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Streamliner crowd gave boost to local economy

If you happened to have been in Spencer sometime between last Thursday and last Sunday, then you probably saw the crowds. The North Carolina Transportation Museum’s “Streamliner Event” brought 26 rare locomotives from around the country to town, and following close behind were rail fans in the thousands, sprouting cameras like a Nikon assembly line.
These cross-tie-hopping folks found it hard to believe that such special pieces of locomotive history could be in one place at one time — and they took some pictures just to make sure their eyes were not playing tricks on them. They marveled at the pure magic of so much historic power purring inside the museum’s roundhouse, and they took a few more pictures. They laughed at the announcer’s inside train jokes, sighed when the train crews pulled off a particularly nice movement, and took even more pictures. If there is a malady known as “camera finger,” then last week’s Spencer spectacle must have inspired an epidemic.
The museum sold more than 9,000 tickets over the four days of the event. People came from 41 different states, the District of Columbia and five foreign countries — and that reflects just the pre-sales figures. We don’t really know where all of the people came from who bought tickets on site.
For all intents and purposes, all hotel rooms were sold out in Rowan County and visitors found themselves riding back and forth from such places as the wilds of Thomasville just to find a spot to put their train-weary heads each night. In short, the N.C. Transportation Museum made a lot of people happy last week, and doing so, it also contributed quite a bit to the local economy.
Events such as “Streamliners” do not happen overnight or without vision and effort. The Transportation Museum Foundation Board led all of the planning and implementation of this event. Museum members, volunteers and staff worked long hours to make sure that all of those visiting had a great time. Other museums, tourist railroads and similar organizations from around the country loaned some of their most precious engines, and then sent train crews to make them come to life.
A whole array of businesses and organizations contributed to the effort, including Amtrak, Union Pacific, the North Carolina Railroad, N.C. Department of Transportation and especially Norfolk Southern. The event would not have been possible, if it had not been for Norfolk Southern and its CEO Wick Moorman. But a special word of thanks goes to Kelly Alexander, Chief Operating Officer of the North Carolina Transportation Museum Foundation, who engineered the event —in just about every sense of the word.
As the crowds left Spencer on Sunday, cameras drooping but faces smiling, more than a few wanted to know, “What’s next?”
The answer?
“Go rest up that camera finger! You are going to need it in prime condition again real soon!”
Cherry is deputy secretary of the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources and director of the State Office of Archives and History.

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