On June 8, my very excited 14-year-old son and I visited your city. He had been dreaming about seeing Bailey Train Yard for some time.
We are a military family. We love to travel and have explored many cities both in the US and abroad. I am an Air Force veteran. My husband is a retired Air Force veteran. My daughter is a Naval Academy graduate, and I have a son in the Air Force.
So, when my 14-year-old son suggested we take a train ride across the U.S. and then drive another four hours to see the renowned Bailey Train Yard, I relented.
Yesterday, we finally got to view this iconic train yard from the tower. As we were returning from this visit, I pulled over (near the Barn Store) and my son set up his tripod and camera to film three locomotives going by.
I sat quietly in the car next to him as he didn’t want me to make background noise. He was an excited young man doing what he loves. I was distracted by the trains and didn’t initially notice a woman approaching. She began questioning/badgering my son and asking intrusive questions about what he was doing.
At first, I thought she might be a train enthusiast as she asked him if he was making a calendar, etc. She was close enough to be in his personal space.
I stepped from my car and asked why she was questioning my son, purposely stating his age, as he is tall for his age. I then began to realize what was happening. I am white and my husband is black. Our origins are more complex, but this is how we are identified on paper.
I began to interrogate this lady and she kept reiterating the fact that this is her town, and she has the right to know what people are doing. I pointed out that it was obvious what he was doing — he had a camera and a tripod. I told her he is a train enthusiast. She said she had noticed his out-of-state plates. The car was a rental.
I pointed out he does not have out-of-state plates as he is only 14 and does not drive. The confrontation continued.
Finally, she left and only then did I realize that this individual had come across the entire parking lot and the street to confront my son.
Afterwards, I let my son continue to enjoy the locomotives. We did notice there were Union Pacific no trespassing signs about 40 feet in front of us. I had my son film near the road so he would not be near or past the signs. Soon, a Union Pacific employee showed up and asked politely if he could film from across the street. He gave my son a cool hat with the train yard printed on it for the trouble of having to move.
We packed up and left. My son got in the car and due to his encounter with the lady crossed off North Platte as a community to live in and work on the railroad, pointing out he had researched other cities to live in while being a train engineer, based on factors such as quality of life and cost of living.
We got in my car and drove an extra 14 miles, despite the marathon trip we had already been on, because he had researched a train bridge in Hershey. There, we encountered an elderly couple with an adorable dog. They were friendly and welcoming. My son pondered aloud how it was interesting that these folks from a non-tourist town were friendly, but the lady from North Platte was so rude.
North Platte is not a town my son will soon forget, but not for the reasons I had hoped.
– Sandra Turcotte, York, Penn.
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