6427 Miles: A Tour of America
By Gerard Forgnone
Thursday, September 12, 2013
Omaha, Nebraska, to Des Moines, Iowa
I have to backtrack a little for you to understand
the significance of this next event.
Mom and Dad are buried in the Winton, Ca,
cemetery. Years ago, I was in Yosemite, and
decided to visit their graves while I was
nearby. Mom had mentioned that the former
Castle Air Force Base had started an aircraft
museum, so I figured I'd stop and see it. Good
thing I did, because it is a GREAT outdoor
museum! The airplanes get newer and larger as
you walk toward the back, and it was there that I
saw my first B-36. Here is more information
was a strategic bomber built by Convair and
operated solely by the United States Air Force
(USAF) from 1949 to 1959. The B-36 was the largest
mass-produced piston engine aircraft ever made. It
had the longest wingspan of any combat aircraft
ever built (230 ft, 70.1 m), although
there have been larger military transports. The
B-36 was the first bomber capable of delivering
any of the nuclear weapons in the U.S. arsenal
from inside its two bomb bays without aircraft
modifications. With a range of 16,000 km
(9,900 mi) and a maximum payload of
33,000 kg (73,000 lb), the B-36 was the
world's first manned bomber with an unrefueled
intercontinental range. Until it was replaced by
the jet powered Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, which
first became operational in 1955, the B-36 was the
primary nuclear weapons delivery vehicle of the
Strategic Air Command (SAC), and the B-36 set the
standard for range and payload for subsequent U.S.
The thing is HUGE!
Anyway, there are only FOUR of these significant
aircraft still on display (out of 384 produced) and
I figured I ought to see them all. The second
one was in Tuscon, at the Pima Air and Space Museum
a few years ago. I had made a plan on THIS
trip to see my third one at the Air Force Museum in
Dayton, Ohio. I don't know why, but I never
thought about where the fourth one would be.
So, the evening of September 11, I'm driving along
I-80 almost to Omaha, and it's getting about time to
stop for the night. The road was fairly open,
so I had good vision all around, and it was a good
thing, because I just happened to see the only sign
for this place on the side of the freeway.
There were no billboards, no other indication of
what was ahead, and I could have EASILY missed this
sign had it been dark or if I been going around a
truck or something.
This pic is from Google Maps...the sign surprised
me, so I didn't get my own photo.
I pulled over at the next rest area and looked at
the GPS for the museum, and guess what????
Right next to the museum was a park with camping, so
I stayed the night. What a wonderful place it
was! Here is the view in the morning.
It was nice enough to break out the folding table
and have some Cocoa Puffs for breakfast!
So just 1/4 mile away is the Strategic Air and Space
Museum, formerly housed at Offutt Air Force Base
near Omaha, Nebraska. I used to launch Atlas
rockets, very similar to the one with the red bottom
in the center.
This one is an Atlas F, with the hold-downs required
for vertical storage. The ones I worked on and
launched were Atlas E's, with clamps on the very
bottom for horizontal storage.
What a great museum! The airplanes are mostly
unrestored, which gives you a feel for what they may
have looked like during use. I liked the white
ceiling...made it easy to see and photograph
There it is! B-36!
Big tires! But, these are actually the SMALL
tires installed in sets of 4, because the single
tires exerted too much pressure on the runway
surfaces, that there were only 3 runways in the US
that could handle the aircraft. The 4-tire
bogie allowed the aircraft to land on most concrete
B-58 Hustler. This is a rare find, not many of
these around either.
It was a beautiful day in Nebraska!
Well, I finally made it to the beginning of the
Transcontinental Railroad, in Omaha, Nebraska!
There is some controversy with folks who live across
the Missouri River in Council Bluffs, Iowa, who
rightfully say that their town was the beginning of
the Transcontinental Railroad, but more commerce
occurred in Omaha, so there is more to see in Omaha
now. The Council Bluffs railroad museum was
not well rated, so I decided to make The Durham
Museum, in Omaha's Union Station, my destination.
Inside an old railcar.
After passenger rail travel ended, the Union Station
was abandoned. The Durham Museum took the one
track next to the station, enclosed it, and put some
vintage rolling stock indoors. Here is a
beautifully restored caboose.
This area used to be FILLED with rail lines!
This is the old Burlington Railroad Station, a
competitor to the Union Pacific railroad. This
building was abandoned years ago, and is currently
being renovated to become a TV news studio.
Wonder how they're going to deal with the locomotive
So, as I was leaving the Durham Museum, I asked the
attendant if there was anything else to see in the
area, railroad-wise. She told me to go south
about two miles, to the Kenefick Park, where there
were two locomotives on display. What an
This really sums it all up: The Transcontinental
Railroad changed the West, changed the United
States, and by definition, changed the world.
There really was "Nothing Like It In The World."
Because the government gave plots of land to the
railroad, the railroad sold it cheaply to whoever
wanted it, knowing that people would have to use
that railroad to get themselves to the land, and to
get their products and crops to market.
Brilliant. From points north and south of the
Transcontinental Railroad, more rail lines were put
in, more towns sprouted, and the West was
settled. There were no cars at this time,
therefore no roads. The railroad was THE way
to move in the West. If a rail line wasn't
close, you didn't go there. Once the rails
came in, people followed in vast numbers.
What a view! The Missouri River is just below.
Big Boy steam locomotive in black, diesel locomotive
This map was built into the walkway of Kenefick
Heading out further east from Omaha, in Iowa.
KOA Kampground entrance, Des Moines, Iowa.
What a beautiful end to a wonderful day, the final
day of the Transcontinental Railroad route.
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