Thursday, September 24, 2015

To the North Carolina Transportation Museum

Continuing our (very) quick pass through railroad-related sites during our recent trip down south . . .

We first stayed a few days with my brother who lives near Cornelius and Davidson, NC and during one of my morning runs I decided to see if I could find the local railroad station.
Not certain, but I think this may be the (heavily remuddled) station at Cornelius, NC. At least the roof looks railroady enough.
Fortunately, the depot at Davidson, NC is much more obvious . . .
The station - excuse me, "Depot" - at Davidson, NC

Davidson, NC trackside

Close-up of bay window and order board.
I'd missed the "Streamliners at Spencer" event last year (despite the fact that our very own New Haven FL-9 #2019 made the trip), but discovering that Spencer, NC and the North Carolina Transportation Museum were only about an hour away from my brother's house, I figured a visit was a no-brainer. Fortunately, bro' and dad agreed and went with me.

The museum is on the site of the former Spencer Shops of the Southern Railway. Though much has changed since the shops were active (there are a LOT fewer tracks & yards), much remains - including the HUGE backshop, turntable and 37-stall roundhouse. It's an active rail preservation facility even today, which isn't surprising given the great facilities that exist here. Click here for a brief history of the shops.

There is a TRAINLOAD of stuff to see (pun intended) and I took a lot of photos, but here are a few that'll give you a quick overview of what's there...

You start your visit at the station, which was transplanted from Barber, NC

Signal display - you can even operate them!

Like the museum at Roanoke, the NCTM is a full transportation museum - so it includes an impressive collection of cars and trucks as well (which my dad and brother especially enjoyed).

Need something like this on my layout - HO scale, of course.

Overview of the car museum, in the old freighthouse.

Spencer Backshop - this photo doesn't do it justice. It's HUGE! I think I read somewhere that at one time it was the largest building in North Carolina.

Shop interior - this is just one half(!) It's not hard to imagine the huge cranes moving entire locomotives around here.

Next stop was the roundhouse which included a number of locomotives and cars (don't miss the film at the beginning of your tour of the roundhouse - it gives you a great overview of the operation as it used to be).

For the blog's obligatory model railroad content.... this is a scale reproduction of the Spencer Shops. What an amazing operation!

View from the other end. Even in N-scale, this thing is huge.

Southern F unit undergoing restoration in the roundhouse.

You don't see too many of these around - looks like a Walthers or Tichy kit(!)

Overview of the roundhouse
I took over 100 photos during my visit (glad I didn't run out of "film" - heh) and didn't want to bore you by posting all of them. But hopefully this will give you enough of a taste of what's there. Like the VA Museum of Transportation - the NCTM is most definitely worth a visit!

But our railroad day wasn't quite over yet.... On the way home, we saw a sign on the highway for a railroad station in Salisbury, NC. So of course we had to make a little detour...

I want to learn more about Salisbury - it looks like it was quite a railroad town at one time and retains a lot of its old buildings - including these. "Embiggen" the pic to see the cool signs painted on the brickwork.

Built in 1908, the station itself is still active, serving both Amtrak and the local commuter service.
The NCTM was, of course, awesome - but I definitely want to visit Salisbury again. It wasn't until I got home that I discovered how many historic sites and buildings there are in town. And judging by all the vacant property near the tracks - not to mention the funny shaped buildings nearby - I can only imagine what railroad activity there must have been there during its heyday.

But there's still a bit of railroading going on - as you'll see in the videos below, with which I leave you for now . . .

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