Rail Day is Saturday at Transportation Museum

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 18, 2015

N.C. Transportation Museum

SPENCER — The N.C. Transportation Museum’s Rail Day Festival is Saturday and will feature multiple train rides, a visit from the recently restored Class J 611 steam locomotive, and a partnership with UNC Charlotte focusing on the future of rail and other forms of transportation.

In partnership with UNC Charlotte’s Energy Production and Infrastructure Center, Rail Day will feature multiple forms of transportation, and displays from the university. Steam, diesel and gas-powered vehicles will be moving throughout the site, as representatives from UNC Charlotte show off magnetic-levitation technology that will consume less fossil fuel and make transportation safer and more affordable in the future.

Following its renovation and send off celebrations, the Class J #611 steam locomotive, the “Queen of Steam,” returns to the museum for “At the Throttle” rides, views of the cab, photo opportunities and more.

The engine recently had homecoming celebrations at Roanoke’s Virginia Museum of Transportation following a year of restoration at the N.C. Transportation Museum.

Vsitors will have the chance to experience three different train rides Saturday. The museum’s regular passenger train will cover the 57 acre historic site, pulled by the N&W #620.  This narrated tour gives a “from the rails” view of Spencer and Spencer Shops’ historic structures.

The Caboose Train will be pulled by the Southern #6133, providing passengers an “above the rails” view of the museum.

Tickets will be very limited for Class J #611 Caboose rides. Those who purchased 611 “At the Throttle” rides will be operating this iconic locomotive for a half hour at a time. But during “At the Throttle,” visitors may purchase tickets to ride aboard the attached N&W caboose.

Rail Day Festival-goers may also take a spin on the turntable at the historic Bob Julian Roundhouse and zip along the tracks aboard motor cars, small maintenance vehicles provided by Red Springs and Northern Railroad.

Norfolk Southern’s Operation Lifesaver locomotive will attend the event with an important message. Operation Lifesaver reports that once every three hours in the United States, a person or vehicle is struck by a train. The group is working to change people’s behavior around railroad tracks and crossings with the national public awareness campaign, “See Tracks?  Think Train!”  They will also have giveaways for kids and adults.

The museum’s partner model railroading clubs will keep the event on the rails, albeit on a smaller scale. The Beaver Creek Railroad’s G-scale display, Daniel Peck’s Garden Railroad Display, and the Atlantic Coast S-Gaugers will be in attendance during the Rail Day Festival.

As part of the event’s theme of focusing on the future of rail and other forms of transportation, students from Rowan-Cabarrus Community College will show off a gas guzzler that has been turned into an electrically powered vehicle. The college’s automotive program converted a 1983 Ford Ranger, along with other vehicles, to electrical use. College representatives will show visitors how the project was done to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

Duke Energy will be located in the Bob Julian Roundhouse at the museum’s Duke Power Locomotive #111. Things have changed for the company since the historic engine, built in 1922, was used to haul cars up and down the track.

“Today, we’ve replaced it and others in our fleet with high-efficiency locomotives that are reducing emissions by 75 percent. That’s good for the environment and good for the communities we serve,” said Dave Navey, equipment specialist for Duke Energy.

The event will take to the sky with a powered parachute display. Representing the ultra-light aircraft that share the skies with larger private and commercial airplanes, this powered parachute is a 200- to 300-pound flying machine that carries up to 500 pounds of payload.

Inside the Roundhouse, a living history demonstration will discuss the Wright Brothers.

Further into the Roundhouse, visitors can take a walk through James B. Duke’s private rail car. Duke, the industrialist and tycoon, named his private rail car “Doris,” after his daughter.

Kids’ crafts, a bouncy house, face painting and sidewalk chalk will keep the young ones entertained, and there will be a Trackless Train with music and an authentic 1800s train whistle.

Tickets for the festival can be bought for the museum’s regular price. Admission is $6 for adults, $5 for seniors and active military, $4 children 3-12. Admission plus the passenger train ride is $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and active military, and $8 for children 3-12. Admission plus rides on the regular passenger train and the caboose train are $18 for adults, $16 for seniors and active military, and $14 for children 3-12. Ages 2 and under are free. Class J #611 caboose rides are $10 per person. Turntable rides are $1. All other events and activities are included with admission. State sales tax applies.

Museum members receive free admission and a ride on the museum’s passenger train. A charge will be required for some members for the caboose train. Shuttle service will be provided for those riding North Carolina’s Amtrak to the event, arriving at Salisbury Station. More information and tickets are available at www.nctrans.org .