Review Archive/May 2013
Updated April 29, 2013
North Carolina Transportation Museum
Fair On History!
By Jay Whipple/Trend Magazine Online™
I have had plans to check out this tourist destination for well over a decade since picking up a brochure at a visitor center or the convention center in Charlotte, NC. In addition, I would think about visiting each time I passed the highway signs off Interstate 85 North and South near Salisbury, NC. Well, I may procrastinate for as spell but eventually I typically get around to doing what I set out to do and today was that day. Before making my trip out I visited their web site to get the details pertaining to a personal visit. I was able to locate the times for the longer and shorter train rides but was not able to locate booking/ticket information for the longer ride. So, I placed a call to the museum the morning of my visit – Saturday April 20, 2013 – and received their voice mail. I left my name, my query, and my phone number, however, my call was not returned until that Monday and after my visit. Perhaps they should include that information on their site and/or on their voice mail message to avoid the embarrassment of reading about it from someone like me who writes online reviews.
I did not allow the fact that they did not return my call in a timely manner deter me from my long-term goal of a site visit so I decided to head on over anyway, but a little earlier than I originally planned. Actually, I had scoped the place out a few weeks before just to get the layout of the land; e.g. where to park, the location of the main building, etc… I arrived at approximately 1:10 P.M. to catch the 2 P.M. train ride that lasts an advertised 25 minutes. I was a very nice spring day accompanied by ample sunshine and weather that was not too hot or too cold – in the lower to mid sixty degree range. The parking lot was about half full with a bus and minibus from various groups apparently on a field trip. I liked the fact that handicapped parking was located just outside of the visitor information center/ticket counter known as Barber Junction which opened in 1898. I made my way in to purchase my ticket and found the counter person very professional and stoic but not very congenial, warm and cordial as I expected. Maybe she was having a bad day? Ticket prices are $12 for adults, $8 for children (3 – 12), and $10 for active military. Why not include retired military I thought? We were once active! I was told by the stoic attendant to come back at 1:50 P.M. for boarding which gave me some extra time to use the nearby restroom and quietly finish my lunch just outside the main building. I actually decided to head back up there a little earlier as I noticed that bus field trip group of young people starting to congregate at the boarding gate.
They all seemed pretty excited about the trip as any group of young people would on a road trip. I know I did, as a kid, look forward to traveling to places outside my hometown neighborhood in Miami, Fl. The conductor was very friendly, cordial, and funny as he cracked a joke about having to throw someone from the train if they were caught smoking. I decided to head to the car opposite the one with the bus trip group of young people as they were pretty noisy and rowdy as expected on a field trip.
This was only my third time on a passenger train as I caught one to/from San Antonio, TX, back in the 1980’s. Part of that trip scared the dickens out of me as we crossed the expansive Lake Pontchartrain in the early 1980’s. I can remember that train rocking back and forth the entire slow journey across the 40-mile long lake. All I could see on either side of the train was the lake water as there was not much real estate on either side of the train tracks. I was not at all happy about that scare so I have made it a point to stay away from passenger trains until now. Especially when shortly after my trip out to the Midwest, another train fell off one of the same bridges that we crossed during my trip to San Antonio. Yikes!
The seats inside our compartment were facing each other, relatively comfortable, and made out of brown cloth. A few other older adult passengers also joined me whom I assumed wanted to avoid the noisy young people car next door. The compartment’s air-conditioner was set at a very comfortable temperature that complemented the ambient/exterior temperature. While awaiting the ticket taker to stamp my ticket I began to reflect on some of my favorite scenes from movies and T.V. shows featuring trains such has: Throw Momma from the Train (1987) starring Danny DeVito and Billy Crystal; Switchback (1997) starring Dennis Quaid and Danny Glover; The Wild Wild West (1965 - 1969) T.V. series starring Robert Conrad as U.S. Government Agent James T. West and Ross Martin as Agent and sidekick Artemus Gordon; and who could forget the many train scenes in Midnight Run (1988) starring Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin. In addition, I always wanted (and still do) a lengthy and detailed train set to play with during stressful times in my life. On the flip side, I also remembered a near fatal incident involving me and my cousin when we were both teenagers who grew up just one block from the train tracks. One day we decided to take a dangerous dare and catch a moving cargo train traveling about 20 miles per hour. I was successful in making the leap of faith onto the train but he slipped and I watched in horror as his legs drug back and forth near the steel wheels. He finally recovered, gained his footing, and jumped off without incident. Needless to say, that was the last time we played that game. We both thanked the good lord above for us not ruining both of our lives on that particular day.
Right about now the ticket taker reached our car and began doing his duty. He was also very cordial, friendly, and helpful as he took the time to answer our questions and explain to us what our options were in terms of getting off or staying on the train at the next stop. I ride was very comfortable and smooth and in total contrast to the narrators commentary which was very choppy and at times just plain ole spastic. I could tell that she was not well versed in her spill and that she was perhaps very new as it appeared that she was reading from a script. We actually learned more from the ticket-taker than from the narrator. We made our way up about a mile or so south and on the way back to the main building stopped at the Julian Roadhouse where I decided to get off and tour on my own. I first made my way over to the Back Shop which dates back to 1905 and was used to perform major overhauls on steam locomotives. I must admit that before my trip out here I envisioned mostly automobiles and not trains on display which, in my opinion, is a lot more exciting. Perhaps they should change their marking focus to trains and maybe more tourists will visit as today’s crowd was kind of lacking as my supervisor would say.
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