Visit http://www.nctrans.org/ for more info!
By Shavonne Potts
SPENCER — Rail fans from as far as Japan and England will descend upon the N.C. Transportation Museum today and Wednesday for what has been hailed as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
To commemorate Norfolk Southern Corp.’s 30th anniversary, the Norfolk Southern Heritage Locomotive fleet is on display for a couple of days at the museum.
View amazing photos and videos from The Norfolk Southern Corp.’s 30th Anniversary, please visit the NC Transportation Museum’s FACEBOOK PAGE.
By Shavonne Potts
SPENCER — The Robert Julian Roundhouse and Turntable are probably the most popular attractions at the N.C. Transportation Museum and on Saturday they were designated a historic mechanical engineering landmark.
The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) presented the distinction to the museum at a ceremony during the Spring Kick Off event.
The Spring Kick Off featured a host of activities such as rides on the Flagg 75 Steam Engine, live music, the museum’s regular passenger train, miniature golf and others.
The Spencer facility is one of the few remaining early 20th century railroad locomotive repair shops in the U.S. It was built by Southern Railway in 1924 to repair steam locomotives.
The roundhouse and turntable were modified and expanded from 1948 to 1950 to accommodate Southern Railways diesel engines.
In 1979, the complex was donated to the state. In 1996, the roundhouse and turntable were refurbished and opened to the public.
The designation is to recognize the contribution of the roundhouse and turntable to the “progress of American railroading and evolution of mechanical engineering,” said Mark Brown, the museum’s information and communication specialist.
Featuring historic locomotives and rail cars displayed alongside modern rail equipment, the event will give visitors a chance to enjoy train rides, great music, model train layouts.
For more info, visit: http://nctrans.org/Events/Rail-Days.aspx
The Flagg 75 steam engine spits, coughs, breathes heavily and blows off a lot of steam before it finally moves.
In other words, I can relate.
I hopped into the cab of the 1930 workhorse locomotive Saturday morning as Engineer John Barnett of Raleigh backed it onto the roundtable at the N.C. Transportation Museum.
We took about a quarter turn before locking in and heading south on our warm-up run. The white steam we released made us a moving cloud at first.
On the right side of the cab, Barnett manned the throttle. Also within reach were the reverse gear, the locomotive and train brakes, injectors for water and even levers to release sand for more traction on the tracks.
“It’s easy to operate, but they can be temperamental,” Barnett said of these coal-fired beasts.
Going forward, Barnett can watch the tracks ahead through a small window. Or in forward or reverse, he can poke his head out the side opening, much like a happy dog hanging out the window of his master’s car.
Also on board was Fireman Gil Williams of Lexington, S.C., and Mike Stovall of Greensboro, a fireman in training. All three men are regular transportation museum volunteers who love anything to do with trains and their operation.
So, it seems The Daniel Boone Railroad and theme park in Hillsborough is fondly remembered by many. These posts continue to be some of the most popular. Recently, I received a note from someone we’ll call “Camo” and he shares the same memories I do. The difference: he’s been to what’s left of the park several times and sent me some pictures. I asked Camo if he’d write up a guest blog post and agreed. Enjoy!
Dear Tarheel Trains,
Growing up in NC in the late sixties and seventies offered many distinct advantages, especially if one were an only child. I was fortunate enough to be on the receiving end of hand me downs from older cousins. Often these cast offs were in the form of Western toys such as Johnny West. These toys were usually broken or incomplete, but I didn’t mind because I was thrilled just to have them!
To augment the toys of the time, Western theme parks were popular places of amusement. Because of a near catastrophe my family experienced while leaving Beech Mountain (the brakes on my dads Oldsmobile overheated coming down the mountain, a runaway truck ramp saving our lives), those beautiful mountains and their attractions like Tweetsie became off limits due to the fear of a similar mishap occurring again. Fortunately for me, the historic town of Hillsborough was only a few safe miles away.
The Western theme park there was known then as “Daniel Boone Country”. Similar to Tweetsie, it offered a train, costumed cowboys and indians, rides and shows, all set in a Western pioneer village. I first visited there when I was approximately five years old and while I do remember visiting the park on more than one occasion, the details have been lost to time. However, I do remember riding the train and the smell of the black smoke. When Indians attacked along a wooded portion of the track, I became frightened, believing that the attack was real! One of the actors made up as an Indian sat down in the seat in front of my dad and I and calmed my fears, reassuring me that it was all make believe for fun.
By all accounts, it was a magical place. By the time I had graduated high school, the park had sold their train (to Carowinds) and was on its way to becoming defunct. Last summer my wife and I invited my father to join us on our vacation to visit the USS North Carolina in Wilmington. On the way home, my father spotted the exit sign for Hillsborough and asked if I remembered going there as a kid. Of course I did, so we agreed to go back there together. We made that trip a couple of weeks ago.
Very few traces remain of the old park. There are two cabooses being used as rental space for antique shops, and an old passenger car complete with graffiti that sits on a small slice of track under a lean-to. A lot of the old Western style store fronts remain, their weathered paint and abandoned appearance creating the atmosphere of a ghost town. The old Blacksmith shop still stands, complete with hand painted lettering, even though it now serves as a junk shed. Beside the “Antique Mall”, is a storage area where one can find wagons and antique farm equipment rotting in the open. A few feet up the hill stands a dilapidated barn that contains the Daniel Boone stage coach.
Another barn on the premises houses more wagons, antique trucks complete with bullet holes and hand painted signs (by Apache Joe?). At least Daniel, a twenty foot tall “muffler man” type figure still stands. A similar Indian figure that once adorned the roof of the steakhouse across the street has vanished. If one cares to look, one can still find traces of the park in the form of waterwheels (pan for gold attractions?), a miniature covered bridge and a weather vane (part of the old train depot?), but these sights are disappearing daily. An old kiddies’ ride that I saw on a earlier visit, rotting away amongst some weeds, had been cleared away when I returned with my camera (see link for pics). I just got the feeling that whoever owns the park may now be clearing out some of the old left over’s because the gates to the barns were open and the area where that kiddie ride had been was open after previously being cordoned off.
I did make a brief attempt to find old track, but that area is now a trailer park, and I did not want to arouse the suspicion of any tenants by poking around in their backyards. I would urge anyone interested in seeing what is left of the park to make the trip post haste. In these economic times, who knows what the current owner may have in mind for the property. Being an amateur singer/songwriter, my visit inspired me to write a new song about the old park. As soon as it is finished, I will post a link. Thank you all for your interest.
SPENCER – The N.C. Transportation Museum Foundation and the Watauga Valley Chapter of the National Railroad Historical Society will host day trip train excursions to Roanoke, Va. October 30 and Asheville, N.C. October 31. These excursions, now in their fourth year, allow travelers to see beautiful fall foliage, experience a great destination and enjoy the romance of riding the rails.
The N.C. Transportation Museum and Watauga Valley NRHS revived fall excursions in 2007, offering trips to Charlottesville, Va. Sell out crowds and satisfied passengers made those excursions incredibly popular. Last year’s addition of Asheville, N.C. as a destination created an even greater demand for tickets. The trips sold out in record time, with dome car tickets selling out in mere minutes.
This year, the “Virginia Autumn Special” will travel to Roanoke, Va. Saturday, Oct. 30. The “Blue Ridge Special” will travel to Asheville, N.C. Sunday, Oct. 31. More dome car tickets have been added but the demand is expected to be just as strong as years past.
Departing Spencer at 7 a.m., Saturday’s Virginia Autumn Special” will offer additional passenger pick-up at the Greensboro Amtrak Station at 8 a.m., allowing those in the Triad a more convenient boarding opportunity. The train will travel through the northern portion of the North Carolina Piedmont, including the cities of High Point and Reidsville before crossing into Virginia. The western part of central Virginia offers spectacular views of the fall foliage, crossing the Dan and Roanoke Rivers. Moving onto the old Virginian Railway line, passengers will travel westward, passing through several tunnels and enjoying the rolling Virginia countryside.
The train will arrive in Roanoke, the “Star City of the South,” at noon. Passengers will have nearly three hours to enjoy the attractions offered. Downtown Roanoke offers an array of dining experiences, shopping and sightseeing opportunities.
Passengers will depart the train at the old Norfolk and Western Passenger Station, home of the O. Winston Link museum. The museum offers a grand photographic and auditory history of 1950’s steam engine locomotive history. Advance tickets to the museum are available to excursion passengers at the discounted group rate of $4 per person.
Meals will also be available at the famous nearby Hotel Roanoke
The nearby Taubman Museum of Art features a permanent collection of 19th and early 20th Century American art, while the Historic Roanoke City Market has fresh food and handmade crafts.
Passengers can also take a drink from the historic Dogmouth Fountain, constructed in 1898. Legend says those drinking from the fountain will always return to Roanoke.
Departing Roanoke at 3 p.m., the train will arrive back in Greensboro at 6:45 p.m. and Spencer at 8 p.m.
During Sunday’s trip, the “Blue Ridge Special” will travel through the western Piedmont into the foothills and on to the Blue Ridge Mountains. Departing Spencer at 7 a.m., the train will roll through the cities of Statesville, Hickory, Morganton, Marion, Black Mountain and Swannanoa. The train will climb the famed “loops” of the Blue Ridge Mountains and pass through several tunnels before arriving in Asheville at noon. Passengers will have nearly three hours for an outing at Biltmore Village.
Established in the late 1890s as a planned community near the entrance of the Biltmore estate, Biltmore Village stands near the entrance to Biltmore Estate. Shopping will be available in unique, locally-owned boutiques. Passengers can dine in restaurants and take walks along brick sidewalks that parallel tree lined streets. All of this will be enjoyed alongside spectacular views of the North Carolina mountains.
Departing Asheville at 3 p.m., the “Blue Ridge Special” will return to Spencer at 8 p.m.
Dome Tickets offer the best views of passing scenery with two levels. Windows stretch across the walls and ceiling on the second level, providing a panoramic view of the entire ride. Dome tickets are available for $280 per person.
Premium First Class fare includes continental breakfast and newspapers on the journey to both Roanoke and Asheville, plus dinner on the return trip served in vintage lounge and dining cars. Premium First Class tickets are available for $245 per person.
Deluxe Coach Class tickets feature spacious seating with large windows, lunch on the dining car and light snacks during the trip. Deluxe Coach tickets are $175 per person.
Coach seating, featuring wide windows, adjustable seats and convenient access to the commissary car, are also available for $145 per person. All cars feature air conditioning, heat and rest rooms.
For those wishing to eat on the train to provide more time for sightseeing, an optional box lunch will be offered. The $14 meal, served in a souvenir lunch tote, includes include a half turkey wrap, pasta, chips & salsa, a cookie and drink.
Tickets will be available online at www.nctrans.org or by calling 704-636-2889 ext. 232. Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Wednesday, June 24.
The N.C. Transportation Museum, located in historic Spencer Shops, the former Southern Railway repair facility is located just five minutes off I-85 at Exit 79 in Spencer, N.C., and about an hour from Charlotte, Greensboro or Winston-Salem. The museum is part of the Division of Historic Sites and the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources, the state agency with the mission to enrich lives and communities and the vision to harness the state’s cultural resources to build North Carolina’s social, cultural and economic future. Visit http://www.nctrans.org for more information.
For information on the Watauga Valley Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society, visit www.wataugavalleynrhs.org.
The N.C. Transportation Museum’s 2010 Family Rail Days Festival this weekend will celebrate the golden age of railroading and offer something for every member of the family. Featuring historic locomotives and rail cars displayed alongside modern rail equipment, the event will give visitors a chance to enjoy train rides, great music, model train layouts and a model train expo.
This year’s Family Rail Days will be held in association with 2nd Saturdays, a partnership between State Historic Sites and the N.C. Arts Council. Artists will be given the opportunity to show and sell their work June 12. Poetry, music, painting, drawing, photography and more will be offered.
Visitors to the 2010 Family Rail Days Festival will have numerous chances to ride the rails. Boarding at the pedestrian crossing, the passenger train will offer a 25 minute ride around the museum property on classic rail cars pulled by vintage diesel locomotives. The caboose train, boarding at the Barber Junction Visitor’s Center, gives everyone a chance to ride in their favorite train car. At the Roundhouse, motor car rides will be offered, giving visitors a chance to ride these smaller pieces of rail equipment used to repair tracks.
An up-close view of the N.C. Transportation Museum’s classic steam and diesel locomotives will be available during the Parade of Power. Engines are placed on the Roundhouse turntable for great photo opportunities. The Parade of Power takes place at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday.
Turntable rides will be offered throughout the Rail Days festival. Families can take a spin and get a closer look at how the Spencer Shops operated during the good ol’ days.
By Hugh Fisher
SPENCER — Roy Johnson, president of the N.C. Transportation Museum Foundation, is looking ahead to a bright new year.
Under his leadership, the organization is making changes to protect itself, and is thriving despite a down economy.
“We’re trying to tell the full story of how transportation developed North Carolina,” he said.
The N.C. Transportation Museum Foundation provides fundraising and political advocacy for the 57-acre museum.
In particular, the foundation has helped acquire millions of dollars in historic artifacts for the museum.
Johnson, a Charlotte-based architect, has been president of the foundation since June.
Under his tenure, the museum has weathered continued fiscal belt-tightening by the state of North Carolina, and has seen visitors to the Spencer museum it supports increase by 15 percent.