Rail Days roll on at Transportation Museum

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 11, 2011

By David Freeze
For the Salisbury Post
SPENCER — The North Carolina Transportation Museum was bustling Saturday as people turned out to celebrate planes, trains and automobiles.
Passenger trains and model trains were rolling, giving visitors options to see Spencer’s history firsthand.
Rail Days continues from noon to 5 p.m. today.
Children’s crafts, a chili cook-off, and art exhibits are also part of Rail Days, as is bluegrass music by Piedmont Natural Grass.
“The Spencer Shops facility calls out for an event like this. It truly honors the golden age of railroading,” said Mark Brown, museum spokesman.
World War II military vehicles were on display by Tara Air Base of Cooleemee.
“We want to keep the memory alive and preserve memories. We go to five to six events a year. We find vehicles and restore them. In fact, we were up till midnight painting one of the trucks,” said Jan Nichols.
Nichols was joined by husband, Novaro, and friends Darlene and Robert Page, and all wore period dress. The group is taking World War II Memorial registrations.
Both active military and homefront workers are eligible. For more information, call 336-284-2161.
Devin Pratt, 5, from York, S.C., wore his railroad hat and work gloves as he posed for pictures. His grandparents, David and Dusty Wilson, had planned on visiting the museum, and chose the Rail Days weekend to make the visit. The Wilsons had two grandparents who totaled 100 years of railroading on the Penn Railroad.
Art exhibits were provided by 2nd Saturday, a partnership between artists and historic sites that is managed by the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources.
Artists show and sell their wares throughout the summer at the Transportation Museum on the second Saturdays in June, July, and August.
Model-train displays were constantly running in the roundhouse.
Nick Cianciosi of Mocksville is a member of the Tidewater group of the Atlantic Coast S-Gaugers. The Tidewater group is out of Hampton Roads, Va.
Cianciosi, an industrial-controls engineer, loves engaging the public.
“Our train displays are meant to be interactive. We occasionally have a child grab a model car and pull it off the track. We just put it back on. Most of the trains were meant to be toys, anyway,” he said. “Some were made in the 1940s and ’50s. Train enthusiasts are graying, and want kids involved. There is such artistry and scenery to model railroading.”
The Tidewater train displays had push buttons along the sides of the tracks. Push buttons highlighted certain areas, or sometimes caused actions in the train yard.
Cianciosi was especially proud of his demolition button, resulting in the implosion of a building in the railyard.
Cianciosi also had a unusual arm-powered “train drag race” on display. Virginia and Jules Taylor of Eden were spinning the handles while their grandfather, Phil Hegler of Winston Salem, watched. “Trains are part of our heritage. This generation might realize eventually that it is not their inherent right to have a car,” Hegler said.
He is a repeat visitor and once brought friends from Scotland.
While Hegler talked, Virginia and Jules powered their racing-train cars along a portion of track with arm power.
There were plenty of activities for small children, too. Children could make lanterns and do face painting in the craft area, or watch a magician perform his tricks.
Annette Motiska from Charlotte brought her grandson Paulo because he loves trains.
“We saw the signs along I-85 for years, and decided to come today,” Motisko said.
Paulo couldn’t keep his eyes off the trains, both big and small.
Throughout the morning, a chili cook off highlighted the food area.
“We had 16 or 17 cooks, and we were competing for points that would allow us to go to Texas for a national competition. All of our events give the proceeds to charity, and today’s charity is the museum itself,” Steve Dixon said. “We pay an entry fee, furnish everything needed to cook the chili, and finally we give it all away. This was a well-run event.”
Other highlights included the working roundtable, which took visitors on the same ride that old locomotives did for years. The Baldwin 542 locomotive used in the George Clooney movie “Leatherheads” was also on display.
Brown invited everyone to come out today.
“This event is a great opportunity to come see the museum.”