Retracing railroad history in Long Pine

Local residents work to make sure the town's connection to the railroad is not forgotten.
Published: Sep. 5, 2023 at 1:39 PM CDT
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LONG PINE, Neb. (KOLN) - Local residents of Long Pine are working hard to make sure the connection between the railroad and the town isn’t forgotten.

We caught up with Angie Debolt to talk more about how the railroad really was a key to the development of Long Pine. “The railroad came in 1881,” Debolt said. “First, it was the Fremont, Elkhorn & Missouri Valley railroad. In 1906, the Chicago and Northwestern took over. When they came, they built a roundhouse to service the trains that came here.”

The railroad certainly was important for Long Pine. “There were passenger trains that came, and of course, this is an area for tourism,” Debolt said. “A lot of people rode the trains to the Chautauquas and to the Hidden Paradise amusement park. But the passenger trains stopped running in 1958, and by 1992, the last freight train came through.” Now, the former “Cowboy Line” is considered the “Cowboy Trail”, and bikes and pedestrians use it now rather than trains.

The roundhouse was important to Long Pine when it was being used. The roundhouse was used to fix steam engines. What’s exciting is there are remnants of the roundhouse that you can still see today. “It’s important to note this, because this was a division point between Norfolk and Chadron,” Debolt said. “People can see the railroad bridge that goes over Long Pine Creek, and that trail goes right past the roundhouse site. Just in the past couple of years, the community has worked to uncover the turntable footprint. You can see where they turned the trains around so they could get in the right bay. Also, the bays for the trains in the roundhouse are still visible. You can see the outlines of those as well. We were lucky to get some funding, and we put some historical signs on site, so you can orientate yourself as to where you are standing and see exactly where the roundhouse was.”

If you want to know more railroad history in Long Pine, be sure to check out the local history museum in town called the “Heritage House Museum.”