Todd's Railfan Guide to

In General
How to get here
Stuff On The Way In
The Gift Shop
Inside the Roundhouse
Special Event 2012



In General

Location / Name:
     The North Carolina Transportation Museum

What's Here:
     One of the better Transportation Museums around (IMHO), including:
          A vintage depot.
          A Roundhouse filled with historical railroad and transportation "stuff".
          Several working engines.
          Many outside displays, especially on the way in, including a full 2-track SR Rwy signal bridge.


     GPS Coordinates: 35.690633, -80.429857

     411 S Salisbury Ave, Spencer NC  28159

Scanner Frequencies:


Access by train/transit:

     Amtrak stops in Salisbury NC, about three miles to the west.


The Scoop:

Spencer NC is best known for the former Southern Railway's shops that were located here.  It is now the North Carolina Transportation Museum. 

The Spencer Shops, as they are known as, was used by the Southern Railway from 1896 until the late 1970's.  It was at one time, the largest facility on the Southern.  It was named after the first president of the Southern Rwy, Samuel Spencer (1847-1906), and was built slightly east of Salisbury.  The town of Spencer itself wasn't incorporated until 1905.  The sight was picked because  it was approximately halfway between Atlanta and Washington DC.

Almost all of the old shops are still there, as is a depot on the way in.  The museum is one of the better ones around and shouldn't be missed.

More info at: http://www.nchistoricsites.org/spencer/spencer.htm

Adjacent to the Spencer Shops is a small 12 track yard.

On the east side of Spencer, if you're travelling WB (or SB as the case may be) on I-85, and get off at exit 82, you'll see a bridge off to the left that the Norfolk Southern crosses High Rock Lake on.  If you're lucky, you might be able to catch an EB train as you go over the tracks on the interstate.

East of Spencer, in Linwood, is a major classification yard, appropriately named the Spencer Classification Yard.  Access look extremely limited except for the east end approach.

Over in Salisbury, you have a historic Southern Railway depot, now used by Amtrak.  It's very picturesque, and easily photographed.  There used to be classic WB colorlight signal at the depot, but it appears to have been replaced by huge cantilever signals :-( 

West of the depot is a wye.  The north leg of the wye heads up to Statesville, where it splits again.  The west leg heads to Charlotte and then Atlanta.

More info and a map of Spencer and Salisbury is here.

If anyone has pictures of Amtrak's 40th Anniversary Train visiting Spencer, and would like to share them, please check out my contact page below!

Pictures and additional information is always needed if anyone feels inclined to take 'em, send 'em, and share 'em, or if you have something to add or correct.... credit is always given! Contact info is here

Getting Here

Spencer is conveniently located right off of I-85, slightly west of central North Carolina.  Exit 79 is best for the Spencer Shops, and exit 76 is good for Salisbury. 

They are about 35 miles north of Charlotte, which gives you access to points north and south of there via I-77.  From the east coast, I-85 from I-95 in Petersburg VA is your connection, or use the I-40 connection from southern NC off I-95 - it hooks up to I-85 just west of Durham NC.

Greensboro is about 45 miles east, Durham about 100 miles, and Raleigh another 20 miles.


The above map in a PDF is here

- On The Way In -
Signal Bridge


- On The Way In -
Other Stuff

        < Before getting to the Depot / After the Depot >     

- On The Way In -
At The Depot

Train Order Semaphore


      Outside mechanical details.

        Inside mechanical details.
I was allowed to change the semaphore from red to green, and let me tell you, even with as direct a throw as this linkage has, it took considerable effort to get it up to green!

  Plaque explaining the purpose of the semaphore.

  Plaque describing the railroad that started it all in the area.

  Really basic map of the Norfolk Southern railroad.

  Map of Train-Spotting locations in North Carolina.

- On The Way In -
Mail Pole


- On The Way In -
Spring Switch and Yard Limit sign


The Gift Shop




Inside the Roundhouse



      This stuff is "out back"

      The museum also does a very good job at documenting the local airline scene, including Link Trainers which used to be here.

Special Event 2012

Back on July 4th, 2012, the museum, along with the Norfolk Southern RR celebrated NS's 30th Birthday by unveiling 20 brand new engines painted in the livery of former railroads they have acquired.  Rumor has it that they had to quickly bring one errant Conrail geep into the paint shop so the new one would be the only one sporting the Conrail paint scheme!  Amtrak also had a special business train there on site, hosted by Steve Ostrowski, who was the trainmaster for Amtrak's 40th Anniversary Train as it toured the nation.  It's well worth the extra bucks to take part in the nighttime picture session!





Spencer is located next to Salisbury NC.  If you head west on Salisbury St after coming out of the Museum, it will turn into Main St after you cross the town line into Salisbury.  Hang a left onto either Kerr or Council, and take 'em down to Depot St, where you will see the depot on your right (Kerr St), or to your left from Council.  Nice color light signal adjacent to the station.  The sign is seen throughout the I85 corridor between Charlottesville and Raleigh.

These pictures and more can be found on my Spencer and Salisbury railfan guide here.

  A Norfolk Southern train over in Salisbury

2005-1016ATL1, 2005-1016ATL2

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New 02/21/2012
Last Modified: 01/08/2014