Santa May Deliver the Toys, But Union Pacific Brings the Tree

Durham Tree Greeting Card Graphic | LR

Christmas is right around the corner - literally - in Omaha.

Janice Teegarden and Wayne Ogle

Janice Teegarden and Wayne Ogle of Omaha donated this year's blue spruce.

Union Pacific Railroad delivered a nearly 45-foot-tall blue spruce to The Durham Museum in Omaha, Nebraska, as part of a longstanding tradition that dates to 1931, when railroad crews first began cutting down and delivering the city’s official Christmas tree.

About a dozen Union Pacific employees help The Durham Museum each year select, cut, load, transport and decorate what is believed to be Omaha’s largest indoor Christmas tree.

“Our crews look forward to this all year. They enjoy being part of such a cool tradition and giving back to the community. It gets us all in the Christmas spirit,” said Travis Cook, manager – bridge maintenance.

The tree is the awe-inspiring centerpiece in The Durham Museum’s annual “Christmas at Union Station” festivities, which attract up to 80,000 visitors each year.

“It’s such a joyful time at The Durham Museum, with families and children coming to see the tree and meeting Santa Claus. We couldn’t do this without all the community support we receive from companies like Union Pacific,” said Jessica Brummer, director of communications for The Durham Museum.

Union Pacific Delivers Omaha's Christmas Tree to The Durham Museum

Union Pacific's Council Bluffs bridge gang went on Elf duty again, delivering Omaha's official Christmas tree 🎄🎄🎄 to The Durham Museum, continuing a longstanding tradition that dates back to 1931.

The tradition began in 1931, when Union Pacific crews would cut a tree from the railroad’s right-of-way in the Pacific Northwest and transport it back to Omaha for display at Union Station.

Union Pacific did this for about 40 years, or until Union Station closed its doors to passengers in 1971. The holiday custom returned a few years later, after Union Pacific donated the station to the City of Omaha in 1973 and it became a museum in 1975.

However, a lot has changed since those early days.

For starters, the trees have gotten a whole lot bigger and wider – haven’t we all – and they no longer come from the Pacific Northwest.

The trees now come from the Omaha area. Each year, The Durham Museum puts out a call in the spring, letting residents and surrounding communities know they are looking for a 40-foot-tall tree.

Dozens of people offer up their tree for the honor, with nominations narrowed down to five or seven. A Union Pacific crew from the bridge department then goes out and identifies the best tree for the job, based on numerous factors, including aesthetics and location.

This year’s tree is a blue spruce and was being donated by Janice Teegarden and Wayne Ogle of Omaha. Teegarden purchased the tree from Shopko in 1987 for $5 and planted it in her front yard.

It takes several hours to cut down the tree, load it up on the trailer and transport it to The Durham Museum. Once there, Union Pacific crew members helped pull the tree into the museum and hang it from the ceiling.

The Union Pacific Council Bluffs Bridge gang spends about a week, decorating the tree with lights and ornaments, in time for The Durham Museum holiday festivities that start on Nov. 25 and extend through Jan. 8.

“It’s such an honor to be part of this special tradition and we appreciate everyone’s effort in making this annual tradition a success,” said Cook.

Durham Tree Then Now | MR


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