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North Carolina Transportation Museum 7/29/2018

by Chris Guenzler

We pulled into the parking lot just before 3:00 PM and would have until 5:00 PM to look around this unique museum. I was making my third trip here and Robin his first visit to the North Carolina Transportation Museum.

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 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see volunteers working on various railroad pieces, and even manufacturing their own parts, as steam engines have been out of date so long it is impossible to obtain replacement parts from any manufacturer.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 Show, 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.

Our visit

We walked into the Barber Depot and introduced ourselves as being from and were given wrist bands to wear to show that we had permission to look around the grounds. I knew I could show Robin everything within two hours.

Beaufort and Morehead H-12-44 1860 built by Fairbanks Morse Company in 1953 built by Fairbanks Morse Company in 1953 for the United States Army. It served at the Sunny Point Military Ocean Terminal, North Carolina before moving to Beaufort & Moorehead Railroad, where it was based at Moorehead City State Ports. 1860 was acquired by the museum in 2004 after disposal by State Ports, and it has been used by the museum for on-site train rides.

The museum train that we would not have time to ride.

State of North Carolina 45 ton switcher L-3 built by General Electric in 1943. It was used by the North Carolina Ports Authority in Wilmington its entire life. Donated in 1980, it is one of the oldest diesel locomotives in the museum's collection. With the help of a $2,000 heritage grant from the National Railroad Historical Society, it was recently restored by the museum to its late 1970's condition.

The exhibit train was closed for repairs with Cone Fabrics box car 16 and NS 27 Exhibit Car.

The Spencer water tank with the Southern Railway emblem on it.

Norfolk & Western caboose 555012 built by International Car Company in 1976.

Seaboard Coast Line caboose 0613 built by Atlantic Coast Line in 1964 using components from retired 36-foot box cars. It is displayed in the colours of corporate successor Seaboard Coast Line. It was donated in 1993 by CSX.

Atlantic Coast Line caboose 0635 built by the railroad in 1964.

Norfolk & Western caboose 518641 built by International Car Company in 1971.

The first building we will visit is the newly-opened-to-the-public back shop.

A fire truck and school bus.

All kinds of automobiles.

This gives you an idea of the size of the back shop at Spencer.

There is an airplane in this building.

Motorcycles as well.

A big rig and more cars.

Airplanes and cars.

A medicine wagon.

A covered wagon.

There is even a boat in this building.

This looks likes the rig that was in Smokey and the Bandit.

Railway Express Truck. Next we went into the roundhouse.

The North Carolina Merci Car P.L.M. J54906 donated to the museum in 1982.

Charlotte Electric Railway Company 1 which served in Piraeus, Greece from 1914 until 1960.

Charlotte Trolley 85, built in 1927, was the last electric streetcar to run in Charlotte on March 14, 1938.

Southern 2-8-0 542 built by Baldwin in 1903. It served mainly in freight service around Statesville and Winston-Salem, North Carolina and was operated by Southern's subsidary the Atlantic and Yadkin Railway from 1946 to 1950. It was donated to Tanglewood Park in Forsyth County in 1954. In 1992, the Winston-Salem Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society helped to fund the exchange of the museum's 0-6-0 1894 for the 542.

Seaboard Air Line 2-10-0 544 1935, ex. Gainesville Midland 206, exx. Detroit, Toledo and Ironton 311 1926, exxx. Wheeling and Lake Erie 1088, nee Russian Railways E1198, built by Alco-Brooks in 1918. Twelve hundred of this type were ordered from Baldwin and Alco for export to Russia. Eight hundred and fifty-seven were delivered but, when the Russian government was overthrown by the 1917 Revolution, about two hundred were diverted to US railroads by the United States Railroad Administration. Built for Russia's five foot gauge, they were not re-gauged for the American standard gauge. Although the front pilot was replaced, the drivers were simply fitted with wider tyres.

544 went on display in Atlanta in 1965 and was sold to the North Carolina Railroad Company in 1980, which then donated it to the State of North Carolina.

Atlantic Coast Line 4-6-0 1031 built by Baldwin in 1913. The locomotives quickly earned the nickname "Copperheads", because they originally had polished copper rims around the tops of their smokestacks. Primarily used to haul both freight and passenger services in the Fayetteville, Rocky Mount and Wilmington district they nevertheless worked as far afield as Richmond, Virginia, and Jacksonville, Florida. As dieselisation gathered pace on the ACL, many were transferred to serve on smaller subsidiary lines. For most of its life, 1031 operated mainly out of Florence, South Carolina, hauling freight and passenger trains. It was taken out of service in 1952, but was then lent to the Atlantic Coast Line subsidiary, the Virginia & Carolina Southern. Later it was transferred to the East Carolina Railway. In 1959, it was placed on open air display behind the Florence passenger station but after continuing deterioration in its condition, the City of Florence donated it to the museum in 1994. Two years later, it was cosmetically restored to its 1940s appearance.

Duke Power 0-4-0 111 built by American Locomotive Company in 1922 in 1922 and sold it to the Stewart-Jones Company of Great Falls, South Carolina in February 1922. In July 1924, it was sold to the Wateree Power Company, which later became part of the Duke Power Company. They used 111 at their Mt. Holly and Cliffside plants in North Carolina, as well as at the Buck Steam Plant on the Yadkin River north of Spencer. It was donated to the museum in 1978.

Piedmont & Northern Railway box cab 5103 built by General Electric in 1913. The Piedmont & Northern was created in 1914 to consolidate the electrified Greenville, Spartanburg & Anderson Railroad in South Carolina and the Piedmont Traction Company in North Carolina, both owned by James B. Duke of Duke Power. The Piedmont & Northern was the only mainline Class I railroad in the south to use electric locomotives, and was the first electric railroad in the US to operate both passenger and heavy freight electric services.

The railroad also had a divided right-of-way, with part operating Charlotte to Belmont, North Carolina and the other Spartanburg to Greenwood, South Carolina. The company sought to link the two disconnected segments and expand to Durham a number of times, but the efforts never paid off because of stiff resistance from the Southern Railway, which had parallel track in both states. The Seaboard Coast Line bought the Piedmont & Northern in 1969.

5103 started work on the Spartanburg-Greenwood division of the Piedmont & Northern, but moved to the Charlotte-Belmont division in 1950 when the South Carolina division converted to diesel. Electric power ended on the North Carolina section in 1954. Some of the railroad's electric locomotives were then shipped to South America and, except for 5103, the rest were scrapped. 5103 ended its life operating on old trolley tracks on Mint Street in downtown Charlotte in 1958. It was donated to the Atlanta Chapter of the NRHS in 1963.

Carolina Power and Light 0-4-0 Fireless Locomotive built by H.K. Porter in 1937 and was delivered to the Carolina Power & Light's Lumberton Plant in 1949. It continued in service at the Lumberton plant until 1980, when it was donated to the State of North Carolina and moved for display at the museum.

The original Norfolk Southern caboose 387 built by Southern Iron and Equipment Company in 1969 from a box car. When the Southern Railway took control of the Norfolk Southern in 1974, the caboose proved to be too wide for its clearance standards, promoting a donation to the town of Spencer in 1976 and ten years later, to this museum.

Atlantic Coast Line E3A 501 built by EMD in 1939 for the Champion New York to Miami. It was retired in 1972 and subsequently owned by Glenn Monhart who restored to its 1939 paint scheme then purchased by the museum in 1998.

Only at the Spencer Roundhouse.

Southern Railway E8A 6900, nee Cincinnati, New Orleans and Texas Pacific 2923 built by Electro-Motive Division in 1951. Until Amtrak took over passenger services in 1971, the seven E8s hauled Southern's crack passenger trains including the Royal Palm, the Southern Crescent, Southerner and Tennesseean. They were initially painted green with aluminium striping but changed to black in the late 1950s. In 1972, Southern President W. Graham Claytor had all the E8s returned to green and aluminium to reflect pride in the railroad's history. At the same time, 2923 was re-numbered 6900. It ended its career hauling the Southern Crescent in 1979 and was donated to the museum in 1980.

Norfolk Southern AS-416 1616 built by Baldwin in 1955. In 1974, it went to the Peabody Coal Company in Lentzburg, Ilinois, who donated it to the State of North Carolina in 1981.

Southern Jim Crow coach 1211 built by Pullman in 1922. It was retired in 1969 and the museum purchased the car from the Atlanta Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society.

Southern Sleeper 10-6 sleeper 2003 "Catawba River" built by Pullman-Standard in 1949. It later became Amtrak 2864. The Catawba River rises in the Appalachian Mountains east of Asheville and flows east and then south through the Piedmont region of North Carolina and into South Carolina.

Seaboard Airline Line wooden caboose 5458 built the railroad in 1925.

Carolina, Clinchfield and Ohio caboose 1048 built by International Railcar in 1923 and operated until the 1970's. It was been on loan to the museum by the Samuel Spencer Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society since 1987.

Atlantic and East Carolina outside-braced boxcar 606, originally built in 1930 as a Seaboard wood-sheathed box car and owned by the Atlantic and East Carolina Railway and was rebuilt in 1953 to a steel car. Donated by Norfolk Southern in 181, it was restored in 1996.

Southern 150 Ton Crane 903006 built by Bucyrus in 1919. Originally steam-driven, it was converted to diesel after 1966.

Replica of Raleigh and Gaston Railway 0-4-0 "Raleigh", the first steam locomotive to operate in North Carolina. It was built in 1927 by the Seaboard Air Line shops.

A life-size model of the Wright Brothers' first airplane.

Canadian National coach 5064 built by Canadian Car and Foundry in 1924. At some point it was re-numbered 4953. It is currently lettered Chicago and North Western from the movie "Leathernecks".

Norfolk & Western 4-8-4 611 built by the railroad in 1950 in the Spencer Roundhouse.

Cliffside Railroad caboose 105. The Cliffside Railroad was taken over by Seaboard Air Line in 1984.

Southern FP7 6133 built by Electro-Motive Division in 1950 as Cincinnati, New Orleans & Texas Pacific Railway 6133.

Graham County Railroad Company Shay 1925 built by Lima in 1925. It hauled lumber out of the Snowbird Mountains to the Bemis Lumber Company mill in Robbinsville, North Carolina. The logging portion of the railroad closed in 1948, but the remainder carried general freight between Robbinsville and Topton to an interchange with the Southern Railway. Because of falling demand and deteriorating track conditions, however, the Graham County ceased operations in 1970. Until then, it had been the last commercially-operating steam freight line in the county. In 1974, a tourist operation, the Bear Creek Scenic Railroad, tried to re-open the line to Robbinsville, but this also ceased operation within a few years. 1925 was donated to the museum in 1988 and restored to operation in 1998 to pull on-site train rides. It has also hauled excursions on the Smoky Mountain Railroad out of Bryson City, North Carolina.

Southern Railway Post Office Car 800700, nee Southern 36, built by Bethlehem Steel in 1928.

United States Army Hospital Car 89480 built by American Car and Foundry in 1950. This car was used as an exhibit car at the golden anniversary of the driving of the golden spike at Promontory, Utah.

The baggage car for Norfolk & Western 611 RNRH 1407 built by Bethlehem Steel in 1927. This car belongs to the Roanoke Chapter of the National Railroad Historical Society.

Norfolk & Western 4-8-4 611 here for shop work.

Southern GP30 2601 built by Electro-Motive Division in 1963.

Norfolk & Western GP9 620 built by Electro-Motive Division in 1958. It was donated in 1985.

Norfolk & Western 4-8-4 611.

Views of the roundhouse.

You could always say Norfolk Southern in this picture.

One more view of Norfolk & Western 611.

Virginia Museum of Transportation baggage car VMTX 9647, ex. Norfolk and Western 9647, exx. Canadian National 624273, exxx. Canadian National 9647, nee Canadian National 9267 built by National Steel Car in 1957.

Coach 1297.

Virginia Rail Express gallery coach V413 built by Pullman Standard in 1956 for the Chicago and North Western.

Norfolk Southern coach 44 "Florida" ex. Adirondack Railway Preservation Society 1601, exx. Connecticut Department of Transportation 1601, exxx. ACPA 1601:2, exxxx. 1600:1 "City of McKeesport", nee Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad 1627 built by Pullman-Standard in 1950. It was acquired by Norfolk Southern in 2010 and overhauled in September 2014, numbered 44 and named "Florida".

Norfolk & Western 611 tender and water car.

Duke Power 44 ton switcher 04491 built by General Electric.

Norfolk and Western coach 553 "Powhatan Arrow" built by Pullman-Standard in 1949. It later became Norfolk Southern 29.

Southern Railway 48-seat coach 1081, ex. Belfast and Moosehead Lake Railroad, nee Southern 1630 built by Pullman in 1922.

Westinghouse 50 ton side-rod switcher 1 built by Canadian Locomotive Company in 1950.

Derrick NCMX 935250.

Amtrak F40PH 307 built by Electro-Motive Division in 1979.

Virginia Rail Express gallery car V426 built by Pullman Standard in 1956 as Chicago and North Western 18.

Southern baggage car 658 built by Pullman in 1917.

Virginia Central coach 4886 built by Pullman Standard in 1956.

Museum scene.

Sheriff Railcar private car "Cripple Creek" built for the Illinois Central in 1917 as Office Car 3.

Pennslyvania Railroad business car 7505 "Maryland" built by Pullman in 1911. Later named "Martin W Clement".

Rock Island Business Car "Gritty Palace" built by Pullman Company in 1912 for the president of the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad. Officially designated as car 98, it served the Rock Island faithfully until it was sold into private ownership in 1968.

WillettsRail caboose VGNX 199462, formerly Illinois Central 9462, built by the railroad in 1970.

Virginia Rail Express gallery V427 built by Pullman in 1956 as Chicago and North Western 21.

Another view of the Spencer Roundhouse.

The North Carolina Transportation Museum excursion train on its last run of the day.

Charlotte Trolley 85 enjoys the afternoon sun on its nose. This is actually Southern Public Utilities streetcar 85 built by the company in 1927. It was the last electric streetcar to run in Charlotte on March 14, 1938. Trolley 85 was stripped of its seats and sold to the Air National Guard in 1938 and used as an airport office. A year later, it was moved to Huntersville, where it remained through the 1940s, used as a diner and concession stand for an area, according to the research from the Landmarks commission, populated primarily by transients. In 1951, the trolley was sold to Daisy Mae Trapp Moore, a Huntersville resident, who moved it into her backyard. The trolley was used as housing, first for Moore’s relatives, then later as a rental property. During this time, 85 was altered into a three-bedroom residence, though it lacked plumbing and other modern conveniences. Even so, the car's final resident lived there for 15 years.

When officials with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission located 85 in 1987, it had been condemned as housing and was weeks from being demolished. Instead, Moore sold the car to the historic preservation group for $1,000. Over the next several years, the car was preserved, housed behind Charlotte's Discovery Place and renovated to its original operating appearance. After years of alterations, the car once again bore its original green paint scheme and the legend "Southern Public Utilities Company". In 2005, the trolley was returned to limited service in Charlotte. In 2014, it was moved from the Charlotte Trolley Barn to make way for new trolleys, as the city continues to again embrace trolleys as a viable part of public transportation. A new home was sought and the N.C. Transportation Museum was a natural fit.

Southern Railway observation car 449 "Doris", ex. Western Pacific 101, exx. Western Pacific 106, exxx. Western Pacific "Doris", exxxx. Pullman "Davie Crocket" nee Pullman "Pioneer") built by Pullman in 1917. At one time it was owned by James B. Duke (of Duke Power and Duke University fame) named after his daughter.

Norfolk Southern dining car 14 "New Orleans" built by Pullman-Standard in 1949 as Norfolk Western 493 "Gen. Wm. Mahone".

New York, New Haven and Hartford six double bedroom-club lounge 553 "Pine Tree State", ex. Amtrak 3212, exx. Penn Central 4435 built by Pullman-Standard in 1955. It was later owned by the Piedmont Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society then the museum acquired the car in 2004.

Norfolk Southern coach 42 "Tennessee", ex. Adirondack Scenic Railway 1681, exx. Connecticut Department of Transportation 1621, exxx. Allegheny County Port Authority 1621, nee Chesapeake & Ohio 1621 built by Pullman-Standard in 1950. It was acquired by Norfolk Southern in 2010, underwent an overhaul in 2013, re-numbered 42 and named "Tennessee". Today the car operates as a coach with a head-end power generator on one end of the car.

The NCTM excursion train heads to the barn for the night.

There was a guitar exhibit at the museum.

Passing the Southern water tank meant our visit was almost over. We went back to the Barber Museum and thanked them for having us visit today. Since it was well over 90 degrees for the first time on this trip, we had to open all the doors before we could leave. Our air conditioning worked well and soon we were at the Super 8 in Salisbury for the night. We had dinner at Applebee's which was really good and then I worked on stories for the rest of the evening.