John Cooper Kenefick (December 26, 1921 to July 20, 2011) served as a senior officer for the Union Pacific Railroad from 1970 to 1986. During his years of service, John Kenefick made many contributions to the Union Pacific and to the city of Omaha, Nebraska. To honor him, Kenefick Park was built.
As you drive west on Interstate 80 from Iowa across the Missouri River into Nebraska, you look up and see two massive locomotives, one steam and one diesel, on top of a hill. Of course, you want to visit this place so you make your way there. As you pull into the parking lot, you see a bunch of railroad wheels on the side of the hill. This is part of a sculpture and is part of the park. You made the climb up the many steps to the top. You read about John Kenefick, and then you walk along a wall full of indentures of railroads and of the history of the Union Pacific Railroad in Omaha, but you then reach the top. Just past the sculpture of John Kenefick is the real reason you came to the park: to see the two largest locomotives ever built. The 4023 steam locomotive is the ‘Big Boy’, and you fully understand why it is called by that named. The 6900 diesel locomotive is the ‘Centennial’ named in honor of the 100th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad with the driving of the Golden Spike. They both face towards the Missouri River valley at the point where one of the first trestles to cross the Missouri River was built. It is a place of spectacular views of the Missouri River Valley, Council Bluffs, Iowa and of two huge locomotives.
Kenefick Park is located next to the Lauritzen Gardens on Bancroft Street. It is just minutes off Interstate 80. Admission is free, and the park is open from 9:00am to 5:00pm every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. If you do not wish to climb the steps, there is a tram that will take you up. You can inquire about the tram at the gardens.
If you are around the Omaha area, Kenefick Park is a must see. If you are not around Omaha, here is a reason to visit Omaha. You will not regret it.