My boys love trains (as evidenced by C’s proclamation at Tom’s Trains). When we had a free, dreary weather weekend I decided to do a day trip to the NC Transportation Museum. Yay for trains!
We started with a train ride on an old train. The train leaves the historic junction at various times a day (check the website, below, for times before you go). We timed our arrival for to catch the 11 am train ride first thing.
The train ride doesn’t take you too far and is slow. As far as an actual train ride experience it is hard to top the New Hope Valley Railway. However, my boys were pretty excited and engaged. There were 3 cars to ride in from different eras (we chose the one where the windows opened). You can see video of this on our Instagram account.
After that we strapped The Bug in to his stroller. The stroller ended up being a necessity for my toddler since there is a lot of outdoor walking and lots of acreage – but don’t take your stroller on the train. The guest check-in and train depot are the first building you get to, right off the parking lot. I got the stroller out of the car after we popped off the train.
I thought that, given that some of the train yard we took a ride through had some considerable “junk” in it, that this place was going to disappoint, especially after a rather significant roadtrip. However, we spent over 2 hours here, had more we could have seen, and my kids LOVED it.
The best was the huge roundhouse. This was an original working roundhouse and is full of old, fully restored trains and a turntable that works. You can take rides on the turntable for an additional $1. We skipped the ride but had fun watching folks spin around (link to a little clip of this in action on our YouTube channel).
Inside the roundhouse we stumbled on one surprising thing after another. The amount of trains here was quite impressive and they were all in great shape (note that you can not enter all of them). We also found the place where you can see them actively restoring trains. We enjoyed the air exhibit inside the roundhouse where there is a replica of the Wright Brothers’ first flying machine.
We peeked in to the huge warehouse where they currently store items like old fire engines and planes. We did a quick stroll through the section where the automobiles are, with elegantly restored memorabilia.
Honestly, I was pretty impressed with this place. I have been to my fair number of museums (we have frequented the VA Museum of Transportation) and this was really great. Like any museum that has trains and planes and automobiles, there will be rusted out pieces around grounds.
But inside the exhibits were pristine, so well taken care of and presented, and really accessible to my kids. The amount of vehicles and the history here was really amazing. It is impressive that the entire grounds are considered a protected Historic Site and were the place of true railroad activity at one point in time.
The NC Transportation Museum hosts special events throughout the year (such as Thomas’ Day Out). The Museum also intends to keep growing. I can’t wait to see what else they add.
It wasn’t the cheapest museum we’ve been to, especially with the train ride price included, but for me, C, and The Bug it was only $20 so it was bearable. If you have kids who like things that go (the vast majority of the visitors were boys ages 4 – 14) this is a must visit.
There is also a huge picnic pavilion here so you can plan to bring a lunch. The NC Museum of Transpotation also has the option to have birthday parties here.
We had to hit the road immediately after our time here since we were up against nap time (and mama loves her nap time). But the town of Spencer looks very cute and worth exploring. We’ll do that next time we go back…especially since C is already asking to go back…
NC Transpotation Museum
411 S. Salisbury Ave.
Spencer, NC 28159