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To Charlotte and Railroad Passenger Car Alliance Conference at North Carolina Transportation Museum 1/11-12/2023

by Chris Guenzler

Elizabeth and I bought our tickets for the three-day Bart Jennings' rare mileage charter on the U.S. Sugar Railroad when they went on sale in October. We then learnt that the Railroad Passenger Car Alliance conference was occuring in Spencer at the North Carolina Transportation Museum a week beforehand and after reading the information, we joined the group then signed up for several of their events. That was followed by obtaining airplane reservations to Charlotte and renting a car. Next we planned the rest of the trip with stops at the Georgia State Railroad Museum, Fokston Railfan Park, the Teco Streetcar in Tampa and the Leu Gardens in Orlando, as well as depots and steam engines along the way. We put together a very good trip, now all we had to do was live it.

Southwest Airlines 1382 Long Beach to Nashville 1/11/2023

This morning, I looked at and saw a post entitled"All US domestic flights grounded this morning" by SpringedSwitch and Elizabeth received a text from Southwest Airlines informing us that our flight was delayed by 30 minutes. Undeterred, we drove over to Bill Compton's home to leave our car in his driveway then he drove us to Long Beach Airport. We went to the counter to check our luggage and after waiting, were told by the agent that we would not be getting to Charlotte today as our flight was now three hours late and there would be no connecting flight from Nashville. The reason for this was that the Federal Aviation Administration had grounded all flights from Tuesday night into Wednesday morning due to a computer malfunction (a corrupt file, it was found later) led to the shutting down of the system pilots use to check a variety of conditions before they fly. This affected the whole country and its ramifications continued throughout the day with cancelled and delayed flights.

We were not happy with that news but Elizabeth suggested we fly to Nashville as planned then rent the car at the airport there and drive to Salisbury, returning it to Charlotte as we were going to do anyway. It would be about a six hour drive but with two people we would naturally share the drive. So that is what we did and while waiting at the airport, Elizabeth successfully changed the flight reservation and we both caught up on the Internet and read our magazines. The plane arrived from Las Vegas and we were surprised to see it was "Missouri One" which was painted with the Missouri state flag to represent one of the states which Southwest serves. This was the first time we had seen any of these specially-painted planes, which were commissioned in 2015. We left Long Beach just after 1:00 PM and arrived in Nashville about 6:15 after a flight full of clouds. We retrieved our luggage then proceeded to Enterprise where we received a Nissan Altima for our trip.

The drive from Nashville to Charlotte 1/11-12/2023

I drove us to Lebanon where we went to Jersey Mike's for dinner then Elizabeth then drove to the rest area after Knoxville and I drove the rest of the way to Salisbury, checking into the Holiday Inn Express about 3:15 AM. I showered and we both received four hours of sleep before the alarm clock rang.

Railroad Passenger Car Alliance Background

Founded in 1982, the Railroad Passenger Car Alliance was created as a resource to owners and operators of privately owned railroad passenger equipment. The primary goal was to coordinate efforts for pooling their equipment for mainline steam excursions. The popularity of the organization quickly grew and today includes over 400 members.

As mainline steam excursions ceased, the organization changed the mission statement to include promoting the preservation and operation of historic railroad equipment, addressing the issues facing equipment owners and working with the nation's railroads and Amtrak to facilitate the operation and movement of member's passenger cars.

Today RPCA is a growing and forward thinking organization led by a Board of Directors who are railroad industry professionals, and are capable of thinking outside the box. Dedicated to preserving a unique and enjoyable mode of transportation, R.P.C.A. welcomes your membership and participation.

After a short night, we went downstairs and enjoyed an excellent breakfast which this hotel provided for us. We walked over to the Courtyard by Marriott to receive our registration packetsbefore returning to the room to get ready for our bus trip, a pre-conference event which was offered today, in addition to the seminars that were taking place at the North Carolina Transportation Museum. The bus left Salisbury after 9:00 AM and took us back to Interstate 40 on the route that we drove last night in the dark. We soon arrived at Newton and were divided into three groups with our group first going to the Alexander Railroad Pavilion.

Southeastern Narrow Gauge & Shortline Museum 1/12/2023

Southern Railway caboose X2715 built by the railroad in 1922 and lettered Norfolk and Western 376.

Chicago Burlington and Quincy dining car 195 "Silver Restaurant" which became Amtrak 8052 then 8054, and was built by Budd in 1947.

Interior of Chicago, Burlington and Quincy 195.

The Newton Southern Railway station built in 1924 at the junction of the Southern Railway and Carolina and Northwestern Railroad. It saw its last passenger trainn in 1975 and last freight agent in 1985. Restoration project commenced in 1995 and after ten years, the building was moved half a mile south and retored by volunteers.

Clinchfield Railroad caboose 1023 built by the railroad in 1920.

West Virginia Midland Railroad baggage car 1 built in 1902.

Southern Railway wooden caboose X2715 built by the railroad in 1922.

Alexander Railroad Pavilion information board.

East Tennessee and Western North Carolina box car 434, one of the two remmaining box cars from this railroad, which ran from Johnson City, Tennessee to Boone, North Carolina. It was amont the largest narrow gauage box cars ever built and constructed around 1916. It served the railroad until the narrow gauage was discontinued in 1950 and used as a storage shed on a farm in Tennessee until 1961. At that time, it was donated to the New Jersey Museum of Transportation and remained in their collection until 2011 when it was donated to the museum and restored over the course of the next three years.

Interior of the box car.

Carolina and North Western wooden box car 401 built circa 1875 for the Chester and Lenoir Railroad, the successor to the Carolina and North Western, and ran through Newton on the original narrow gauge. It is believed to be the oldest narrow gauge box car on the east coast and oldest piece of Southern Railway equipment. It finished its service life on the Lawndale Railway from 1910 to 1940. At 37 feet long, it is a member of the longest class of narrow gauge box cars ever built. The box car was acquired in autumn 2006 as a donation from the Warlick farm in Cleveland County where it served as a storage shed.

Information board about these wooden box cars.

Alexander Railroad S-3 6 built by the American Locomotive Company in 1953. The Alexander Railroad began operations in 1946 and was marked for abandonment by the Southern Railway so local investors and businessmen stepped in, purchasing the 18-mile branch line from Statesville to Taylorsville. The railroad is named after Alexander County, North Carolina, although it serves both Alexander & Iredell Counties. The railroad was originally chartered and built in 1887 as the Statesville & Western, a subsidiary of Atlantic, Tennessee & Ohio which ran between Charlotte and Statesville North Carolina. The AT&O was purchased by the Richmond & Danville, and eventually came under the Southern Railway.

Southern Railway box car 45831.

Virginia-Carolina Chemical Company 2-6-0 50, nee Osceola Cypress Company 50 "E.T. Summerhill", built by American Locomotive Company in 1922 and was originally one of three engines of this class built for the Cuban sugar plantations, but the order was cancelled when the sugar market collapsed. She then saw service for a timber company and then spent the bulk of her operating life working for the Virginia-Carolina company. In 1960, the engine was placed in the city park of Lakeland, Florida, where she has resided for the past 50 years.

Narrow gauge car frame.

East Tennessee and Western North Carolina gang motorcar/railbus 2. Next I visited the station to see the interior displays.

Station timetable board.

Station bay window.

Steward jacket and dining car china.

Ticket window.

Station view.

Station bench.

Dining car china.

Trainorder hoop.

Picture of Southern Railway 1401.

Pictures of the station.

Dining car china.

Locomotiove bell.

Railroad lanterns.

Switch stand.

Baggage cart.

Railroad lenterns.

Railroad items.

Signal cover and railroad signs.

Interesting displays.

Railroaders' tools.

Marker lights.

Railroad lanterns.

The Newton station history board. Now our group would walk next door to see the model railroads.

Views as I entered the room.

Trains under the Christmas Tree.

A very nice model railroad, one of the dioramas here operated and maintained by the Carolina Southern Division of the Mid-Eastern Region of the National Model Railroad Association.

Model train cars.

Two views of the HO model railroad. I walked next door to see more of these model railoads.

Trains running around the Christmas tree.

Another unique model railroad.

Narrow gauge circle the top of the mountain.

While below, a Lionel train takes its route.

Two views of this narrow gauge train.

These ski lifts are part of the diorama.

The trolley runs back and forth.

A Norfolk and Western locomotive pulls its train around the layout.

The gondola runs on their path to the top of the mountain.

The end of that train.

The fornmer narrow gauge car now is a stage.

The Newton Depot Plaza display board.

One last view of the Newton station before we re-boarded the buses and went to the Southern/Carolina & Northwestern station in Hickory for lunch. I enjoyed a ribeye steak with mashed potatoes and water while Elizabeth had the pulled pork sandwich with baked beans and lemonade. Afterwards I took pictures of the station.

Southern/Carolina & Northwestern Hickory station built in 1912. The bus drove us back to the hotels in Salisbury and I took a nap while Elizabeth caught up on e-mails and other sites on the Internet. Later I showered before we went to dinner at the Cracker Barrel up the hill above the Holiday Inn Express with good friends Bart and Sarah Jennings. Good conversation was had and I enjoyed a meal of chicken strips and Elizabeth had the trout, before we returned to the hotel and wrote this story.