As a kid growing up in a town that had a railroad track down the middle of it I knew about trains. Each time I was in town with my daddy and a train came through we got out of our car and he would walk me up to the train crossing to watch the train go by. Seems like a simple thing, right? Well, trains are and have been an important part of our culture since their creation. Yes, back in the day things were simpler and trains were a big deal to watch. However, I never thought there would be a possibility that I might one day be able to drive one, but the N.C. Transportation Museum is changing that fact for us all!
Opportunity to be in the Driver’s Seat
During their NEW At the Throttle: Diesel experience you can actually get on board with an engineer and operate the Southern Railway FP7 No. 6133. It’s one of the most popular diesel locomotives at the museum. This diesel was built in the 1950s as a freight and passenger service locomotive. The most exciting thing is that you can actually ride it on the rails, blow the horn, ring the bell, and operate it like a locomotive engineer!
I caught up with Marcus Neubacher, Director of Administration for the N.C. Foundation at the N.C. Transportation Museum. Marcus has been with the museum for 5 years and prior to that was a 20-year volunteer there. We chatted about the museum and some of my previous connections with the museum and agreed it was indeed a small world. I even mentioned to him how I had observed how popular the trains are around here and that I have seen men from time to time at the Yadkin River Park standing on a hill taking pictures of trains going by. He said, “I’m probably one of those men!” His love for trains was evident as our conversation continued.
I wanted to know all the details for this experience. He said, “It’s a 30-minute train ride where you learn from an engineer all the “bells and whistles” for the ride. This experience is $250.00 and you get to throttle the famous No. 6133!” The dates for this have been extended because so many people are wanting to participate. The first date sold out very quickly. The dates available, as of writing this, are March 7, 13, 14, and April 10 and 11. The experience includes actually being at the throttle, a certificate of the day, and admission into the museum. Other dates have been added for $175.00 for May 8 and June 5 where one of the museum’s other diesel locomotives would be used.
Get Your Ticket to Ride (and Drive!)
Tickets are available online and are suggested because due to COVID the number of spots are limited and you do not want to miss out on this rare experience. Go to www.nctrans.org for tickets and to reserve your spot!
I told Marcus these would be a great birthday gift, Mother’s Day gift, Father’s Day gift, or just a gift for yourself!
I also asked about upcoming events for the year of 2021. “There are a lot of plans for experiences to come that will be seasonal adventures.” So be sure to follow them on their social media pages on Facebook, Instagram, and their website to stay up-to-date on family fun ideas.
Marcus shared with me, “we have sixty acres and huge industrial buildings where visitors can safely spread out and explore North Carolina’s transportation history. Whether its trains, planes, automobiles, trucks, or even bicycles, we have something for you to enjoy.” He mentioned that through COVID “we’ve tried to diversify through the challenges.” I’d have to say that is a very true statement because as I drive into Salisbury I ride by the museum. They have still been able to offer to the citizens of Rowan, and all citizens of North Carolina, family things to do during difficult times either by offering fun things online for the kids, walking trails over the summer, and a drive-thru at Christmas to see the beautiful light display.
NEW Exhibit – Eccentric Cycles: Unique Bicycles & the Stories Behind Them
Do you love all things about bicycles? Would you like to learn more about them? There is a new bicycle exhibit on display until September 5 called “Eccentric Cycles”. This exhibit has great information on featured bicycles and interesting stories on them as well. This exhibit is included in the regular admission for the museum and more information can be found on their website. This exhibit can be found in the Master Mechanic’s Office exhibit space on the museum grounds.
Observing Black History Month with N.C. Transportation Museum
During Black History Month, stop in the museum to look at the traveling exhibit titled “Navigating Jim Crow: The Green Book, and Oasis Spaces in North Carolina” that details places that African Americans traveled. Using the “Negro Motorist Green Book”, published sometime between 1936 and 1966, you can travel back in time and enjoy the eight beautiful panels on exhibit showing businesses, restaurants, beauty salons, and more used during the time the book was written. This book provided advice on safe places to travel and where to stay safely. This book came to life by a postal carrier at the time named Victor Hugo Green. History was collected during 2018 and 2019 from travelers and descendants of Green Book owners for this exhibit. The museum has also hosted virtual panel discussions free to the public. This display can be found in the Bumper to Bumper exhibit surrounded by vehicles and scenery of this period of history to make this an even more fascinating experience. This will continue to be on display until March 14.
In closing, Rowan County is truly lucky to have such a great museum that calls us their home. The N.C. Transportation Museum really is a moving museum.
Currently the buildings are open to 50% capacity, and train rides are at 30% capacity. They ask for visitors to practice social distancing, wear masks, and of course use the hand sanitizer that is available on the museum property.
Beginning on March 2, 2021 the museum will be open Tuesday-Saturday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sundays from 12-5 p.m. They will be closed on Mondays. All tickets are available online and of course at Barber Junction.
N.C. Transportation Museum
1 Samuel Spencer Drive
Spencer, North Carolina 28159