Railroads played an important role in Nebraska history. The towns with train depots thrived. Livestock, grain, consumer goods to be sold in stores, and passengers all moved by train in the 1920s. Most farmers in York County shipped their cattle by train to Omaha, one of the country’s biggest stockyards. At one time, the Omaha stockyards were bigger and busier than the Chicago stockyards.
During the 1920s, two sale barns opened in the town of York, saving transportation costs for farmers who wanted to buy and sell cattle, hogs, calves, or sheep. Farmers could go to the sale barn in nearby York and sell their cattle at an auction rather than shipping their cattle to Omaha and selling them through a commission office.
Children were not allowed on stock trains, but Kenneth Jackson recalls the time his father took him on a train to the Omaha Stockyards.
“They weren’t supposed to have children on a stock train, but the depot agent at Liston sold my dad a ticket for me. And we got to Lincoln, and we stopped off. They do some switching in Lincoln on the trains, and they had what they called a beanery there where the railroad help worked. And so we got to eat lunch there. And then we went to get on the train, why the conductor said I couldn’t get on ’cause you weren’t supposed to have kids on the train, on our freight train. And Dad said, ‘Well we got this far, what are you going to do about it now?’ And he said, ‘Well, come on.’ So he let me on and I got to ride clear to Omaha. And he let us off out there in the railroad yard… We went to the commission man’s office and laid on the bench until morning and then went out to the yards and found our cattle. They used to get 15- or 20,000 head a day I think in there. One time Omaha was the largest, even above Chicago for the livestock market.” — Kenneth Jackson (Quicktime required)
Written by Claudia Reinhardt.