North Carolina Transportation Museum

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North Carolina Transportation Museum
NCTM 1920 Ford Model AA Truck.jpg
Antique automobiles.
Established 1982
Location Spencer Shops
Type Transport museum
Collection size Railroad artifacts and equipment, road vehicles, airplanes.

The North Carolina Transportation Museum (reporting mark NCMX)[1] is a transport museum in Spencer, North Carolina. The museum is largely devoted to the state's railroad history; however, its collection also includes exhibits of automobiles and aircraft. It is the largest repository of rail relics in North and South Carolina and averages 80,000 visitors annually.[2] The museum is located at the former Southern Railway's 1896-era Spencer Shops.


The museum was founded in 1977, when the Southern Railway deeded 4 acres (16,000 m2) of land to the state of North Carolina for a transportation museum. Two years later, another 53 acres (210,000 m2) was added to the original donation; the entirety of the railway's largest former steam locomotive repair shops. The museum's first exhibit opened in 1983, called People, Places and Time. The museum grew over the years, most notably in 1996, with the opening of Barber Junction, a relocated railroad depot from some 30 miles away, and the newly renovated Bob Julian Roundhouse. Barber Junction serves the museum's Visitor's Center and departure point for the on-site train ride. The Bob Julian Roundhouse serves as the hub for most of the museum's railroad exhibits, but also includes aviation exhibits and site history.

Several bays of the Spencer Shops roundhouse, built in 1924,[3] are devoted to volunteered restorations of locomotives and rolling stock in the museum collection. It was here that the 542 was worked on and steam locomotives from 1896-1953 were repaired. In the first 16 stalls, visitors can walk among the massive locomotives and rail cars on display in an open-air setting. Moving into the enclosed Elmer Lam gallery in stalls 17 through 20, aviation exhibits dominate, with a full size replica Wright Flyer, Piedmont Airlines exhibits, and more. Moving into the restoration shop occupying stalls 21 through 32, visitors may also see volunteers working on various railroad pieces, and even manufacturing their own parts. The remaining five stalls are dedicated to additional enclosed exhibits.[4]

The Flue Shop, where all of the flues for steam engines were formerly produced, as become the Bumper To Bumper exhibit, featuring vintage and antique cars. These include several Model Ts, a Model A and even a Ford Model R (the 1907 predecessor to the Model T). A Highway Patrol car from 1935, a Divco Milk Truck, a Lincoln Continental and others are also part of the museum's collection.

In 2005, the museum's Back Shop underwent a massive renovation, which included repairs to the roof, re-pointing of the brick, and a stabilization of the building's floor. This building, where the full overhaul of steam locomotives once took place, is most notable for its size and scope. Nearly three stories tall and two football fields long, it was once the largest industrial building in the state. It may be most notable, however, for the words "Be Careful," standing some three feet tall, visible from nearly anywhere on the north end of the site. In 2009, the museum opened the Back Shop to the public for the first time, with an access ramp on the south end. "Behind the Scenes" tours and special events often featuring a full Back Shop tour.

Heritage railroad[edit]

The museum has a heritage railroad, which operates passenger excursion trains several times per day, year round, but on a seasonal schedule. Trains are usually powered by the Norfolk and Western #620, however, at times it is substituted by the Southern #6133 or Southern #2601. The Southern #6133 and Southern #2601 also assist in special events where two or more trains are operating. Though the museum has no operating steam locomotives of its own, it has used the Lehigh Valley Coal 0-6-0 #126 for trips, along with Flag Coal Co. 0-4-0 #75, the American 4-4-0 "Leviathan" locomotive,the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum's Southern 2-8-0 #630 and the Norfolk and Western 611. For Caboose trips and at-the-throttle trips, the museum has leased engines from the Grambling Locomotive Works; the Virginia Museum of Transportation and Norfolk Southern previously allowed the museum to use their Norfolk and Western #611 during its two stays. Cab rides to the normal excursion can be purchased at Barber Junction.

Visitors may also purchase tickets to ride the roundhouse turntable every day.


The museum hosts a number of events annually and some one-time railroading events that bring rail fans from across the country. In 2012, the Bob Julian Roundhouse was the stage for all 20 of Norfolk Southern's Heritage locomotives during a two-day photographic event. In 2014, the museum hosted Streamliners at Spencer, with notable 1930s - 1950s era locomotives gathered around the Bob Julian Roundhouse turntable for a four-day event. Streamliners at Spencer included the Class J 611 Steam Passenger locomotive, visiting from the Virginia Museum of Transportation. This notable locomotive remained in Spencer for repair and restoration work to allow it to once again pull passenger excursions across the southeast.

The Museum has also operated 21st century steam trips from its grounds over its property and Norfolk Southern using the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum's Southern #630 and rolling stock as well as the NS steam rolling stock fleet in 2012 and 2013. In April 2016, the museum hosted two excursions behind the 611. One to Lynchburg, VA and the other to Asheville, NC.

Other annual events include Day Out With Thomas, the Polar Express, Fire Truck Show, Automobile shows, the Harvest Festival, the Easter Bunny Express, and Spring and Autumn (Southern leaf specials) excursions that take visitors to destination cities.

The NCTM is also host to Boy Scout Rail Camp, which allows for Boy Scouts and Leaders to camp out on the historic facility and earn the railroading merit badge. It is the largest railroad related scouting event in the nation. There are plans to implement Girl and Cub Scout events at the museum in 2017.


Seaboard Air Line #544, one of over 200 undelivered Russian Decapods.
Southern E-Unit # 6900.

The museum's roster contains almost 30 locomotives.


  • Graham County 3-truck shay # 1925
  • Atlantic Coast line 4-6-0 1031
  • Southern 2-8-0 # 542
  • Seaboard Air Line 2-10-0 # 544

The museum also has a collection of 3 small steam switcher locomotives.


  • Southern E8A-Unit # 6900
  • Norfolk & Western GP9 # 620
  • Atlantic Coast Line E3A-Unit # 501
  • Southern GP30 # 2601
  • Southern FP7-Unit # 6133
  • US Navy switcher # 65-00556
  • Duke Power Plymouth switcher # 5951
  • USA/Beaufort & Morehead H12-44 # 1860
  • Norfolk Southern Railway (former) #1616
  • Amtrak F40PHR # 307

Notable exhibits[edit]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 35°41′13″N 80°26′10″W / 35.68694°N 80.43611°W / 35.68694; -80.43611