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North Carolina Transportation Museum, 2022

North Carolina Transportation Museum, Southern Railway, Spencer, North Carolina
October 25, 2022

Photos and Report by Carl Morrison,


North Carolina Transportation Museum

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 you!

The 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.

I 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 copy)

We parked and bought our tickets at the Barber Junction Station (A) on the map above.


Sign on the Barber Junction depot.

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The 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 map above.

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(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.

The 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.

(Click the images for a larger copy)




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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.

Ad from BILLBOARD, February 15, 1930

(Click the images for a larger copy)

This 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 1930?

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.
Eric Shock
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 school,
Hayden, Indiana.  He went to school there 1944 - 1956.

Before rubber tires on farm tractors, they had these lug wheels on the back.
(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:

The Docent, above, elaborated about the roundhouse built in1896, for the 600-mile line running from Washington, D.C. south.  3,000 people worked here at 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:

Robert Julian
Roundhouse Displays

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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.

Decapods were 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.

Historic details courtesy of the N.C. Transportation Museum.

Atlantic Coast Line #1031

Atlantic 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.

Historic details courtesy of the N.C. Transportation Museum.


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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.

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Unrelated images, but Wright Bros. and Elmer Lam are noteworthy.

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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.

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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".

link-and-pin     A 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.

Janney coupler
(see knuckle coupler) An automatic coupler patented by Eli H. Janney in 1873.

knuckle coupler     Drawing from E. Janney's patent #138,405.

(also Janney coupler) An automatic coupler patented by Eli Janney in 1873.

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Graham County Railroad Company 3-truck shay #1925 used in logging.

1925 "Old 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.

"The 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 leaf.

Railroad Post Office Car

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A video 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 and Cincinnati.  Follow the B&O from St. Louis to the right toward Cincinnati and 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 one...not bad!

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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.


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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.

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This diorama seemed of the same era as the photo above.

Model A Ford

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Ford and Chevy pickups head-to-head.

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Gasoline bicycle and Nash hood ornament.
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Our family farm tractor, before we left home for college, was an Allis-Chalmers Model B.

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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 supper.

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