“Streamliners at Spencer” Locomotive Exhibition
During the heyday of steam trains, the Southern Railway established its main repair shops at Spencer, North Carolina, midway between Charlotte and Greensboro, just east of Salisbury. Today, those “Spencer Shops” are home to the popular “North Carolina Transportation Museum”, and it was there from May 29th through June 1st, 2014, that the largest collection of diesel powered streamline locomotives ever assembled in one place were exhibited for all to see and feel. Twenty-three vintage behemoths of a time long past filled the historic roundhouse, and rotated on the turntable before an admiring crowd of thousands.
Stealing the show from the diesels was one of the last steam locomotives ever built, and perhaps the most famous. The “Spirit of Roanoke” J-Class Streamliner 611 made a surprise showing at the roundhouse, surrounded by the very machines that spelled its doom on America’s railroads. The 611 will remain at Spencer Shops for an entire year as it is completely re-outfitted, and readied for its return to service for tourist excursions in 2016.
During the day, the “Spirit of Roanoke” dazzled the spectators, who could walk up and touch the priceless machine with no restrictions.
Consensus seemed to be that the two most popular streamline diesels were the Atlantic Coast Line “Champion”, and the Burlington “Silver” cab. Both are one-of-a-kind survivors of the early diesel days.
All of these diesels were brought to the Spencer exhibition from railroad museums all over the country. Many of them regularly pull tourist trains through mountains, over rivers, and on long excursions along historic tracks.
This kind of exhibition might never happen again. If you were among the 5,000 train fanatics who had the great pleasure of experiencing this once-in-a-lifetime event, you can cross off another “Bucket List” item.