Transportation Museum to renovate historic structures

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 30, 2024

SPENCER — Earlier this week, the North Carolina Transportation Museum announced plans to renovate two historic structures, the Powerhouse and Car Repair Shed, creating opportunities for continued growth at the state historic site.

The Powerhouse, constructed in 1896, supplied both power and steam pressure for both shop tools and heat throughout the former Southern Railway Spencer Shops facility. It received several additions throughout the years, with the most significant being in 1924, when the brick structure that stands today was built.

The project will consist of a full renovation of the structure, complete with a new entrance canopy and an addition that will house restrooms, a catering kitchen, storage, and mechanical spaces. The interior improvements will include repaired concrete floors, repainted historic equipment and metal surfaces, as well as new lighting, utilities, HVAC, and an automatic sprinkler system. Once complete, the Powerhouse will host museum activities and also provide rental space for private events.  

The Car Repair Shed was constructed in 1917 to repair railroad cars at Spencer Shops. It was once 600 feet long and 110 feet wide, could handle 200 repairs per day, and employed 300 workers at its peak. The original Car Repair Shed was once six times longer than its current size. The repair and expansion will almost double its current size and result in it being about one-third of its original size at 27,460 square feet.

The improvements include a new roof, structural repairs, repaired skylights, replaced metal siding, concrete floor repairs, new lighting, power and water. The building’s five railroad tracks that run through it will be expanded to allow for the ongoing maintenance and covered storage of a minimum of 10 railroad passenger cars or other rolling stock. Two tracks will be dedicated to car maintenance, as was the original use of the building. Three tracks will be open to the public to view restored railcars kept under cover, providing protection of the equipment from the sun and rain.  

“Completion of this major project will allow us to attract additional visitors for our activities and private events, ensure improved care of our vintage rail equipment, and continue to boost our economic impact for the region,” said Kelly Alexander, the museum’s executive director.  

In addition to the improvements to the two buildings, the project will open up additional outdoor areas that have been off-limits to the general public since the museum first opened.  These new open spaces will be available for outdoor events and other activities.   

Jenkins-Peer Architects was selected to complete the project, and Hamlett Associates has been awarded the construction contract. Work is expected to begin in July and is anticipated to take up to one year. Funding for the project was provided through a $10 million one-time appropriation from the N.C. General Assembly.