Last Updated on February 25, 2023
Last Updated on February 25, 2023
The NC Transportation Museum in Spencer, North Carolina, is a hub for all things planes, trains, and automobiles! Once the Southern Railway’s largest locomotive repair facility site, the North Carolina State Historic Site features exhibits on aviation, railroading, and cars.
You can also ride trains throughout the year at the museum, but also during one of the special events that happens here. Our guide shares more details about all of this and everything else you need to know about the NC Transportation Museum in Spencer.
To keep you as prepared as possible, we’ve organized the guide into the following sections:
- Where is the NC Transportation Museum? (Location Info)
- History of the NC Transportation Museum
- How to Visit Today (Hours and Ticket Info)
- 3 Reasons to Visit (Things to Do)
- Nearby Places to Visit
Scroll ahead to the section you’re looking for or keeping reading about where to find the museum and its interesting history.
Read More: 40+ Amazing Museums in North Carolina
Where is the NC Transportation Museum?
Address: 1 Samuel Spencer Dr, Spencer, NC 28159
The NC Transportation Museum is located in the town of Spencer in Rowan County, Central North Carolina. It’s closest to Salisbury and Charlotte and perfect for day trips, even from Greensboro and Winston-Salem.
If you’re traveling on I-85, it’s in a good spot right off Exit 79. From Statesville, you’ll use I-77 before getting off at Exit 152 and following US-70 for most of the way.
Read More: The NC Tripping North Carolina Travel Map
History of the NC Transportation Museum
As we mentioned earlier, the Museum sits on a historic site. The complex was once the Southern Railway’s largest steam locomotive repair factory.
Here’s a breakdown of a couple of buildings there and how they’re used today:
- The Barber Junction Depot was formerly a railroad station from 1898. Today, it serves as the Museum’s Visitor Center.
- The Back Shop hosts larger displays dedicated to railroading, automotive, aviation, and trucking equipment. Before, it was where steam locomotives were reassembled entirely.
Read More: Interesting Facts About North Carolina
How to Visit Today (Hours)
If you want to visit the NC Transportation Museum, its hours are as follows:
- Tuesdays to Saturdays: 9:00 am to 5:00 pm
- Sundays: 12:00 pm to 5:00 pm
- Closed on Mondays
The Museum also charges a reasonable admission fee. There are two options for tickets: a ticket for just the exhibits or a ticket combining the exhibits with the onsite train ride.
Read More: The NC Museum of History (+7 Things We Love About It!)
Exhibit Ticket Prices
- Adults: $6
- Seniors/Military: $5
- Children (Ages 3 to 12): $4
Exhibits and Train Ride Ticket Prices
- Adults: $12
- Seniors/Military: $10
- Children (Ages 3 to 12): $8
Additionally, if you’re a frequent visitor of this Museum or a lover of all things transportation, then you might consider investing in a membership! The membership, available at varying prices, includes free admission, free train rides, discounts at the gift shop, and more!
The Museum also accepts membership cards from participating members of the Association of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC) within a 90-mile radius.
For example, members of Catawba Science Center in Hickory, the Greensboro Science Center, and Kaleideum in Winston-Salem receive FREE or discounted admission.
Read more: Museums in Greensboro
3 Reasons to Visit (Things To Do)
We think the weekend train rides will convince you to visit the NC Transportation Museum alone, but there are even more fun things to do here.
Weekend Train Rides (Plus Schedule)
Probably one of the most popular things to do at the Museum, this fun and informative train ride takes you on a tour of the Museum’s 60 acres and historic buildings as old as 1896.
Train tickets are available in combination with the admission ticket, and advance purchase is recommended.
The trains run on a set schedule:
- Saturdays: 10:00 am, 11:00 am, 1:00 pm, and 2:00 pm
- Sundays: 1:00 pm, 2:00 pm, and 3:00 pm
Read More: Great Smoky Mountains Railroad in Bryson City (Everything You Need to Know to Have a Great Time!)
The Museum rotates exhibits throughout the year, usually located in the Bob Julian Roundhouse.
Their star exhibit is “The Life of a Brakeman,” an innovative update to the existing “How the West Has Won” exhibit.
“The Life of a Brakeman” emphasizes the life of Southern Railway employee George Winslow Whittington. The exhibit shares his story as a Black man in segregation and a brakeman from 1926 until his retirement in 1963.
The display details his job’s changes as steam gave way to diesel locomotives.
The Bob Julian Roundhouse also has steam and diesel locomotives, cabooses, antique cars, fire trucks, and airplane exhibits around the replica of a Wright Flyer.
Inside the Flue Shop, you’ll find a “Bumper to Bumper” automotive exhibit. Finally, the Master Mechanic’s Office hosts traveling and temporary exhibits at the museum.
Read More: Black History in North Carolina
Special Events at the NC Transportation Museum
The NC Transportation Museum hosts special themed events and exhibits depending on the season. In honor of spooky season, the Museum has many Halloween-themed events.
November and December are also magical times at the NC Transportation Museum!
- Easter Bunny Train: Typically held over four days around Easter, the Easter Bunny Train is a fun time for everyone, especially the kids.
- Legends by Lantern Tours: Open on a select number of days, this lantern tour celebrates the many railroad-centric lore and legends.
- Halloween Train: Wear your Halloween costumes for a train ride full of tricks and treats! Kids can have fun with a costume contest, a Halloween Scavenger Hunt, temporary tattoos, and a treat bag!
- Polar Express: The Polar Express Train Ride is offered on select weekends in November and December. Get in the holiday spirit with this train ride, complete with hot chocolate, cookies, book readings, a Santa cameo, and more!
Read More: Winter in North Carolina
Ready to Visit the NC Transportation Museum?
The NC Transportation Museum is such a fun place to visit that it’s easy to forget about its interesting background. This museum not only teaches important history through galleries and exhibits but sits on history itself.
Whether you’re traveling with kids or alone, we think a visit here is one of the most unique things to do in North Carolina. If you’ve spent time here, we’d love to know what you thought of the museum.
Please let us know in the comments or share your thoughts by email. If you haven’t visited yet, feel free to share your first experience
Nearby Places to Visit
Charlotte is the biggest city nearby, but there are plenty of towns that are just as fun and closer!
Salisbury is just 10 minutes away and is a perfect base for exploring the NC Transportation Museum. Salisbury is the home of Cheerwine and Food Lion, and 5 wonderful historic districts to explore!
Read More: The Most Amazing Small Towns in North Carolina
You can’t visit Lexington without a meal at one of the town’s many barbecue joints.
In addition to killer barbecue, Lexington also hosts many seasonal events, from strawberry picking to Christmas tree lighting and historic horse rides.
There is also a wonderful lineup of small businesses to visit, including the iconic Conrad & Hinkle.
A visit to Childress Vineyards is also one of the best things to do. You’ll sip some wine there at one of the Yadkin Valley’s best wineries.
Read more: North Carolina Barbecue Restaurants
A 30-minute drive from Spencer, Kannapolis is a small-town teeming with history. Kannapolis started as a hub for textiles and has grown into a research-focused economy.
Music lovers can’t miss out on a visit to the NC Music Hall of Fame, and families must check out Village Park, a one-stop-shop for kids’ activities. Throughout the year, Atrium Park is an awesome place to visit, especially when MILB’s Kannapolis Cannonballers are playing.
Read more: Fun Things to do in Concord and Cabarrus County
Mocksville is about 25 minutes north of Spencer and a nice stop along I-40 (Exit 174). It’s a small town with a lively community and three historic districts.
Check out the many wineries and vineyards in Mocksville. RayLen and Lazy Elm are two of the best in the area.
Don’t forget about RiverPark, which is a fun place to visit, especially on hot days when the cool water awaits.