Streamliners roll into Spencer; fans filling NC Transportation Museum

Spencer, NC (WBTV) - Rail fans and visitors from all over the US and the world are making their way to Spencer in Rowan County for a unique event that's getting a lot of attention.

The N.C. Transportation Museum's "Streamliners at Spencer" began Thursday, with a special preview day, followed by three days of rail fan nirvana.  Twenty-six streamliner locomotives, built in the 1930s through the 1950s, will be gathered at the museum for a one-time, history making event.

"This is still an incredible show of ancient engines," said Richard Seale.  Seale was visiting with his son Eric and friend Joe.  They live in Pine Knoll Shores, a five hour drive from Spencer.  "The love of trains, that's what brings all these people here."

In pre-sale tickets, the event has drawn expected attendees from 41 different U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and five foreign countries, Canada, Ecuador, Japan, England and Australia.

"It will bring an estimated total of 1.6 million and 2000 room nights in the Salisbury-Rowan area," according to Tara Ludwig of the Rowan County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Visitors will experience the largest gathering of these historic locomotives on record, take photographs of each locomotive at the center of the turntable, enjoy train rides pulled by the vintage engines and take cab tours of select locomotives.

Each day will feature different photo opportunities, highlighting different locomotives, different groupings of locomotives, and different engines in operation on the rails.

The event will also feature Amtrak and NC DOT exhibit trains, rail artist Andy Fletcher, railroad industry and heritage group displays, tours of the museum's private rail cars, Norfolk Southern's official band, The Lawmen, the largest remaining Roundhouse in North America with 37 stalls, historic buildings of the former Spencer Shops and an event like no other.

While each locomotive is historic and has an individual history to tell, some of the event's confirmed locomotives are of particular interest to rail fans.

The only steam-powered Streamliner engine scheduled to appear, the Class J 611, known as The Spirit of Roanoke, is an iconic locomotive that will be a huge hit with rail fans.  The Virginia Museum of Transportation and the N.C. Transportation Museum had previously announced that the engine would be moved to Spencer for restoration.  Recent fund-raising successes, led by the "Fire Up 611" group, allowed that move to take place in time for the engine to be featured at "Streamliners at Spencer."

The FT No. 103 Demonstrator unit is, in many ways, the forerunner and a "father figure" to all other diesel Streamliner Locomotives the event is featuring. The unit was created to convince business and corporate leaders that diesel engines were the future of rail travel.  The engine did the job. When Electro Motive Company, which eventually became Electro Motive Division of General Motors, introduced this four-unit mixture of diesel freight locomotives in 1939, it became known as "The Diesel That Did It," the diesel that killed steam locomotives.

One of the most famous and iconic diesel locomotives ever built, the stainless steel Burlington Route E5 No. 9911a "Silver Pilot" from the collection of the Illinois Railway Museum, is another iconic engine.  The 1940 E5 was one of 11 cab units of its type built in 1940 and is the only one remaining in the world.

The American Locomotive Company (ALCo) PA-1, restored as the Nickel Plate Road (NKP) #190, is just one of only two ALCo PA locomotives remaining in the United States. Housed at the Oregon Rail Heritage Center in Portland, the unit is a great addition, with Trains Magazine calling it the "cherry on top" for the event.

Twenty-two other locomotives will be featured, including the museum's own Southern E8 #6900 and the Southern FP7 #6133, as well as the Atlantic Coast Line E3 #501.  Norfolk Southern Corporation's F9 executive units, the Juniata Terminal Company's two E8s and many more will also be highlighted.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation is also displaying equipment from the Piedmont train.

Included in the display is the "City of Salisbury" locomotive No. 1755. Piedmont locomotives are named for cities along the Raleigh-Charlotte rail corridor, and the number of each locomotive corresponds to the incorporation date of the city it is named for.

Two coaches and a baggage/lounge car will also be on display. The baggage/lounge cars are named for North Carolina's largest bodies of water.

Tickets for day and nighttime events are sold separately.  Advance ticket sales have ended but tickets are still available at the museum on the day of the event.  The Streamliners "Celebration at the Station" event, happening at the Salisbury Station Thursday night, is sold out.

Regular daytime admission to Streamliners at Spencer for activities running May 30 through June 1 will be $35 for adults and $25 for children.

A special Preview Day, featuring the last of the engines to arrive, special train movements, site preparations and more will be held May 29.  Tickets for the Preview Day are $45 for daytime activities..

Night photo shoots will be held Thursday through Saturday and are $25 per person, per night.  These night photo shoots will feature special lighting, special pairings and set up of the attending locomotives and recreations of historic trains.

Combo tickets and group discounts will be available, along with discounts for N.C. Transportation Museum members, Norfolk Southern employees and Amtrak employees.  More information about the day-to-day operations and ticket prices are available online at

The museum has partnered with Amtrak to offer a coupon code for 10% off travel by rail to Salisbury Station, just a few miles from the Spencer museum.  Available only for travel during the event days, those booking online may visit and enter coupon code V563 to receive the discount.  Shuttle service will run between Salisbury Station and the museum, but excludes the Crescent and the Carolinian trains.

The participation of all resident and visiting locomotives is subject to timely transportation and mechanical availability.  Event updates and any changes to the schedule of operation will be posted on the museum's Facebook page at "N.C. Transportation Museum" and on Twitter at @nctrans, #streamliners.

Streamliners at Spencer is made possible through the generous support of Norfolk Southern Corporation, Juniata Terminal Company, Salisbury-Rowan County Convention & Visitors Bureau, CSX, Amtrak, BNSF Railway Company, Cummins Atlantic, Union Pacific, North Carolina Railroad,, Parsons-Brinckerhoff, Trains Magazine, Rouzer Motor Parts, PPG Industries, Atlantic Petroleum, McCarthy Rail Insurance and Rail Events Inc.

More information on the attending locomotives can be found on the museum's event blog, "Streamliners Scoop," available at

The North Carolina Transportation Museum and the Associated Press contributed to this story.