Transportation Museum, Southern Railway, Spencer, North Carolina
October 25, 2022
Report by Carl Morrison, Carl@TrainWeb.com
The N.C. Transportation Museum is a historic site, once home to
Southern Railway’s largest steam locomotive repair facility in the
southeast, and a museum featuring all types of transportation history –
railroading, automotive, aviation, and more.
Historic structures include Barber Junction Depot, an authentic train
station built in 1898 that serves as the museum’s Visitor Center.
The Bob Julian Roundhouse is the largest remaining roundhouse in North
America, and is home to locomotives, passenger rail cars, and a
full-size replica Wright Flyer. The massive Back Shop, where
steam locomotives were once completely overhauled, now houses rail cars
of the past, antique automobiles, fire trucks, and the restoration of
the Piedmont Airlines’ Potomac Pacemaker DC-3. The Flue Shop
houses the museum’s Bumper to Bumper automotive exhibit.
Plan your visit today for a trip into the past at the museum that moves
museum was founded in 1977, when the Southern Railway deeded 4 acres
(16,000 m2) of land to North Carolina for a transportation museum. Two
years later, another 53 acres (210,000 m2) was added to the original
donation; the entirety of the railway's largest former steam locomotive
repair shops. The museum's first exhibit called People, Places and Time
opened in 1983. 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 as the museum's Visitor's 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
flew from our home in Orange County, California, on American
Airlines to Charlotte to visit my brother Don and wife
Suzanne. Don had selected the NC Transportation Museum north of
Charlotte as a place for us to visit together.
(Click on the image above for a larger
We parked and bought our tickets at the Barber Junction
Station (A) on the map above.
the Barber Junction depot.
depot was decorated for the season and the long walk to the first
building was decorated as well with a scarecrow decorating contest.
Outside displays on the way to the large Back Shop (B) on the
(Click on the image above for a larger copy)
(Click on the image above for a larger copy)
I had Don and Suzanne pose by No. 542 for size indicators.
No. 542 was built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in August 1903.
Classified as a 2-8-0 Consolidation, the locomotive operated in North
Carolina on the Southern Railway around Statesville and Winston-Salem.
Similar class 2-8-0 locomotives were extensively used by the Southern
to pull freight trains throughout the entire system. The Southern owned
only 90 of this rare type J-class locomotive. The No. 542 was part of a
series numbered 505-548. During its time in operation, repairs and
regular maintenance to the No. 542 were performed at Pomona Shops in
Greensboro and Spencer Shops, now the site of the engine’s home, the
N.C. Transportation Museum.
Before entering the massive Back Shops building, I couldn't resist a
photo of the 1911 Master Mechanic's Office, above.
The Back Shops building, above, housed the transportation exhibits we
were most interested in.
images for a larger copy)
Having photographed and interviewed the train master of the Ringling
Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus for 12 years,
I was interested in this ancient circus wagon which would have been
carried on railroad flatcars.
BILLBOARD, February 15, 1930
images for a larger copy)
circus wagon belonged to the Harry G. Melville and Nat Reiss Show,
where it would have been used to haul equipment for their traveling
carnival across the country in the first decades of the 20th century.
Can you find it in this photograph, taken at a West Virginia show in
Later that year the Melville and Reiss Show would make an
appearance at the North Carolina State Fair, before heading to their
winter quarters in Charlotte, NC.
More interestingly, the wagon was covered up & donated as not much
more than a basic farm wagon. Then museum workers/volunteers removed
some of the metal sheathing and found the circus paint underneath, IIRC.
Brother Don remark that this school bus looked like the ones at our
Indiana. He went to school there 1944 - 1956.
Before rubber tires on farm tractors, they had these lug wheels on the
(The front tire is not proper restoration, they had a steel wheel on
the front also.)
The Bob Julian Turn Table and Round House
Click this link for a video of round table ride: https://youtube.com/shorts/6e5lx3_msxk
above, elaborated about the roundhouse built in1896, for the 600-mile
line running from Washington, D.C. south. 3,000 people worked
its height. First, it was 15 bays for steam engines. 37
bays were built in 1924 including this turn table for up to two larger
steam engines. Last team engines built here were in 1952 and the
diesels were repaired here starting in 1953. Shops were closed in
1960. This grounds were eventually donated to the state.
The raised bays were for diesels.
Click this link for a video of the history of the Spencer Shops:
Seaboard Air Line Railroad 2-10-0 #544
Seaboard Air Line
#544: The locomotive was built by the American Locomotive Company in
March 1918. This 2-10-0 Decapod was built for the Russian State
Railroad, but never delivered due to the Revolution of 1917. Before the
locomotive could be used in the U.S, wider tires had to be installed
since the Russian Railroads used 5-foot gauge, instead of 4 feet 8.5
inches. It then became the property of the United States Railroad
Administration, begun in 1917 to control the shipment of vital war
supplies during World War I.
employed on branch lines throughout the Seaboard system, being based in
North Carolina at Hamlet and Raleigh. During the 1950s these decapods
were transferred to the Gainesville Midland, a Seaboard subsidiary in
Georgia. The 544 was placed on display in Atlanta in 1965 and later
sold to the North Carolina Railroad Company in 1980, which donated the
locomotive to the State of North Carolina. The 544 was cosmetically
restored in 1996 for display in the Robert Julian Roundhouse.
The Seaboard Air
Line merged with the Atlantic Coast Line in 1967 to form Seaboard Coast
Line. The Seaboard Coast Line became part of the Family Lines System
and later the Seaboard System and CSX Transportation.
courtesy of the N.C. Transportation Museum.
Atlantic Coast Line
Coast Line #1031: The locomotive was built by the Baldwin Locomotive
works in 1913. This 4-6-0 Ten Wheeler was one of 25 ordered at that
time by the Atlantic Coast Line. Outfitted with bright copper rings
around the tops of the smokestacks, these locomotives quickly earned
the nickname of "Cooperhead." The Atlantic Coast Line used them for
freight and passenger service around Fayetteville, Rocky Mount and
Wilmington in NC, as well as locations up and down the eastern seaboard
from Richmond, VA to Jacksonville, FL.
As dieselization occurred, many of these locomotives found use on
smaller subsidiary lines of the Atlantic Coast Line. The 1031 was used
on the East Carolina Railway in Tarboro, NC during the mid-1950s and
the Virginia & Carolina Southern in Lumberton, NC during the latter
part of the decade. In 1959 it was placed on display in Florence, SC
behind the passenger station adjacent to the rail yards. The City of
Florence donated the 1031 to the the North Carolina Transportation
Museum in 1994. Following cosmetic restoration to a 1940s appearance in
1996, the 1031 was displayed in the Robert Julian Roundhouse at the
North Carolina Transportation Museum.
The Atlantic Coast Line merged with the Seaboard Air Line in 1967
to form Seaboard Coast Line. The Seaboard Coast Line became part
of the Family Lines System and later the Seaboard System and CSX
Transportation. The Atlantic Coast Line had their corporate
headquarters in Wilmington, NC, from 1900 until it moved to
Jacksonville, FL in 1960.
courtesy of the N.C. Transportation Museum.
The Champion No. 501
(Have you seen White
Christmas with Bing Crosby, etc.? They
travel to Florida on The Champion!)
From 1939 to
1979, the top Atlantic Coast Line Railroad (ACL) train on the New York
City to Miami, Florida main line was the Champion, a diesel streamliner
inherited by the Seaboard Coast Line (SCL) in 1967 and Amtrak in
1971. ACL EMD E3 No. 501 was one of the first locomotives to pull
The Champion and ran six million miles, the same distance as
twenty-five trips to the Moon and an orbit around the Earth, before it
was withdrawn in 1970. This early mass-production diesel is
displayed at the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer.
Unrelated images, but Wright Bros. and Elmer Lam are noteworthy.
Duke Power Company 0-4-0ST #111
The Duke Power Co.
No. 111 is an 0-4-0ST steam locomotive built by Alco in 1922 for
Stewart-Jones Co. of Great Falls, SC, in February 1922 where it worked
as a switcher.
Don studying the knuckle and "link-and-pin" or "Janney coupler" that
saved many a brakeman from being crushed.
Right, rocking chair with "factory air".
tubelike body that received an oblong link for coupling rail cars. The
link and pin was the original style of coupling used on American
railways, eventually replaced in most cases by the Janney coupler.
coupler) An automatic coupler patented by Eli H. Janney in 1873.
knuckle coupler Drawing from E.
Janney's patent #138,405.
coupler) An automatic coupler patented by Eli Janney in 1873.
Graham County Railroad Company 3-truck shay #1925 used in logging.
Sidewinder" 3-Truck-Shay Builder:
Lima Locomotive Works 3256 Built:
February 12, 1925 Retired: May 1975
Purchased new. Last ran in revenue service in May
1975. Donated to the North Carolina Transportation Museum in 1998, and
was later restored to operation. Taken out of service in 2008 and
currently on display.
Loretto", a private rail car was originally built in 1902 for Schwab
and later owned by Spring Mills in Fort Mill, South Carolina. It
features stained glass windows and ornate carvings finished in gold
Railroad Post Office Car
within the postal car showed the placing of a bag of letters (above,
left) being picked up at full speed (above, right) with a hook on the
side of the postal car and sorted within the car. At the same
pickup point, a bag of mail for this station was thrown out.
The Rail Post Office map of 1915 at its height.
Don and I
found our Hayden, Indiana, birthplace on the B&O between St. Louis
Cincinnati. Follow the B&O from St. Louis to the right toward
our farm, with its back property line the B&O, was to the right of
the dotted line
that crosses the B&O line. That is as near our birthplaces
spot as we could discern.
A local soft drink company is Cheerwine, so in a rest area within the
Museum, I sampled
After seeing all the displays in the Roundhouse, and the turn table
ride, we went to the
adjacent Flue Shop for the "Bumper to Bumper" vintage car display.
I liked the
photo above left, with the 1914 date showing both horse drawn and
motorized vehicles and a trolley - quite a time of transition - nearly
the same as transfer from gasoline to electric vehicles today?
Gas pump from the 40s.
diorama seemed of the same era as the photo above.
Model A Ford
Ford and Chevy pickups head-to-head.
Gasoline bicycle and Nash hood ornament.
Our family farm tractor, before we left home for college, was an
Allis-Chalmers Model B.
As we left, the weather had turned sunny so I could not resist another
photo of No. 542.
We found an excellent Mexican Restaurant across the street for a fine
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