Over the holidays, we took in many transportations venues. One of the biggest was the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer. The museum is located on the grounds of what was once Southern Railway’s largest steam locomotive repair facility in the Southeast.
Today the museum utilizes the facilities many buildings to display not only trains but also a host of transportation themed exhibits. From automotive gems to aviation wonders, the NC Transportation Museum is a treat.
Fair warning – be prepared to walk! The museum is massive. Outdoors features all types of railroad items: engines, boxcars, passenger cars. While most tours begin at the 1898 Barber Junction building, our wintertime visit started at the 1911 Master Mechanic’s Office. This building houses temporary and traveling exhibits and the Gift Shop.
We walked directly to the 1924 Roundhouse. The 37-stall facility is the largest such structure that remains in operation in North America. Home to some 40 restored locomotives and rail cars; the Roundhouse has been named a Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark. The interior of the building is filled with exhibits that focus on the lives of the men who made Spencer Shops run and the history of railroads in North Carolina.
From the Roundhouse, we moved to the 1905 Back Shop. This building was once the center for overhauling steam locomotives. It is so big it could house two to three engines per week. How big is that? That’s two football fields long, and three stories tall.
The Back Shop is now home to bumper-to-bumper automobiles, trucks, motorcycles, and even a Piedmont DC 3. From milk trucks to a roadster police car, the museum has something at every corner. I was thrilled to see a motorized repair car much like the one I have pictures of my grandfather riding when he worked for the railroad in the 1940s.
It is a lot to take in and you should plan to stay at the museum for several hours. There is really is something for everyone including a 25-minute train ride over the 57-acre site, or how about a spin on the 100-foot turntable at the Roundhouse. During the Christmas season are gears switch into special Polar Express days with train rides and more.
Visiting the NC Transportation Museum requires admission and train ride fess. Operating house and schedules are seasonal. Check out their website at nctrans.org to find current hours and admission fees.