Grand memories of trains, planes and automobiles

Finally, after what seemed or at least according to my kiddos, Spring Break has arrived! A whole week of no books, no teachers giving tests and best part of all according to our daughter no waking up early (They wake up at 6 am since they have to leave the house by 7:00 to be to school on time.) Of course since it’s Spring Break you just have to take a road trip. No I’m not talking about the kind you see in movies like Spring Break (which apparently I didn’t miss anything by not seeing it) but a family road trip that is just good old fashioned fun.

So last Saturday morning dawned bright and cloudless for us as we prepared for our special road trip. Uriah and I decided not to tell the kids where we going since we wanted this to be a surprise especially for our youngest son. We just knew he would be over the moon with this adventure. After making sure we had everything and boy do I mean everything since our youngest son has Spinal Muscular Atrophy or SMA. You can learn about our battle with SMA here.

Soon we were all loaded up and on the road towards our special destination. Of course we got asked the usual questions like “Are we there yet?”  along with ‘Where are we going” and the classic, “I’m hungry”. Nope we didn’t tell them anything except before we got to the Tennessee/North Carolina border we told the kids we were making a quick stop before grabbing a picnic lunch. By this time they were antsy and restless as well as “starving” or at least that’s what they kept telling us.

We stopped in Morganton, North Carolina to pick up the essential picnic supplies of drinks, bread, cheese, chips and lunch meat. A few minutes and six sandwiches later we were back on the road. However for some strange reason our GPS said we had to get off the interstate and go onto this little two lane road where the speed limit was 35 miles per hour. Now before someone says “Why did your GPS take you off the Interstate?” , I’m gonna be honest it’s because we haven’t paid to update our TomTom and we’re not going to either. We found this great app called Scout and I’ll be doing a review on this app sometime in the upcoming week. The good thing about our little slow detour is we got to see this


This beast is a 1968 Bell AH-1 cobra helicopter which is being loaned to the American Legion Hurst Turner, NC Post 65 from the United States Army. I don’t know if this mean green fighting machine ever saw combat during the Vietnam War but if it did I bet it would have some amazing stories to tell us.

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My wonderful husband took these great photos and I took the wide panoramic photo (it was my first time using the Panorama feature on my phone so I wasn’t too sure how it would turn out)

We. Are. Here!! My kids are looking at me and Uriah like we have lost our ever loving minds. All they see is a sign and a big open field however Uriah and I know what is waiting for them just around the bend (Admit it you just sang that like Pocahontas did in Disney’s Pocahontas).

A little bit of history about the North Carolina( N.C. )Transportation Museum :

The N.C. Transportation Museum is located on the site of what was once Southern Railway Company’s largest steam locomotive servicing facility. J.P. Morgan, Southern’s owner, chose the site because of its location midway between the railroad’s major terminal points of Washington, D.C., and Atlanta, Ga. Construction of the Shops began in 1896, and they were named in honor of the first president of Southern Railway, Samuel Spencer.

During its peak, Spencer Shops employed nearly 3,000 people, which directly and indirectly provided most of the jobs for the towns of Spencer, East Spencer and other surrounding Rowan County communities. Spencer is lovely small town that has a family friendly feel to it.

With the advent of the diesel locomotive, Spencer Shops went into decline. The repair facility closed in 1960, but the classification (freight) yard remained open until the late 1970s.

In September 1977, Southern Railway donated four acres of the site, including three buildings, to the state of North Carolina. A second donation in 1979 included several additional historic structures and land.

The first exhibit area opened in 1983. Numerous restoration and exhibit improvements have occurred over the years, resulting in the museum’s growth in size and popularity. The museum broke its annual visitation record in 2001 with 129.597 visitors, surpassing the old mark – set in 1999 – by nearly 15,000 visitors. This may not seem like a big number but the town of Spencer only has 3,400 residents and the entire county of Rowan where Spence is located only had 138,000 residents in 2010.

The N.C. Transportation Museum Foundation, a support group for the museum, was created in 1977 and is a key factor in the museum’s success. More than $2 million in transportation artifacts have been acquired through the group’s efforts. Foundation members and volunteers assist in the restoration and operation of these artifacts, which include trains, airplanes, trolley cars, wagons and automobiles.

The museum and the Foundation achieved restoration success with the completion of the Roundhouse, exhibits, Barber Junction Depot, turntable, parking lots and overhead bridge in 1996. The total cost of the restoration projects was $8 million.

WHOOT! WHOOT! WHOOT! WHOOT! WHOOT! is all our youngest son Gabriel could say. Uriah says Gabriel had a look of total awe and amazement. It was like he went to “Whoot!Whoot! Land” and he was the happiest little boy ever. In case you’re wondering, “Whoot!” is what he calls all trains whether it’s the giant CSX that rumbles thru town or the friendly trains of Sodor Island better known as Thomas and Friends.

2014-03-15 16.49.28  2014-03-15 16.54.41Look at how happy our children are to be here, especially our Nanobite aka Gabriel.  I have a very special picture to share with you but

I’ll share that later…

Our first destination was Building C better known as The Master Mechanic’s Shop. Here we got to see the exhibit called Wheels, Wagons and Wings. Since Saturday was the Spring Kick-Off the four kids got to make a kite with help from museum volunteers. There are vehicles such as this classic Russell super special scarifier

russellA scarifier is used to tear up asphalt and concrete roads to prepare them for resurfacing and/or repair. You have to remember that when this machine was used automobiles were still fairly new especially in the country and the main asphalt roads were in large cities such as New York, Washington D.C and the like. Trivia fact for everyone: In 1870, a Belgian chemist named Edmund J. DeSmedt laid the first true asphalt pavement in this country, a sand mix in front of the City Hall in Newark, New Jersey. I honestly would have thought Washington D.C. since the White House is there.

Of course horse loving Emily wanted to “borrow” the Top Buggy which was a mail carrier buggy. I bet that mail carriers today are thankful for their motorized vehicles instead of being out in the elements to deliver our mail

emmie buggyHere is Emily next to the Golden Eagle Buggy Company Top Buggy. She is watching her baby brother make a kite with the help of museum volunteers

Outside my two older boys got a chance to see a recreation of a Hobo Jungle from the Depression Era. A handmade cardboard sign asks people to support our veterans of the Great War (World War I) in their Bonus March on Washington. I had no clue what the Bonus March was so I Googled it.  This what I learned about The Bonus Army .  

The kids also learned about the different symbols that hobos used to let other hobos know about an area. Symbols let other hobos know if the cops were a heavy presence, if a doctor would see you for free or worst of all a neighborhood was unsafe or even dangerous

buddy canHere are my two oldest boys at the Bonus Army Sign.

The next building was one of Gabriel’s favorites. This was Storehouse 3 which is usually not open to the public since this is where the museum stores parts. However on this Saturday the Atlantic Coast S-Gaugers were in the building . Since 1997 members have been doing S-Gauge layout and having lots of fun doing it.  Check out their website for more information on the ACSG Carolinas Division and a list of the places they plan to be. In case you’re wondering  S scale (or S gauge) is a model railroad scale modeled at 1:64 scale, S scale track gauge (space between the rails) is 22.42 mm (0.883 in). S gauge trains are manufactured in both DC and AC powered varieties.

Layouts of all types were on display for everyone to enjoy. The best part was there were buttons for pushing which made oil wells gush oil, airplanes spin thru the air and Santa Claus go on a hot air balloon ride.  The Atlantic Coast S-Gaugers did a fantastic job setting up their display.  Their dedication to their hobby shows in their displays

antrakThis is the Amtrak Superliner display. The pine tree gets “chopped down” if you press a button but magically the tree “regrows” itself after a minute or two.

14 - 59This is a panorama shot of one of the displays that the Atlantic Coast S-Gaugers had set up.

2014-03-15 16.29.28This is the ACSG group banner that let everyone know their information

Our next stop was the Flue Shop that held the Bumper to Bumper exhibit. If you or anyone you know loves classic cars then this is the  exhibit for you. From a classic Ford Edsel to a rare 1961 Chevy Corvair Rampside Pickup. Cars, trucks and van as well as motorcycles are on display here as well as classic advertising memorabilia from companies such as Mobil, Shell, Harley Davidson, Gulf and other classic companies.

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As you can see there are types of vehicles on display here. My personal favorite is the classic early model Fords above.

For our oldest son, the next building and exhibit is what he had been wanting to see ever since we got there. There a replica of the Wright Flyer is on display. It is an exact duplicate of the one that is exhibited in the National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. The flight actually took place in Kill Devil Hills which is about 4 miles south of Kitty Hawk. Most people assume that the Wright brothers were  given credit as having the first manned flight. This is true but only after a lengthy debate with the Smithsonian Institution. The story of why and how this came to be can be read here

kitty 1 kitty 3 kitty 2The above are shots of the Wright Flyer.  The mint green thing in the background is an engine housing  for a train.  That is just for one engine so you can only imagine how may of these are needed to power one of the massive trains that we see rumbling through our towns and cities.

There were also various aviation related items including three vintage airline ticket reservation computers. The agents actually had to type the information in unlike today’s agents who scan a CQR code for instant access. My kids were shocked to learn this fact but they were also dumbfounded that we didn’t have Google when we were in school too!

resv3 resv resv 2

Our last and final stop for the day was the Roundhouse and Turntable. Here vintage train engines both steam and diesel are on display. The neatest train car is a car from the Merci Train. The Merci Train was a gift to the people of the US from the people of France, given in appreciation for the Friendship Food Train that Americans had sent to war-torn Europe in 1947. You can learn about the gift of friendship and gratitude not only France sent to us but also Italy too here.

Sadly my photos of this great train car were lousy as I sneezed at tried to take the photos. Trust me when I say this was an amazing site to see. Our entire family had an amazing time here and definitely will be back in the near future.

We also got a chance to meet a local couple who were there with their little boy who recommended a great local place called Pinocchio’s which is literally right across the street from the museum. A very family friendly place with good food and great prices.  Visit their website  and learn about this great place.

After our adventure we headed home with grand memories of trains, planes and automobiles filling our heads.

Until next time…

And here is the “special” photo that I promised you all….

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Yes that is a phantom arm pushing his wheelchair. I’m not sure whose arm this though

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