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North Carolina Transportation Museum 4/8/2016

by Chris Guenzler

I woke up at 6:30 AM and had breakfast at the Econo Lodge then I watched some television before calling a taxi for 9:15 AM. My cab was waiting at 9:10 AM and soon an ex-railroader and NCTM volunteer drove me to the North Carolina Transportation Museum. He took me first to the Barber Depot before we ended up at the Gift Shop where they set me up for my visit today.

History of the North Carolina Transportation Museum

The museum was founded in 1977, when the Southern Railway deeded 4 acres of land to the state of North Carolina for a transportation museum. Two years later, another 53 acres was added to the original donation; the entirety of the railway's largest former steam locomotive repair shops. The museum's first exhibit opened in 1983, called People, Places and Time. The museum grew over the years, most notably in 1996, with the opening of Barber Junction, a relocated railroad depot from some 30 miles away, and the newly renovated Bob Julian Roundhouse. Barber Junction serves the museum's Visitor's Center and departure point for the on-site train ride. The Bob Julian Roundhouse serves as the hub for most of the museum's railroad exhibits, but also includes aviation exhibits and site history.

Several bays of the Spencer Shops roundhouse are devoted to volunteered restorations of locomotives and rolling stock in the museum collection. It was here that the 542 was worked on and steam locomotives from 1896-1953 were repaired. In the first 16 stalls, visitors can walk among the massive locomotives and rail cars on display. Moving into the Elmer Lam gallery, aviation exhibits dominate, with a full size replica Wright Flyer, Piedmont Airlines exhibits, and more. Moving into the restoration bays, visitors may also see volunteers working on various railroad pieces, and even manufacturing their own parts, as steam engines have been out of date so long it is impossible to obtain replacement parts from any manufacturer.

The Flue Shop, where all of the flues for steam engines were formerly produced, as become the Bumper To Bumper exhibit, featuring vintage and antique cars. These include several Model Ts, a Model A and even a Ford Model R (the 1907 predecessor to the Model T). A Highway Patrol car from 1935, a Divco Milk Truck, a Lincoln Continental and others are also part of the museum's collection.

In 2005, the museum's Back Shop underwent a massive renovation, which included repairs to the roof, re-pointing of the brick, and a stabilization of the building's floor. This building, where the full overhaul of steam locomotives once took place, is most notable for its size and scope. Nearly three stories tall and two football fields long, it was once the largest industrial building in the state. It may be most notable, however, for the words "Be Careful," standing some three feet tall, visible from nearly anywhere on the north end of the site. In 2009, the museum opened the Back Shop to the public for the first time, with an access ramp on the south end. "Behind the Scenes" tours and special events often featuring a full Back Shop tour.

Heritage railroad

The museum has a heritage railroad, which operates passenger excursion trains several times per day, year round, but on a seasonal schedule. Trains are usually powered by the Norfolk and Western 620, however, at times it is substituted by the Southern 6133 or Southern 2601. The Southern 6133 and Southern 2601 also assist in special events where two or more trains are operating. Though the museum has no operating steam locomotives of its own, it has used the Lehigh Valley Coal 0-6-0 126 for trips, along with Flag Coal Co. 0-4-0 75, the American 4-4-0 "Leviathan" locomotive, as well as the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum's Southern 2-8-0 630. For Caboose trips and at-the-throttle trips, the museum has leased engines from the Grambling Locomotive Works; the Virginia Museum of Transportation and Norfolk Southern previously allowed the museum to use their Norfolk and Western 611 during its two stays. Cab rides to the normal excursion can be purchased at Barber Junction.

Visitors may also purchase tickets to ride the roundhouse turntable every day.


The museum hosts a number of events annually and some one-time railroading events that bring rail fans from across the country. In 2012, the Bob Julian Roundhouse was the stage for all 20 of Norfolk Southern's Heritage locomotives during a two-day photographic event. In 2014, the museum hosted Streamliners at Spencer, with notable 1930s - 1950s era locomotives gathered around the Bob Julian Roundhouse turntable for a four-day event. Streamliners at Spencer included the Class J 611 Steam Passenger locomotive, visiting from the Virginia Museum of Transportation. This notable locomotive remained in Spencer for repair and restoration work to allow it to once again pull passenger excursions across the southeast.

The Museum has also operated 21st century steam trips from its grounds over its property and Norfolk Southern using the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum's Southern 630 and rolling stock as well as the NS steam rolling stock fleet in 2012 and 2013. In 2015, the museum was used as the boarding destination for some the Virginia Museum of Transportation's Norfolk and Western 611 trips.

Other annual events include Day Out With Thomas, the Polar Express, Fire Truck Sh ow, Automobile shows, the Harvest Festival, the Easter Bunny Express, and Spring and Autumn (Southern leaf specials) excursions that take visitors to destination cities.

The NCTM is also host to Boy Scout Rail Camp, which allows for Boy Scouts and Leaders to camp out on the historic facility and earn the railroading merit badge. It is the largest railroad related scouting event in the nation. There are plans to implement Girl and Cub Scout events at the museum in 2017.

My Second Visit

In the story from my visit on 8/16/2007, I showed you everything the museum had. This time it will be strictly the railroad aspect of this great and unique museum. My first chore was to get the consist of our N&W 611 Excursion trains for the next two days. I met Jim, a good friend and Iowa Pacific employee and it was good to talk with him here. After that I started my look around the grounds.

Southern GP-30 2501.

A view of the front end of our excursion train.

Norfolk & Western caboose 555012

Southern Heritage Unit 8099 and FP-7 6133.

Southern Heritage Unit 8099

Southern FP-7 6133.

My first ever picture of a very alive N&W 611.

Three more views of the N&W 611.

NCNX coach 4886.

NCNX coach 4888.

NCNX coach 4887.

Chicago and North Western coach 4953

Chesapeake & Ohio F7A 8016.

Clinchfield hopper 56338.

Museum scene.

Two more museum scenes.

Aberdeen & Rockfish box car 1046.

NCNX coach 604.

Missouri, Kansas & Texas The Texas Special 12028 J. Pinckney Henderson.

Unkown tank car.

Norfolk & Western Baggage Car VMTX 9647.

FEGX refrigerator car 39650.

Southern covered hopper 7993.

My next view of the very much alive N&W 611.

Southern Sleeper Catawba River.

Southern Sleeper Royal Arch.

The Milwaukee Road Wisconsin.

Southern Heritage Unit 8099 and FP-7 6133.

Southern FP-7 6133.

My next view of the very much alive N&W 611.

Southern Heritage Unit 8099.

Museum scene.

N&W 611 extra water tender VMTX 250001.

Southern caboose X648.

NS hopper 200273 full of coal for the N&W 611 later today.

N&W caboose 518641.

WillettsRail caboose VGNX 199462 .

Southern hopper car 72043.

Sleeper Shenandoah Vale.

Atlantic and East Carolina outside braced boxcar 606.

Lehigh Valley Coal 126.

Norfolk Southern AS-416 1616.

Carolina Power and Light 0-4-0 Fireless Locomotive.

Southern Derrick 903066.

Duke Power 0-4-0 111.

Southern lounge 1211.

Southern Sleeper Doris 449.

Graham County Railroad Company Shay 1925.

Piedmont & Northern Railway box cab 5103.

Cliffside Railroad caboose 105.

Charlotte Electric Railway Company 1.

The North Carolina Merci Car P.L.M. J54906.

Railway Express Agency truck.

Southern 2-8-0 542.

Seaboard Air Line 2-10-0 Decapod 544.

Atlantic Coast Line 4-6-0 1031.

A pair of cabooses.

Seaboard wooden caboose 5458.

CC&O caboose 1048.

Charlotte Trolley 85.

Atlantic Coast Line E3A 501.

Raleigh and Gaston Railway 0-4-0 Raleigh.

Chicago and North Western coach 4955.

Beaufort and Morehead H-12-44 1860.

Southern Railway E-8A 6900.

US Navy 65-00056.

Lancaster and Chester Pullman 16.

NCMX 492.

Tank engine unknown.

United States Postal Car 800700.

Hampton and Branchville M-200.

US Army Hosiptal Car 89480.

Buck Steam Service switcher 5951.

United States Army 7497.

Two more views of the very alive N&W 611.

Buck Steam Service switcher 5951 with Southern Covered Hopper 7993.

One small group of the 900 kids that came to North Carolina Transportation Museum. The kids all rode the first two trains of the day so I had to ride the 1:30 PM train at the museum today. I next went into the back shop looking for one locomotive.

View of the Southern Railway Spencer Back Shop.

Two views of the famous Civil War Andrew Raiders Great locomotive Chase the Texas from Atlanta, Georgia.

The tender of the Texas. On my way out front, I met long time Mr 261 Steve Sandberg, and we got caught upon a lot of different issues affecting both of us.

Norfolk & Western caboose 518675.

Seaboard Coast Line caboose 0613.

Atlantic Coast Line caboose 0635.

New York, New Haven and Hartford Pullman Pine Tree State.

NS 27 Exhibit Car.

Cone box car 16.

State of North Carolina switcher L3.

Museum scene.

Southern Railway Triple Auto Carrier 538000.

Norfolk & Western GP-9 620.

Amtrak F40PH 307.

Wooden Coach 1202 Jack Vail.

Fruit Growers Express Referigator Car FGEX 1580. Now for a photo runby of the 11:30 AM Museum Train.

The NCTM 11:30 AM Museum Train. Here is the consist: N&W GP-9 620, N&W combine 1506, Southern coach 1081, NCTM coach 129 and NCTM observation car 1297. From here I went to see what was in the NS Exhibit Car and I did the simulator and became an NS Honorary Engineer here at the NTCM. I ran into Steve Sandberg again in this car.

Three more pictures of that very alive N&W 611.

Museum scene. I headed out to ride the 1:30 PM NTCM museum train.

Southern Railway box car 262914. I picked up my ticket and we had another group of school kids sitting in the observation car. Since the train's usual route was blocked by our excursion equipment, we ran a modified trip.

That N&W 611 seen from the excursion train.

The Piedmont & Northern Railway box cab 5103. I got off the train and walked back to the turntable to get ready to see N&W 611 move under steam for my very first time ever in my life live not dead. A joke!