Railroad Employees Continue Omaha Holiday Tradition
40-Foot Blue Spruce to Adorn Durham Western Heritage Museum.
Omaha, Neb.– Union Pacific employees today cut and transported a 40-foot blue spruce from the front yard of Evelyn Novotny in Omaha to the Durham Western Heritage Museum.
“Each year our employees look forward to helping bring this holiday symbol to the former Union Station, just like their fellow employees did so many years ago,” said Carol Daley, Union Pacific’s administrative manager for the Council Bluffs Service Unit and the railroad’s “Christmas tree team” coordinator. “To see the expressions on the faces of young and old alike when they first walk into the museum’s lobby and see the decorated tree for the first time is priceless.”
Union Pacific began the tradition some 75 years ago by cutting a Christmas tree from along its right of way in the Pacific Northwest and transporting it to Omaha’s Union Station. The tree greeted the thousands of passengers arriving on trains during the holiday season in the heyday of passenger rail service. This is the 16th year in a row the “official” Omaha Christmas tree has been harvested in the Omaha/Council Bluffs area.
After this year’s tree is placed in the massive, art-deco-patterned, terrazzo-floored main lobby by Union Pacific employees, it will be sprayed with a fire retardant chemical by a contractor and decorated by volunteers, along with employees from Mangelsen’s, an Omaha area craft store.
The fully decorated tree will be ready for the tree lighting ceremony on Friday, November 23, which begins at 4 p.m.
About Durham Western Heritage Museum
Union Station opened in 1931. The station originally had 13 sets of tracks that carried passengers to and from Omaha. The tracks were located to the south of the building. Railroads serving Union Station included Union Pacific, Rock Island, Missouri Pacific, Milwaukee, Wabash, Great Western, Illinois Central and North Western Railroads. Combining efforts with Burlington Depot made Omaha the fourth largest railroad center in the United States.
After Amtrak took over Union Pacific’s passenger business in 1971, Union Station was closed. In 1973, the railroad donated the building to the City of Omaha and on November, 22, 1975, the Western Heritage Museum opened in time to restore the tradition of Christmas at Union Station. The museum was renamed Durham Western Heritage Museum in 1997 to honor Charles and Margre Durham, major contributors and supporters of the Museum.
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