N.C. Transportation Museum Debuts New Train Ride

Release date: 6/1/2009

CONTACT: Mark Brown
Information & Communication Specialist
(704) 636-2889, ext 240

SPENCER – C.E. Spears, a former Spencer Shops employee, refers to the new train ride route at the N.C. Transportation Museum as “an ideal situation.” C.E., or “Pappy,” as he is known around the museum, worked for Spencer Shops from 1942-1960, aside from his time serving in the military.
The N.C. Transportation Museum previewed a new train ride route Thursday, giving riders a sneak peak at the new “West Lead” railroad track. Named for its placement on the 57 acre historic site, the new “West Lead” is an extension of the museum’s existing train ride.
Spears, a former mayor of the town of Spencer and a long-time museum volunteer, was a special invited guest for the special train ride. Local government officials and press also tagged along to see the first public views of the new route.
Following the 25 minute ride around the state historic site, Spears said, “It gives the rider a better view of the town of Spencer. That part of the track will work out perfectly.”
The museum’s new train ride route parallels US 29 and the town of Spencer. It will also allow
interpretive historians to better tell the history of the town, which, through the first half of the 20th century, grew up alongside the Spencer Shops train repair facility, now the grounds of the N.C. Transportation Museum. Current Spencer Mayor Jody Everhart also rode the train Thursday. The new ride brought back childhood memories, when Everhart’s father worked for Spencer Shops. Everhart was reminded of seeing trains moving along that same track in the 1960’s and 1970’s. He says the new ride “brings back what you used to see in town.” Everhart also praised the longer ride, which allows visitors to see more of the former Spencer Shops train yard.
The opening of the “West Lead” also represents the end of a long struggle for some. Recently retired N.C. Transportation Museum Foundation President Sturges Bryan says, “Its one goal I had been fighting for over the past five years.”
Funds to improve and upgrade the museum’s railroad tracks were first requested in 2004. In 2006, the U.S. Department of Transportation allocated $485,335 of the necessary monies for the project. The N.C. Transportation Museum Foundation raised another $121,335 to meet the full cost.
Museum volunteer and locomotive engineer Richard Morse and foundation board member Roy Johnson worked hard to design the track and implement the contract, which went to Keith Benfield, Contractor, Inc. Work began in December of 2008 and was completed in April of 2009.
With the new design, riders get panoramic views of the town of Spencer, the Master Mechanic’s Office and the south end of the property. The return trip north features a look at the museum’s Roundhouse and the enormous Back Shop. N.C. Transportation Museum Executive Director Elizabeth Smith says, “I think the new train ride route will improve the visitor experience. I hope those who have ridden in the past will return to see the new track.” Smith says the museum, along with the town of Spencer, the city of Salisbury and all of Rowan County will benefit from an increase in visitors, including repeat visitors.
Thursday’s press event was held just ahead of the museum’s public dedication during the June 13-14 Rail Days Festival, when two separate trains will roll down the new railroad track.
The N.C. Transportation Museum, located in historic Spencer Shops, the former Southern Railway repair facility, is part of the Division of State Historic Sites, Department of Cultural Resources. The museum is located just five minutes off I-85 at Exit 79 in Spencer, N.C., and about an hour from Charlotte, Greensboro or Winston-Salem. Visit www.nctrans.org for more information. The N.C. Department of Cultural Resources is celebrating the 2009 theme of “Treasure N.C. Culture.” For information on the Department of Cultural Resources, call (919) 807-7385 or visit www.ncculture.com.
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Division of State Historic Sites, N.C. Department of Cultural Resources