Diesel locomotives ‘set rail’ to Washington for centenary celebration of Union Station
By Steve Huffman
SPENCER ó Two of the N.C. Transportation Museum’s finest ó locomotives No. 6900 and No. 501 ó left Thursday for Washington, D.C.
They didn’t embark under their own power.
“They’re in different states of functionality,” said Mark Brown, a spokesman for the Transportation Museum.
He was referring to the diesel locomotives, often used to pull train cars filled with passengers around the grounds of the State Historic Site.
Instead of the engines setting sail to the nation’s capitol under their own power, they were pulled by an Amtrak engine.
The historic engines coming from the Transportation Museum will be used as part of the centenary celebration of Washington’s Union Station this Saturday and Sunday.
The open house will honor what was created as a gateway to the nation’s capital. Union Station was opened in 1908.
At the time, the white granite structure was the largest building in the country, covering more than 200 acres and featuring a massive concourse. It had more than 75 miles of tracks.
The locomotives won’t be the Transportation Museum’s only contributions to the celebration. Also embarking Thursday from Spencer as part of the expedition were a U.S. Mail Railway Post Office car and the Pine Tree State sleeper-buffet-lounge car.
Brown said it’s believed that both the locomotives and the mail car passed through Union Station sometime during their years of use. The Pine Tree State car may have also crossed the tracks at Union Station, though because the car was private, it’s more difficult to ascertain its exact routes of travel.
The trouble with watching the locomotives and other cars leaving the grounds of the Transportation Museum was that they didn’t look nearly as nice as they would have had they been traveling under their own power.
The engine provided by Amtrak was a rather bland creation compared to the Transportation Museum’s offerings.
“They’re impressive engines,” Brown said of the diesel locomotives.
Here’s a history of the locomotives and cars the Transportation Museum contributed for the Washington celebration.
– The Atlantic Coast No. 501 E3 was built in 1939 and served more than 40 years on the Champion, running from Richmond, Va., to Jacksonville, Fla. The engine belongs to the N.C. Department of Transportation’s Rail Division and is on loan to the Transportation Museum.
– The Southern Railway No. 6900 was built in 1951. Its distinct green and aluminum paint scheme honors the history of Southern Railroad. The engine belongs to the N.C. Transportation Museum Foundation.
– The Southern Railroad No. 36 is a railway post office car built in 1926. Though owned by Southern Railroad, it was operated solely by post office employees. The car is owned by the National Postal Museum and is on loan to the Transportation Museum.
– The Pine Tree State car ran from New York south from 1954 to 1982. The car represented full-service train travel, with five double sleeping rooms, a lounge for up to 20 people and a buffet kitchen. It is owned by the Transportation Museum.