Transportation Museum becomes Landmark

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 17, 2011

N.C. Transportation Museum
The Spencer Shops Roundhouse and Turntable on the site of the North Carolina Transportation Museum will be named an ASME Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark at a special ceremony in Spencer on Saturday.
The ceremony will be held during the Transportation Museumís Spring Kick Off. A first for the museum, the festival will offer a day full of music, food, games for the kids and train rides. It begins at 10 a.m. and ends at 3:30 p.m.
Tickets are available online at or at the museum grounds on the day of the event, allowing access to all events and unlimited train rides. Trains depart at 10, 10:45 and 11:30 a.m. and 1, 1:45, 2:30, and 3:15 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for children 3-12.
The festival will feature two different trains. The museumís regular passenger train will be pulled by a classic diesel engine, and special rides will be available on a train full of cabooses, pulled by the Flagg 75 steam locomotive.
Steam engine train rides have not been available at the museum for several years, so having the Flagg 75 caboose train adds a special touch to the event, particularly on the grounds of the former Spencer Shops, which was built more than a century ago for the repair and maintenance of steam powered engines, a museum press release said.
The festival will also feature live music across the museum grounds. JP and Crawdaddy will perform classic rock, beach and country near the Barber Junction Visitorís Center, while bluegrass act Piedmont Natural Grass will perform in the Bob Julian Roundhouse.
Kids and adults will enjoy performances by magician Ryan Short. A popular part of the museumís ěDay Out With Thomasî events, Shortís show incorporates humor, music, dancing and exploding shoes. Short will perform throughout the day in the Roundhouse.For children, the Spring Kick Off will include miniature golf on the lawn, an outdoor play area, bubbles and sidewalk chalk behind the Master Mechanicís Office, temporary tattoos, Thomas play tables and coloring areas in the roundhouse.
In the midst of it all, Wacky-Doo the Clown will be roaming the grounds, creating balloon creations and spreading joy.
The museumís gift shop, The Gift Station, will host two authors. A.J. Fallon, author of ěChoo Choo Woody, the Little Engine with a Heartî and Julia Taylor Ebel, author of ěWalking Ribbonî and ěAddie Clawson, Appalachian Mail Carrier,î will appear beginning at 2 p.m.
At the ceremony set for 2 p.m., the New York-based American Society of Mechanical Engineers will present a bronze plaque to the museum in recognition of the contribution of the Spencer facility to the progress of American railroading.
The Spencer facility was built in 1924 by the Southern Railway to repair steam locomotives. It is one of the few remaining early 20th century railroad locomotive repair shops in the United States.
Consisting of a massive erecting shop, 100-foot turntable and roundhouse equipped with 37 individual stalls, Spencer served as the main shop on the Southern Railwayís Eastern Lines, employing more than 3,000 people during peak periods.
The turntable at Spencer sits on a circular rail set in the floor of a concrete pit. Two 25-horsepower electric motors rotated the system 360 degrees on a center spindle, lining up the locomotive with straight sections of track leading into the stalls of the roundhouse, where maintenance and repairs ranging from running gear adjustments to brake work were performed.
The Spencer facility also included a machine shop where train parts were forged, as well as various administrative and office buildings.
The Spencer Shops Roundhouse and Turntable served the Southern Railway during the nationís heyday of the steam-powered locomotive, and was modified and expanded from 1948 to 1950 to accommodate the companyís investment in diesel engines.
The complex was donated to the State of North Carolina in 1979. The North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources proposed a restoration project including the creation of a museum to focus on the stateís rich transportation history.
The roundhouse and turntable were refurbished and opened to the public in 1996, allowing local railroad history to continue into the future.
The nearly 250 ASME landmarks ó ranging from mills and steam engines to industrial processes and space rockets ó represent progress in the evolution of mechanical engineering and significance to society in general.
Through its Landmarks Program, ASME encourages the preservation of the physical remains of historically important works.

The N.C. Transportation Museum is at 411 S. Salisbury Ave. in Spencer. Visit the museumís website at for more information.