Wednesday, January 18, 2012

N.C. Transportation Museum offers behind-the-scenes tours

For the first time in 25 years of operation, the N.C. Transportation Museum is offering a look behind closed doors. Those taking advantage of the museum’s new behind-the-scenes tours will see automotive and rail cars not currently on display, stroll through the enormous Back Shop, view the Roundhouse Restoration bays, and enjoy a tour through the private rail car of James Duke.
Behind-the-scenes tours open new areas of the historic Spencer Shops, while providing a unique view of museum artifacts and restoration projects.
A stroll through the awe-inspiring Back Shop starts the tour. Visitors can marvel at how such a massive structure was built in the waning years of the 1800s. Visitors will also get an up-close look at the Piedmont Airlines DC-3 Potomac Pacemaker, undergoing renovation in the Back Shop.
Visitors will see the East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Combine Car No. 15, better known as the “Tweetsie” Combine Car. Undergoing a complete restoration in the museum’s Paint Shop, this 1917 railroad car consisted of a white passenger area, railway post office with black passenger seats and a baggage section. A wooden car with pot-bellied stoves for winter heating, it’s a unique piece of rail history that can only be seen during the museum’s behind-the-scenes tours.
Those who like their wheels on the road will be treated to classic automobiles not currently on display. A stop by Warehouse 3 will highlight the museum’s 1930 AA Truck, 1969 Jeep Wagoneer and Honda motorcycles, including a 1985 Goldwing GL 1200.
Restoration of classic rail equipment is a constant process for museum volunteers. Behind-the-scenes tours will show the work in progress with a walk through the Roundhouse Restoration Bays in the Bob Julian Roundhouse.
Regular visitors to the museum often take a look through the windows of the museum’s luxury private rail cars. Behind-the-scenes tours provide the opportunity to step inside, taking a walk through the private rail car of industrialist and tobacco magnate James Buchanan Duke. The “Doris,” named for Duke’s daughter, is an example of the luxury rail travel enjoyed by the wealthy in the early 1900s.
Behind-the-scenes tours are by reservation only and offered each Tuesday through Friday at 1, 2 and 3 p.m. Tours last about 90 minutes. Groups are limited to 20 participants. The cost is $15 per person. Tours do not include a train ride. To schedule a behind-the-scenes tour, call (704) 636-2889, ext. 258, or email

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