What do you give the guy who pretty much has everything? An experience of a lifetime.
My husband is a train-fanatic and for Father’s Day our daughter and I gave him a chance to be “At the Throttle” of the powerful, iconic 611 steam engine.
The massive engine is visiting the North Carolina Transportation Museum, on loan for a couple of weeks from the Virginia Museum of Transportation. The Norfolk and Western, Class J 611 historic engine was originally manufactured in Roanoke, VA in 1950, and was in regular service until ’59. Only 14 were ever built and this is the only engine still intact. $3.5 million was raised to restore the storied engine, and much of the work, including tests, repairs and refurbishing, was completed in Spencer at the NC Transportation Museum.
Although he didn’t get a chance to get it up to its full potential of 110 miles per hour, my husband loved feeling the power of the huge coal-guzzling machine as he chugged up and down the tracks, spewing clouds of black steam and soot, ringing the bells and blowing the deep, incredibly loud whistle.
The museum regularly offers train rides and $1 rides of the turntable at the Roundhouse, as well as many special events throughout the year. The well-preserved campus houses an impressive array of engines, cabooses and special trains as well as exhibits explaining all other forms of transportation, model trains and more.
You can see everything from a hot air balloon basket to a life-size replica of the Wright Brothers Kitty Hawk plane in the section exploring air travel. Other areas are dedicated to all manner of road vehicles from early milk wagons, vintage fire trucks, tractors, antique trucks and cars, including a well-preserved Model A, T and R and Edsel. Two-wheeled vehicles are not forgotten and fans can see all sorts of bicycles and motor cycles.
NC Transportation Museum is in Spencer, in the central, Piedmont area. Museum days vary depending on the time of year. During summer months (March- October) the museum is open Tuesday through Sunday. Adults $6; Seniors & Military $5; Children 3-12 $4 and under 3, free. Admission plus Train Ride $12 for Adults; $10 Seniors & Military; $8 for Kids 3-12. Check the website for train ride times and special event details. www.nctrains.org 704.636.2889
Spencer has a district of historic shops across the street from the museum and the really cute, historic town of Salisbury is less than five minutes away.