon as possible.  The facility would serve as the canteen’s location for the remainder of the war.

As the demands of the war grew so did the sacrifices of the American people.  Rationing and price controls of basic items were instituted and managed by the Office of Price Administration.  Citizens were given ration books that included stamps that allowed you to buy limited amounts of things like sugar, coffee, gasoline, shoes, tires, and more. Even under these limitations, the North Platte Canteen continued to grow.

Volunteers donated their extra stamps to the canteen so that the items needed could be purchased.  Children gave up their birthday cakes so that the sugar could be used to make cakes for the soldiers.  Gas rations were pooled so that groups of women could make it in from distant towns or farms.  The extra farm produce was saved for the canteen by farm families instead of selling it. Even a local boy, Gene Slattery, auctioned his shirt off at the local livestock sale barn every week.  By doing this and working odd jobs, he was able to raise $2,000 for the canteen.

Before long, the tremendous effort began to take a toll on Rae Wilson’s health and she had to hand over the operation to Helen Christ.  Christ would remain at the helm for the rest of the war.

As the war became an all out effort, troop trains began to pour into North Platte.  As many as twenty-four trains a day stopped in the city, giving thousands of troops a chance to experience the canteen on a daily basis.  All of this activity meant that a continual stream of volunteers was required to meet this increasing need.

From 1941 until the canteen closed, 55,000 volunteers from 125 different towns, some 200 miles away, gave both food and time to make sure not one of these trains were missed and that each soldier was fed.  At any time of the day or night, soldiers were able to escape the war for a short 10 or 15 minutes as they stepped into the canteen and were met by mothers, sisters, and sweethearts.  North Platte’s war industry was not munitions, airplanes, or tanks; it was raising morale and every volunteer knew it.  


Anselmo Ansley Arcadia
Arnold Arthur Atkinson
Bayard Berwyn Bignell
Big Springs Birdwood Brady
Brandon Bridgeport Broadwater
Broken Bow Brownlee Brule
Bucktail Buffalo Grove Burwell
Bushnell Callaway Champion
Chappell Comstock Cozad
Curtis Dalton Dickens
Dix Dry Valley Eddyville
Elm Creek Elsie Elwood
Elyria Eustis Farnam
Flats Franklin Gandy
Gering Gibbon Gothenburg
Grainton Grand Island Grant
Gurley Hayes Center Hershey
Holbrook Holdrege Imperial
Ingham Johnstown Kearney
Keystone Kimball Lemar
Lemoyne Lewellen Lexington
Lillian Lisco Lodgepole
Lyman Madrid Mason City
Maxwell Maywood Merna
McGrew Mitchell Moorefield
Morrill Newman Grove Nichols
North Loup North Port Oconto
O’Fallons Ogallala O’Neill
Ord Orleans Oshkosh
Overton Paxton Potter
Red Cloud Ringgold Roscoe
Sarben Sargent Scottsbluff
Shelton Sidney Stapleton
Stockville Sumner Sunol
Sutherland Tallin Table Taylor
Thedford Thune Trumball
Tryon Valentine Venango
Wallace Wauneta Weisert
Wellfleet Westerville Willow Island
Colorado Amherst Fairfield
Haxton Holyoke Julesburg
Ovid Sedgewick

These volunteers baked and fried countless amounts of food.  In one month in 1945, there was an effort to count exactly how much was being distributed. Its total follows:

40,161 cookies

30,679 hard boiled eggs

6,547 doughnuts

6,939 cup, loaf, and birthday cakes

2, 845 pounds of sandwich meat

12 dozen different items in similar proportions

Of these items, the most memorable was the birthday cakes.  A tradition of the North Platte Canteen, begun in 1942, was to give every serviceman celebrating a birthday on the day that he/she visited the canteen a birthday cake.  Approximately 20 cakes were given away each day.

Angel food cakes were the most popular and even farm women, with access to more eggs than many of their city counterparts would sometimes have to be creative.  One woman, finding she did not have the requisite 13 eggs contacted a local turkey farm and obtained turkey eggs.  The resulting cake took only six of these eggs and no one new the difference.

After having baked an angel food cake there were lots of egg yokes leftover. Being the resourceful Midwesterners that they were, the women would make homemade mayonnaise with them.  The result was yellow mayonnaise for sandwiches.

Among the food prepared for the canteen were popcorn balls.  These treats were handed out by the platform girls.  These teenage girls (16 years and older) would stand out on the depot platform with baskets of fruit, cigarettes, candy, popcorn balls, and many other items. They would give soldiers that were unable to get off the train these goodies.  Some of these girls placed their names and addresses in the popcorn balls. The canteen leadership did not approve of this but it did not stop it from happening.  Pen pals soon began to spring up.

Among the writers were Ethel Winters and Virgil Butolph.  Their story began with a popcorn ball Virgil received at the canteen.  Inside, he found Ethel’s sister’s name (Vera) and address in it.  He was not interested in such foolishness so he gave her name to a friend.  When his buddy started getting letters back, Virgil had him ask if Vera had a sister.  He soon got a letter saying she did and her name was Ethel.  They were soon writing back and forth to each other. Increasingly, their letters became romantic.

For Christmas in 1942, Virgil had his sister buy her a hope chest, which she began to fill.  By summer, Virgil gave her a diamond ring.  She wore it but with the understanding that they were not engaged.

Finally, in 1944, Ethel received a telegram from Virgil saying he was coming to visit her while on furlough.  Within an hour of receiving the telegram, Virgil was standing in front of her house.

Virgil’s parents lived in Kearney, Nebraska, so she went to meet them and on their way back to North Platte, Virgil said “Let’s get married.” That very day, September 14, 1944, they got their marriage license and were married by the Methodist minister.  They were married until Virgil's death approximately 40 years later.

The war ended in August 1945.  Just like in the rest of the country, celebration overtook the canteen. However, soldiers were continuing to come through North Platte and the canteen volunteers were right there to meet them.  As the soldiers came home they were able to find the same hospitality as before. Finally, with few troop trains arriving, on April 1, 1946, it was determined that the canteen should close its doors.  A ceremony was held and Rae Wilson returned from California to participate.  The canteen was closed.

The next day, volunteers were in the depot cleaning for the last time and a train pulled in.  It was full of troops.  Unable to give them anything but the coffee they had put on for themselves, they handed out the cups and filled them up.  A fitting ending to an extraordinary story.  So extraordinary, in fact, that from 1941-1946, the canteen served 6 million troops.  None of which, were ever charged and no train was ever missed.[15][16]


North Platte is located at 41°8′9″N 100°46′14″W / 41.13583°N 100.77056°W / 41.13583; -100.77056 (41.135914, −100.770501).[17] According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 13.39 square miles (34.68 km2), of which 13.20 square miles (34.19 km2) is land and 0.19 square miles (0.49 km2) is water.[18]


A landspout near North Platte on May 22, 2004.

North Platte experiences a dry continental climate similar to that of the Nebraska High Plains, classified as hot-summer humid continental (Köppen Dwa), and, with an annual average precipitation of 21.06 inches (535 mm), barely avoids semi-arid classification; it is part of USDA Hardiness zone 5a.[19] The normal monthly mean temperature ranges from 25.0 °F (−3.9 °C) in January to 74.3 °F (23.5 °C) in July.[20] On average, there are 3 afternoons that reach 100 °F (37.8 °C) or higher, 34 afternoons that reach 90 °F (32.2 °C) or higher, 28 afternoons that do not climb above freezing, and 11 mornings with a low of 0 °F (−17.8 °C) or below.[20] The average window for freezing temperatures is September 30 thru May 13,[20] allowing a growing season of 139 days. Extreme temperatures officially range from −35 °F (−37.2 °C) on January 15, 1888 and February 12, 1899, up to 112 °F (44.4 °C) on July 11, 1954; the record cold daily maximum is −15 °F (−26.1 °C) on January 14, 1888, while, conversely, the record warm daily minimum is 80 °F (26.7 °C) on July 25, 1940.[20]

Precipitation is greatest in May and June and has ranged from 10.01 inches (254.3 mm) in 1931 to 33.44 inches (849.4 mm) in 1951.[20] Snowfall averages 28.5 inches (0.72 m) per season, and has historically ranged from 3.0 inches (0.08 m) in 1903–04 to 66.3 inches (1.68 m) in 1979–80;[20] the average window for measurable (≥0.1 inches or 0.0025 metres) snowfall is November 1 thru April 12, with May snow being rare.[20]

Climate data for North Platte Regional Airport, Nebraska (1991-2020 normals,[a] extremes 1874-present)[b]
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 74
Mean maximum °F (°C) 63
Average high °F (°C) 39.6
Average low °F (°C) 11.9
Mean minimum °F (°C) −8
Record low °F (°C) −35
Average precipitation inches (mm) 0.38
Average snowfall inches (cm) 5.1
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 4 5 7 9 12 11 10 9 7 7 4 4 89
Average snowy days (≥ 0.1 in) 4 4 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 2 4 20
Average relative humidity (%) 69.3 68.2 64.4 59.6 63.3 63.9 63.0 64.1 63.8 61.5 66.9 69.6 64.8
Mean monthly sunshine hours 185.0 180.2 227.4 257.5 290.8 322.9 352.9 319.2 259.5 236.2 174.0 170.0 2,975.6
Percent possible sunshine 62 60 61 64 65 71 77 75 69 69 59 59 67
Source: NOAA (relative humidity and sun 1961–1990)[20][22][23]


Historical population
Census Pop.
2019 (est.)23,639[4]−4.4%
U.S. Decennial Census[24]
2018 Estimate[25]

2010 census[edit]

As of the census[26] of 2010, there were 24,733 people, 10,560 households, and 6,290 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,873.7 inhabitants per square mile (723.4/km2). There were 11,450 housing units at an average density of 867.4 per square mile (334.9/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 93.1% White, 1.0% African American, 0.7% Native American, 0.7% Asian, 2.8% from other races, and 1.7% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 8.8% of the population.

There were 10,560 households, of which 30.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 44.5% were married couples living together, 10.7% had a female householder with no husband present, 4.3% had a male householder with no wife present, and 40.4% were non-families. 34.8% of all households were made up of individuals, and 13.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.29 and the average family size was 2.95.

The median age in the city was 37.1 years. 24.9% of residents were under the age of 18; 9% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 25% were from 25 to 44; 25.6% were from 45 to 64; and 15.5% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 48.8% male and 51.2% female.

2000 census[edit]

As of the census of 2000, there were 23,878 people, 9,944 households, and 6,224 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,281.5 people per square mile (880.5/km2). There were 10,718 housing units at an average density of 1,024.1 per square mile (395.2/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 93.47% White, 0.71% African American, 0.64% Native American, 0.39% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 3.30% from other races, and 1.45% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 6.68% of the population.

There were 9,944 households, out of which 31.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 49.8% were married couples living together, 9.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.4% were non-families. 31.9% of all households were made up of individuals, and 13.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.34 and the average family size was 2.97.

In the city, the population was spread out, with 26.0% under the age of 18, 9.5% from 18 to 24, 26.8% from 25 to 44, 21.9% from 45 to 64, and 15.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females, there were 94.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90.0 males.

As of 2000 the median income for a household in the city was $34,181, and the median income for a family was $42,753. Males had a median income of $36,445 versus $20,157 for females. The per capita income for the city was $18,306. About 7.8% of families and 10.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 13.2% of those under age 18 and 9.8% of those age 65 or over.



North Platte is home to North Platte Regional Airport. United Express serves the airport with twice-daily service to Denver International Airport. There is also a door-to-door bus system available for residents of the town.[27]

Points of interest[edit]

North Platte is home to the world's largest rail yard, Bailey Yard. The Golden Spike Tower and Visitor Center is an eight-story building which overlooks the expansive classification yard and engine facilities. The tower and visitor center are open to the public year-round.[28]

North Platte was the western terminus of the Union Pacific Railway from the summer of 1867 until the next section to Laramie, Wyoming, was opened the following summer. Even though Congress had authorized the building of the Transcontinental Railroad in 1862, it was only extended as far as Nebraska City by the start of the summer of 1867. The 275-mile section from Nebraska City to North Platte was completed in less than six weeks.[citation needed]

Lincoln County Historical Museum contains a display detailing the history of the North Platte Canteen, which greeted 6.5 million service personnel from Christmas Day 1941 through April 1, 1946. It also contains a Prairie Village with local landmark homes and other buildings, including a Pony Express station and pioneer church among many others.[29]

Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park is located near North Platte, a Nebraska living history park about Buffalo Bill Cody. The park includes his actual house known as Scout's Rest Ranch. The park is two miles west of U.S. Highway 83 along U.S. Highway 30.[30]

Every June, North Platte hosts the annual "Nebraskaland Days". The event includes parades, art shows, rodeos, concerts, and food events. It draws over 100,000 attendees every year.[31]

North Platte is host to the annual Miss Nebraska pageant, an official preliminary for the Miss America Organization.[32]

Notable people[edit]

Local Businesses[edit]


  1. ^ Mean monthly maxima and minima (i.e. the expected highest and lowest temperature readings at any point during the year or given month) calculated based on data at said location from 1991 to 2020.
  2. ^ Official records for North Platte kept at downtown from September 1874 to December 1947 and at North Platte Regional Airport since January 1948.[21]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "2019 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved July 26, 2020.
  3. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  4. ^ a b "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". United States Census Bureau. May 24, 2020. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
  5. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07.
  6. ^ "Explore Census Data". Retrieved 2021-09-20.
  7. ^ a b Spencer, Matthew. "NORTH PLATTE CANTEEN". Retrieved 2021-04-08.
  8. ^ "North Platte Canteen: Where The Heartland Opened Its Heart In WWII". Retrieved 2021-04-07.
  9. ^ "North Platte, Lincoln County". Center for Advanced Land Management Information Technologies. University of Nebraska. Archived from the original on 19 August 2014. Retrieved 19 August 2014.
  10. ^ "Profile for North Platte, NE". ePodunk. Archived from the original on 20 August 2014. Retrieved 19 August 2014.
  11. ^ Fitzpatrick, Lillian L. (1960). Nebraska Place-Names. University of Nebraska Press. p. 96. ISBN 0-8032-5060-6. A 1925 edition is available for download at University of Nebraska—Lincoln Digital Commons.
  12. ^ a b Dales, David (1979). "North Platte Racial Incident: Black-White Confrontation, 1929". Nebraska History. 60: 424–446 – via
  13. ^ "A History of Racial Injustice – Equal Justice Initiative". Retrieved 31 March 2018.
  14. ^ a b "Nebraska State Historical Society" (PDF). Nebraska State Historical Society. Retrieved 31 March 2018.
  15. ^ Greene, Bob (2003). Once upon a town : the miracle of the North Platte Canteen (1st Perennial ed.). New York: Perennial. ISBN 0-06-008197-X. OCLC 52242740.
  16. ^ Reisdorff, James J. (1986). North Platte canteen. Service Press). David City, Neb.: South Platte Press. ISBN 0-9609568-5-9. OCLC 14639915.
  17. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23.
  18. ^ "US Gazetteer files 2010". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on 2012-07-02. Retrieved 2012-06-24.
  19. ^ "USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map". United States Department of Agriculture. Archived from the original on 2014-02-27. Retrieved 2014-06-01.
  20. ^ a b c d e f g h "NowData – NOAA Online Weather Data". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 2020-11-14.
  21. ^ "Threaded Extremes". Retrieved 31 March 2018.
  22. ^ "Station Name: NE NORTH PLATTE RGNL AP". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 2020-07-11.
  23. ^ "WMO Climate Normals for NORTH PLATTE/LEE BIRD FLD NE 1961–1990". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 2014-03-10.
  24. ^ United States Census Bureau. "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved October 16, 2013.
  25. ^ "Population Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved June 8, 2018.
  26. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2012-06-24.
  27. ^ "Transportation". Visit North Platte. Retrieved 13 March 2021.
  28. ^ Description from Archived 2009-03-29 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 2009-03-15.
  29. ^ Description from Retrieved on 2015-10-23.
  30. ^ Description from Retrieved on 2015-10-23.
  31. ^ "About Us". Archived 2011-07-14 at the Wayback Machine Nebraskaland Days website. Archived 2011-07-28 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 2011-07-27.
  32. ^ "Events". Archived 2016-06-06 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved May 31, 2016.
  33. ^ "Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park". Visit North Platte. Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  34. ^ "Nathan Enderle #4 QB". NFL Enterprises LLC. Retrieved October 22, 2012.
  35. ^ 'Paul Faulkner-Was NFA artist,The Day (New London, Connecticut, January 6, 1997, B4
  36. ^ "Biography of Senator Chuck Hagel". Official website of Senator Chuck Hagel. Archived from the original on 2008-05-19. Retrieved 2008-02-20.
  37. ^ "John Howell". Archived from the original on October 25, 2012. Retrieved October 22, 2012.
  38. ^ "Sandhill highway to be named after Glenn Miller". McCook Daily Gazette. 1999-09-01. Retrieved 2012-10-22.
  39. ^ "Nebraska Governor Keith M. Neville". National Governors Association. Retrieved September 29, 2012.
  40. ^ "Red Cloud". New Perspectives of the West. Retrieved October 22, 2012.
  41. ^ "Northern Colorado's Premier MMA Gym". Trials Martial Arts and Fitness i. Retrieved October 22, 2012.
  42. ^ reports, Telegraph staff. "Legion announces 2015 Hall of Fame". North Platte Nebraska's Newspaper. Retrieved 2021-04-08.
  43. ^ "Danny Woodhead #39 RB". NFL Enterprises LLC. Retrieved October 22, 2012.
  44. ^ "1st State Bank Locations". 1st.BANK.

Further reading[edit]

  • Once Upon a Town: The Miracle of the North Platte Canteen, Bob Greene, Morrow/Avon, 2002, hardcover, 256 pages, ISBN 0-06-008196-1
  • North Platte and its associations, Archibald Adamson, The Evening Telegraph, North Platte, NE, 1910, 241 pages, URL
  • Beckius, Jim (2002), North Platte: City Between Two Rivers, Chicago, Illinois: Arcadia

External links[edit]