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45 Reasons to Visit the N.C. Transportation Museum

45 Reasons to Visit

If you’ve ever heard about the museum that features trains, planes, and automobiles in the quaint town of Spencer, North Carolina, let us tell you, there has never been a better time to visit us! The North Carolina Transportation Museum is set on the former site of Southern Railway Company’s 1896-era Spencer Shops, the railroad’s main locomotive servicing facility. The museum has the largest collection of rail relics in the Carolinas, but don’t let that mislead you! This is more than a stuffy museum full of only railroad artifacts; it is an immersive experience that provides interactive activities and a full calendar of events great for not only rail fans but families too!

The ‘Museum that Moves You’ was founded in 1977 making this year our 45th anniversary. To celebrate, we’ve compiled a list of 45 reasons to visit the museum. Check out the list and be sure to visit us soon!

  1. Clock 2,000 or more steps through what was once Southern Railway’s largest steam locomotive servicing facility
  2. Purchase train tickets in a train station built in 1898
  3. Take a 25-minute train ride to see the 60-acre museum campus
  4. Take a trip to the North Pole to see dancing elves and the first gift of Christmas on THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride
  5. Drink a craft beer while riding a train during the annual Brew & Choo Craft Beer Festival
Brew & Choo 2022 at the North Carolina Transportation Museum
  1. Walk down outdoor pathways flanked by friendly scarecrows during The Scarecrow Stroll in October
  2. Hear the stories of railroading legends during an evening Legends by Lantern tour also in October.
  3. See a 1901 White Stanhope – steam powered car with a two-cylinder engine connected by chain to the rear axle
  4. Get electrified with our Rausch and Lange Company’s 1918 automobile, an electric car with no steering wheel, rather a till that could be operated from both front and back seat
  5. Get fired up with our antique fire trucks like the one used by Elizabeth City’s all black volunteer Hook, Step, and Ladder Company
  6. Stand in the spot that is halfway between Washington, D.C. and Atlanta, GA.
  7. Take a spin on an operational turntable built in 1924 to turn locomotives for servicing.
  8. See the largest remaining roundhouse in North America
  9. Walk through a Railway Post Office (RPO) car and learn how mail used to be delivered
  10. See a piece of WWII and Korean War history as you walk through a restored Army Hospital Car
Fire Truck Festival
  1. Soak in the history with N.C.’s Forty and Eight Merci Train Car that was gifted by the citizens of France post-WWII
  2. See the birth of an icon – the 1964 1/2 Ford Mustang (First model year Mustang)
  3. See the personal carriage of tobacco giant R. J. Reynolds
  4. See the railcars of industrial giants James Duke and Charles Schwab
  5. See a steam locomotive with no firebox
  6. Take a ride with Thomas the Tank Engine and Percy on a sojourn from Sodor
  7. See one of the first N.C. Highway Patrol Cars (1935 Ford)
  8. Ride in a caboose for your birthday
  9. See the Atlantic Coastline 501 diesel locomotive “The Champion” – with over 6 million miles it is the most traveled E unit
  10. Climb into the cab of a real steam engine
Day Out with Thomas
  1. Follow the restoration work being completed on the Piedmont Airlines Potomac Pacemaker DC-3
  2. See a 1922 American La France Fire Truck from Lexington, N.C.
  3. Watch the Cackalacky train run around the Gift Station which is full of a variety of gifts that any train, car, or aviation enthusiast will enjoy
  4. See innovative railway freight cars like the Big John, the Whopper Hopper, and the Autoguard
  5. See the 200,000th box car built in Bessemer, AL by Pullman-Standard, maybe the most colorful boxcar ever built
  6. See how railroad employees communicated with lanterns and signals
  7. Learn about the expansion of railroads into Western N.C. in “How the West Was Won”
  8. See the world’s fastest Shay, Graham County No. 1925
  9. Climb inside a diesel truck cab
  10. Walk past vintage scenes in our Bumper-to-Bumper auto exhibit
At the Throttle Diesel
  1. Sip on a Cheerwine slushie while you watch the trains pass by (Purchase in the Gift Station)
  2. Bring a picnic to enjoy in one of our shaded picnic shelters
  3. Experience the history of flight with a life-sized replica of the Wright Brothers Flyer
  4. Operate railroad signals in our signal garden
  5. See dugout canoes up close, one of the earliest modes of water transportation in N.C.
  6. Put yourself in the engineer’s seat and operate a real diesel locomotive with the At the Throttle experience
  7. Climb in a caboose and peer out the cupola
  8. Learn about NC agriculture with farming demos, see modern and antique farming equipment, shell corn, milk a cow, make apple cider at Tractors and Trains
  9. Ride in an authentic weapons carrier on special event days
  10. Earn a BSA railroad and aviation merit badge

The N.C. Transportation Museum is located at 1 Samuel Spencer Drive in Spencer, North Carolina. For the summer of 2022, the hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Sunday from 12 p.m. – 5 p.m. The museum will be open on Labor Day. Train ride days and times vary throughout the year so be sure to check our Plan Visit page for up-to-date information.