• Where does Nebraska belong?

  • Pertaining to all railroad subjects, past and present, in the American West, including California, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, Montana, and The Dakotas. For specific railroad topics, please see the Fallen Flags and Active Railroads categories.
Pertaining to all railroad subjects, past and present, in the American West, including California, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, Montana, and The Dakotas. For specific railroad topics, please see the Fallen Flags and Active Railroads categories.

Moderator: Komachi

  by Desertdweller
Here is a question I have been wondering about for quite awhile.

What geographic area (Railfan Forum) does Nebraska belong in? It isn't listed as part of Midwest or Western. Nebraska goes farther west than either Kansas or the Dakotas. Yet the Dakotas are listed as being "Western", and Kansas is listed as "Midwest", although Nebraska goes as far east as Kansas.

I don't think there is much argument that Nebraska isn't a key railroad state. In fact, it has the world's largest railroad yard. Two major east-west rail routes and a major north-south coal route.

Culturally, we are more western than midwestern, but then, so is Kansas. Why were we left off the list? Are we really unclassifiable?

When our state government was formed, both the CB&Q and UP railroads were given seats in the state legislature. UP (at that time at least) was definitely a western railroad, and CB&Q, while a Grainger, had a huge western component with lines to Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Montana. It was as much a western railroad as a midwestern one.

  by Backshophoss
How about "Central West",that includes Ne,Co,Ut,and Ks(as defined by Altamont Press)
When you get west of Lincoln Ne or Topeka Ks,the "feel" changes from midwest to west.
Would get that at the Mn/Sd border and the Mn/Nd border as well.

Interesting question about Nebraska - I agree that NE can be both midwestern and western...
Examples: Omaha and Lincoln - midwestern; North Platte and Scottsbluff - western...
I feel that the Grand Island area is where the transitional changes are very much noticed...

I suggest - if anyone has traveled this route - driving US 30 between Grand Island and North Platte which
parallels the busy three track UP route - I did this in July of 2000 and was impressed with the frequency of
trains using this line - which is primarily used by coal trains going east from the Powder River coal fields...

I have traveled across Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota on various vacation trips over time...
All four of these states are transitional between the midwest and west and I will cite these examples for KS,
SD and ND and I remember that all four of these states have midwestern type farms in their eastern areas
and more rugged western style terrain in their western halves...

Kansas: Kansas City and Topeka - midwest; Dodge City and Garden City - west
South Dakota: Sioux Falls, Brookings and Aberdeen - midwest; Rapid City - west
North Dakota: Fargo and Grand Forks - midwest; Dickinson and Williston - west

Another way of dividing midwest and west is simply using the Central/Mountain time zone boundary
which goes across all four of these states - but this can be somewhat misleading because in both
Nebraska and Kansas the time zone boundary is in the western half of both states but interestingly
it goes literally through the center of both South and North Dakota and their two capital cities which
are Pierre, SD and Bismarck, ND respectively are almost literally divided by the CT/MT boundary...
The CT/MT boundary then takes a interesting westward turn N of Bismarck to get all the way to
the North Dakota-Montana state line in the Williston, ND area...

All four of these states are almost evenly divided and it is hard to place them in one category
or the other but one thing all four have in common is that they are all transitional states...

Last edited by MACTRAXX on Mon Mar 16, 2015 4:31 pm, edited 4 times in total.
  by Desertdweller
My Grandfather (an Iowa farmer) used to say that the west began at the 100th meridian. In the 19th and early 20th Centuries, this was generally as far west as Midwestern-type crops could be grown with only natural rainfall. So this was the place where most farming gave way to ranching. Now, with irrigation, high water-consuming crops can be grown all the way to the mountains, at the expense of drawing down the Ogallala Aquifer.

The culture of an area is largely dependent on its economy. So as farming is replaced by ranching, Midwestern culture is replaced by Western culture.
In South Dakota, this is most apparent along the Missouri River. Pierre (on the east side) is in the Central Time Zone. Ft. Pierre (opposite Pierre) is in the Mountain Time Zone. In South Dakota this is called "West River", or "Trans-Missouri".

I would say the definitions given in the two above posts are pretty accurate. A slight aberration exists in Nebraska, where the Sand Hills extend across the entire northern portion of the state. The soil in the sand hills is too thin to allow tillage, except in stream valleys, so this extends the ranching area far east.

The railroads were quick to play on this. To the Midwest-based travelers, the Denver Zephyr must have appeared quite exotic, with its cowboy-inspired interior decorations with branding and chuck wagon scenes.

Here in Western Nebraska, we are definitely in the Western culture. My town (Ogallala) is in the Mountain Time Zone, 30 miles from Colorado. But probably about a third of the state is Midwestern (Grand Island and East). In much of the rest of the state, the railroads preceded settlement. Communities in the Platte River Valley existed on the Overland Trail, a sort of Interstate 80 for covered wagons.

  by mtuandrew
I think we could easily do a Great Plains forum (four corners at western Montana, eastern North Dakota, and the bottom corners of Oklahoma.) Maybe include the Canadian provinces, if you wanted to get fancy. That'd include Powder River coal in Wyoming, oil in Oklahoma, and grain in the Dakotas, but exclude the eastern Colorado lines and the Texas roads (in the Western and Southeast forums respectively.)