So if North Platte has been a Union Pacific town for 155 years, why the hell does the town plan include a “Burlington Boulevard”?
Because there was a period of time – over two decades, in fact – when it looked like it might actually become a two-track city.
Imagine that the homes and businesses along First and Second Streets, all through the city from east to west, have been replaced by railroad tracks and a depot just five blocks south of the Union Pacific Corridor.
This is where the Burlington & Missouri Railroad, a precursor to today’s Burlington Northern Santa Fe, would have run.
It was learned in 1906 that Burlington agents had begun buying lots along this strip as a right of way. It was not until April 1912, however, that the historic UP rival announced plans to build west of the old junction of the two railways at Kearney (abandoned in the 1970s) until to the Platte and North Platte valleys to join other lines from Burlington near Bridgeport.
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Its North Platte depot would have been built on the three-block strip from Dewey to Walnut streets.
The new line, expected to be completed in 1914, would bolster Burlington’s growing network through eastern and northern Wyoming to Thermopolis. It “will open up a long and wide strip of country north of the Platte and North Platte rivers”, wrote The Telegraph on April 11, 1912.
“Many cities will be established,” the story continues, “and the result will be an increase in business for this city, not only from these cities and this country, but from other sections of the northwest so brought together.”
In fact, the enterprising inhabitants of west-central Nebraska had been laying the groundwork for future wealth almost from the time the Burlingtons began buying up city lots.
Few worked harder or longer than William E. Shuman, a North Platte attorney who may have been one of the railroad’s real estate representatives. He certainly promoted it as such.
If the city were to have two railroads instead of one, it would need more houses.
As early as 1908, Shuman regularly advertised lots for sale east of Poplar Street—the easternmost named street in chief engineer Grenville Dodge’s “original town“—and between the UP lanes and the frontage. expected from Burlington along Second Street.
“Many fine homes will be built in this addition over this year and next,” Shuman said in a June 2 Telegraph ad that offered corner lots as low as $400.
“When the Burlington railroad is built, you will find that the west end of this town will be a thin slice between the B. & M. and UP, but the tracks of these railroads will be further apart in addition of the trustee.”
He kept touting the rise of Burlington for 20 years. So did the North Platte Semi-Weekly Tribune, which not only sold Shuman advertisements but also ran his promotional letters – one of which breathlessly proclaimed on January 28, 1913 that the tracks would arrive. “during the current year”.
Not quite, according to a Bridgeport News-Blade article reprinted by The Telegraph on February 20:
“Assurance is given (by Burlington officials) that this gap is an important link in the business system and will certainly be built as soon as possible, but that it can be achieved in the coming year. is not certain.”
In fact, Burlington officials would quietly continue to expand their grip after the end of World War I. But as the 1920s came and went, the strip planned for the new lanes remained vacant, still bearing the trees that grew there. before the beautiful houses they had surrounded were destroyed.
Always, always, the word was that the Burlington was coming in about a year – until July 1928.
Fittingly, the news came from Shuman, who had continued to peddle residential land all this time, reminding Tribune readers, “It won’t be necessary to cross a railroad to get from one of these lots to the commercial part of town.”
Now the broker of the Trustee and Riverdale additions and Platteview and Tabor subdivisions had a new set of properties for sale: the entire 3-mile right-of-way of Burlington.
“Not one city in ten thousand ever passed through a great expanse, held back for more than twenty years as the city grew around it,” he told Tribune readers on July 3, 1928 .
“This property will meet almost any type of need the town might have. There will be the best residential land in a beautiful strip of land, stretching entirely from the east to west boundaries”, as well as commercial land between the first and second along Dewey, Locust (later Jeffers) and Pine (later Bailey).
What had happened? Shuman told the story in The Evening Telegraph three days later: The Federal Interstate Trade Commission had said “that where a new railway (should be) built in a city, it should be on the right of way of the ‘Old Railroad, with a Union Depot.’
That never happened either. North Platte would remain an UP city.
The city, of course, was somewhat larger in 1928 than it was in 1906. As Burlington lots were being snapped up, Shuman wrote in the August 7 Evening Telegraph that those responsible for the city had decided to establish a new 100-acre subdivision – Allura Addition – on the site of a circus that had just left town.
It lay south of the railroad line that would never exist and East Side City Park (now Memorial Park), with a main street that would connect to East B Street just east of the location where B and C streets merge.
“Many of these lots,” he wrote, “will face what is now known as Burlington Boulevard. This boulevard is the eleven-acre land that was deeded to the city for storm sewer purposes.
So, over the past 90 years, Burlington Boulevard—which itself never carried railroad tracks—has become a nearly forgotten memorial to this city’s railroad history that never existed.
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