Folks flock to Rail Days Festival

Posted: June 15, 2009 in Festivals
Tags: , ,

Source: Salisbury Post

By Mark Wineka

SPENCER — Never go to the Family Rail Days Festival at the N.C. Transportation Museum without riding the rails.

Don and Anne Sebastian settled into an open-air passenger car Saturday and gave 4-year-old grandson Jacob a window seat.

“There’s a lot of history here, and a lot of people don’t realize how far back this goes,” Don said before the train rocked to a start.

Don Sebastian can’t help but be nostalgic when he visits the museum grounds, where Rail Days will continue from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today.

Thousands of men used to work here in the days when Spencer Shops served as Southern Railway’s major steam locomotive repair facility between Washington and Atlanta.

And one of those men was Sebastian’s father, Walter, who worked at least 40 years at the Roundhouse. Don grew up in Spencer, when the shops were central to everyone’s lives.

As the museum passenger train made its trip around the grounds Saturday, everything seemed to stir a memory for Sebastian.

At lunchtime, workers would play horseshoes on the hill next to the Master Mechanic’s office.

Over there, across the street from the Roundhouse, used to be the YMCA, which stayed open practically all night.

Southward, Don recalled how he and friends would make elaborate tunnels in the mountains of hay stored on the shops site. They did, that is, until railroad detectives caught them.

Their punishment — the worst thing of all — was that the detectives called their fathers.

In the steam engine days, Sebastian said, smoke and cinders blew all across town. Women in Spencer would time the hanging of their wash by how much smoke was in the air, Sebastian said.

He and Anne later had a home on Hudson Avenue. They bought the house next to them and eventually tore it down to salvage the wood.

Cinders from the steam engine days were accumulated in the house’s attic, Sebastian said.

You only learn these kinds of things riding a train.

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