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'150 Express' stops in North PlatteTell North Platte what you think
Photo by George Lauby
Photo by George Lauby
Gov. Ricketts meets Brookelyn Griffiths, 13, of North Platte.
Photo by George Lauby
Clayton Anderson with a key to the city.
Photo by George Lauby
Lance Fritz
Photo by George Lauby
Mayor Livingston presents a gift to the governor's office.
Photo by George Lauby
Just after arrival, Jacelyn Myers, from left, Mackenzie DeGarmo, Billie DeGarmo holding Cale Stearley, Gavin DeGarmo and Gunnar Beller in the stroller pose for a photograph.
Photo by George Lauby
Dontaye Hansen meets Clayton Anderson.

A throwback to the days of passenger trains pulled into North Platte late Friday afternoon, similar to the streamliners that ran up and down the main lines of Union Pacific Railroad in the 1950s and 60s.

This streamliner, named the Nebraska 150 Express, is celebrating the state’s sesquicentennial – commonly known as the 150th anniversary of statehood.

Gov. Pete Ricketts, his wife and First Lady Susanne Shore and their children, along with Union Pacific Railroad CEO Lance Fritz and his wife Julie headed the dignitaries on the whistle stop tour through the center of the state.

Retired NASA astronaut Clayton Anderson of Ashland was onboard too, and he received hearty cheers and applause, and signed and sold copies of his book, The Ordinary Spaceman: From Boyhood Dreams to Astronaut.

Mayor Dwight Livingston presented dignitaries with keys to the city, as well as a framed painting of the North Platte Canteen of World War II.

The presentation was made near the site of the UPRR depot of the 1940s-50s, which housed the renowned canteen during WWII.

Livingston noted the generosity of the Canteen effort, when 125 communities in a wide area around North Platte joined together to offer food, coffee and words of thanks to some 6 million service men and women as they stopped for 10 minutes, traveling to and from their duty stations.

The Canteen story is still talked about today, Livingston noted, and letters of thanks from veterans who stopped in North Platte during WWII still arrive at City Hall and the Lincoln County Visitor’s Bureau.

Livingston said the canteen spirit is still alive today. It is displayed through works of the Ready To Serve Volunteer Program (RSVP) of Lincoln County, which donates tens of thousands of hours each year to worthy causes.

Ricketts spoke of President Abraham Lincoln’s vision. Even though the Civil War looked unwinnable for the Union at one point, Lincoln continued to lead our nation. And, he had the foresight to tie the country together with a coast-to-coast railroad line. Just four years after the war, UP tracks arrived in North Platte and the community was created.

Ricketts also spoke of the great character of Nebraskans -- George Flippin, the first African-American football player at NU, Edward Gomez, a medal of honor recipient from the Korean War, Buffalo Bill Cody and Fr. Flanagan of Boys Town.

“Nebraska is not just lines on a map,” he said. “Our state is a culture, a way of life. Nebraskans have the willingness to put others before themselves.”

Ricketts presented Livingston with a ceremonial Sesquicentennial coin.

UPRR CEO Lance Fritz said he was proud to represent the 7,500 UP employees of Nebraska, including the 3,000 in North Platte, and he was happy to see many friends in the crowd.

Greeted by loud cheers, Anderson spoke briefly, saying, “Greetings Earthlings, I come in peace. Live long and prosper.”

“No one on or off the planet is more proud than me to have become the first and only astronaut from Nebraska,” he said when the laughter died. “I come from a small town like you, where my coaches, teachers, family and church raised me.”

“May the force be with you,” he said.

After the speeches, people visited at length with the dignitaries, with the longest lines forming to meet Anderson, who signed copies of his book and posed for pictures.

From North Platte, the train moved on Saturday to Ogallala, Sidney and Gering, before heading back east. It returned to North Platte Saturday night and headed to Kearney and Grand Island on Sunday.

In Ogallala, an estimated 300 people gathered to greet the train and take pictures. A community jazz band performed, refreshments were served there, similar to the stop in North Platte.

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The North Platte Bulletin - Published 8/5/2017
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