Easter Bunny Express, egg hunt celebrate holiday at museum

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 26, 2012

SPENCER — Four days of Easter Bunny Express train rides will end with the annual Easter Egg Hunt and a double-head steam caboose train at the N.C. Transportation Museum in Spencer.
Train rides at the museum will have a seasonal twist starting Saturday with the Easter bunny riding the rails with parents and children. Easter Bunny Express train rides are offered Saturday, April 1, 6 and 7.
The museum plans a finale for Easter festivities on April 7 with the annual Easter Egg Hunt and special treat for rail fans with a double head of steam pulling the caboose train.
The museum will offer rides aboard the caboose train pulled by both the Lehigh Valley Coal #126 and the Flagg #75 Steam Engine, working in tandem to pull five colorful cabooses.
Double-heading a train, with two engines working together to pull the load, was often used during the golden age of railroading for large trains with many rail cars.
In this day of diesel-electric powered rail travel, seeing a steam engine pulling a train is a rare sight. Seeing two steam engines double-heading a train is even more unusual.
Visitors can ride along on the steam engine caboose train rides at 10, 10:45 and 11:30 a.m. and 1, 1:45, 2:30 and 3:15 p.m. on April 7.
The Easter Bunny Express is a 25-minute train ride around the N.C. Transportation Museum. The furry friend will hand out candy to the kids, take pictures and meet everyone.
Kids can also get temporary tattoos in the museum Gift Station and make a craft to take home.
Easter Bunny Express train rides are $12 for ages three and up. Ages two and under ride free. Museum member discounts apply, and all tickets include museum admission.
The Easter Egg Hunt, for kids from birth to 10 years old, begins at 12:30 p.m. April 7.
Eggs will be stuffed with small toys, candy and stickers. Children will be divided into groups by age. Golden eggs will be available for each age group, holding a special prize. Bring your own basket for the event.
Visitors can ride the Easter Bunny Express or the caboose train with a $12 ticket or both trains for $18.
Tickets can be purchased in advance online at www.nctrans.org , by phone at 704-636-2889 ext. 237 or at the Barber Junction Depot on the day of the event.
Both engines double-heading the caboose train are owned by the Gramling Locomotive Works and are authentic steam locomotives with a long working history.
The Lehigh Valley Coal #126, built by Vulcan Iron Works in 1931, spent its entire working career in Pennsylvania. It was first used by the Lehigh Valley Coal Company and then the Heidelberg Coal Company.
The engine was later sold to a scrap dealer in Carbondale, Penn. where it was stored into the early 1990s.
The #126 deteriorated until its rescue in 1993 by the Gramling Locomotive Works. Now fully restored, the engine looks and operates as it did when it was first built in 1931.
The Flagg 75 Coal Engine was built by Vulcan Iron Works in 1930. The small engine was used mainly in work at rock quarries in Pennsylvania and New York.
In 1954, the engine was sold to Dr. Stanley Groman, who opened the first operating rail museum in the country, Rail City in Sandy Pond, N.Y.
The museum closed in 1974 and the engine deteriorated over the next 25 years.
The Flagg 75 was rescued from obscurity by the Gramling Locomotive Works in 1991 and was restored to its original condition. The engine travels to events across the country, having run in 15 states.
Both engines have been used at the N.C. Transportation Museum for “At the Throttle” events, which allow visitors to step into the cab of a steam locomotive and be an engineer for a half hour.
These engines have also been used to pull the caboose train during special events. April 7, however, will be the first time the engines are used on the same train, at the same time, providing a double-head of steam.