Transportation Museum Spring Kick Off March 15
SPENCER – The N.C. Transportation Museum’s March 15 Spring Kick Off will have some special features for rail fans and the general public alike, with the Lehigh Valley No. 126 steam locomotive pulling the museum’s caboose train and the debut of the newly restored Clinchfield 100 passenger rail car.
The event will also provide opportunities to experience railroading the way it was done in the good old days, with two separate train rides. Each one will have a special historical focus.
The Lehigh Valley No. 126 will be pulling five colorful cabooses that make up the museum’s Caboose Train. The Lehigh Valley No. 126 is a real working steam engine, built in 1931. After a long history of working the coal mines of Pennsylvanian, then nearly forgotten in a scrap yard, the engine has been fully restored by the Gramling Locomotive Works. The engine tours the country, appearing at events and special programs. Visitors taking the museum’s 25 minute train ride will be able to see this “iron horse” of the past chugging along and climb aboard for a great train ride. Plus, a seat in the caboose cupola will provide an “above the rails” view of the day’s activities.
The Passenger Train will also be available, pulled by the Southern No. 2601 and featuring vintage rail cars from the 1950s. The Passenger Train will also feature the newly repainted Clinchfield No. 100. Built in 1911, the car served on the Clinchfield Railroad as the company’s business car, serving company executives and business leaders. The car may best be known for another frequent rider, Santa Claus. The No. 100 was the platform car Santa rode during the company’s popular “Santa Train” that ran from 1953 to 1983. Visitors can ride in this historic car and hear featured speakers discussing the Clinchfield Railroad in the Roundhouse throughout the day.
The Watauga Valley Railroad Historical Society and Museum are providing their Whistle Machine for kids and parents to enjoy. The Whistle Machine features a collection of unique, historically significant whistles from the steam locomotive era. In the bygone days of steam locomotives, train whistles were often heard and engineers often had a distinctive way they would sound their whistles. The Whistle Machine offers an opportunity for all ages to hear to distinctive sound and to create their own signature whistle.
Kids and parents alike will also be able to pan for gold, as the museum’s partners at Reed Gold Mine will be providing their gold panning activity. Visitors can see how gold was found in the days of the first gold rush and even pan for gold themselves. Gold panning will require an additional $2 fee.
Kids will be able to make a craft during a visit to the Wagons, Wheels & Wings exhibit area near the Gift Shop while Barbie LeBrun will tell stories for the assembled children.
Across the N.C. Transportation Museum’s 57 acre site, visitors will come across costumed museum volunteers, playing the roles of those you might come into contact with on a journey through transportation history.
The hobo jungle will feature hobos telling tales of riding the rails in the cheapest way possible. They will also share the secret signs that hobos used to tell each other where free food, easy transport and save havens were available.
The Melville Dairy Divco milk truck exhibit will feature a deliveryman readying to make his rounds. For those that stop by the Bumper to Bumper exhibit, the milkman will also be providing a tasty treat with milk and cookies for all.
In the Roundhouse, a Spencer Shops worker from the past will be making sure the steam engines are ready to roll and telling visitors about the days when operation was at its peak, just before the coming of diesel locomotives.
A U.S. Army soldier will be in the Back Shop, stationed alongside the U.S. Army “Deuce and a Half” truck, discussing supply runs and how this mammoth truck helped feed, cloth and supply the troops.
Further in the Roundhouse, Kate Wright, sister to the famed Wright brothers, will talk with visitors about her brothers and their “crazy” invention, the Wright flyer.
Those with an interest in the Piedmont Airlines DC-3 will have a chance to experience the renovation of this airplane firsthand. Former Piedmont Airlines and US Air pilot Captain Bill Wilkerson and museum historian Walter Turner will lead special tours of the DC-3 at 11 a.m., 1 and 3 p.m.
Other exhibits and displays include the NASCAR Field of Honor race car and Antique Fire Truck displays. Both will be available in the museum field near the entrance. Visitors will also be able to see and hear the Rowan Aeromodelers as their remote-controlled aircraft take flight over the event.
Tickets for the N.C. Transportation Museum’s Spring Kick Off are $14 for adults, $12 for seniors and active military and $10 for kids 3-12. Tickets include museum admission, unlimited train rides and all events (except gold panning). Member discounts apply. Tickets can be purchased in advance, through www.nctrans.org, or on the day of the event at the Barber Junction Visitor’s Center.