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N.C. Transportation Museum unveiling new train ride route

SPENCER ó The N.C. Transportation Museum will unveil a new train ride route on its grounds to media and local government officials June 4 at 2 p.m.
This press event leads up to the museum’s public dedication during the Rail Days Festival June 13-14.
Improvements to the railroad tracks around the museum enable the new train ride route to showcase more of its 57 acres, while paralleling U.S. 29 and the town of Spencer.
The route will allow interpretive historians to better tell the history of the town, which, through the first half of the 20th Century, grew up alongside the Spencer Shops train repair facility, now the grounds of the N.C. Transportation Museum.
The N.C. Transportation Museum has been keeping the state’s transportation history alive for more than 30 years. Its tracks, however, are far older. Since the early 1900s, trains being repaired at Spencer Shops moved around the yard on these tracks. When the shops ceased operating in the late 1970s, this property was donated to the state of North Carolina for use as a museum.
In 1987, trains began rolling around the property again, as rides were first offered to the public. While maintenance was done annually, there have been no major track improvements in some 15 years.
Museum and foundation officials sought funds for the improvements, according to the museum’s executive director, Elizabeth Smith. The cost was more than $600,000. In 2006, the U.S. Department of Transportation allocated $485,335 of the necessary funds for the project. The N.C. Transportation Museum Foundation raised another $121,335 to meet the full cost.
Museum volunteer and locomotive engineer Richard Morse and foundation board member Roy Johnson worked hard to design the track and implement the contract. Contractor Keith Benfield was awarded the project. Work began in December 2008 and was completed last month.
With the new design, riders will see views of the town of Spencer, the Master Mechanic’s Office and the south end of the property. The return trip north will feature a look at the museum’s Roundhouse and the enormous Back Shop.
“I think the new train ride route will improve the visitor experience,” says Smith. “I hope those that have ridden in the past will return to see the new track.”
Smith says the museum, along with the town of Spencer, the city of Salisbury and all of Rowan County, will benefit from an increase in visitors, even repeat visitors.
Another feature of the recent improvements is a new display track added near the museum’s operating turntable. Railroad cars, locomotives and other equipment can now be placed in the area. This will allow museum visitors an even closer look at the history of railroading.
The June 4 preview will be the first public look at the new train ride. Regular rides on the new route will begin during the Rail Days Festival.
For more information, visit www.nctrans.org.

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