Back Shop Before Exterior Restoration
The immense Back Shop structure was built in 1905 and served as the major overhaul facility for steam locomotives. The largest structure on the site, and once the largest industrial building in North Carolina, the Back Shop served as an enormous machine shop where locomotives were disassembled with the aid of a crane. Lathes and milling machines were used to re-machine the parts before everything was reassembled. At the peak of activity, two to three locomotives per week emerged as new from the Back Shop.
Today, in the context of the N.C. Transportation Museum, the Back Shop is seen as an ideal location to tell the story of North Carolina's transportation history. This building is large enough to house trains, trucks, automobiles and aircraft in a protected, enclosed environment. Classrooms and meeting spaces will provide opportunities for community outreach and engagement.
Back Shop After Exterior Restoration
Following a successful fundraising campaign by the N.C. Transportation Museum Foundation, exterior renovation of the Back Shop was undertaken, which included removal of hazardous materials, replacement of the roof, windows, and skylights, and re-pointing of the masonry. This work was completed in spring of 2004.
Additional work is planned for the nearby Power House, which will house the mechanical systems for the Back Shop, and move into the interior systems and spaces of the Back Shop.
The Back Shop was opened to the public in September of 2010, adding a 12 ft. by 70 ft. interior deck on the south end of the building (near the Roundhouse), for the first time allowing visitors to step inside and appreciate the scope of the massive building, constructed more than a century ago. This also allows for exhibition of some of the museum's larger items, including fire trucks from throughought the 20th century.
But one of the largest and most identifiable buildings on site still wasn't fully open to the public.
In April of 2017, the first museum events were held utilizing the entire building, following a year long project that included leveling the floor, closing in exposed drop pits, replacing the interior railroad tracks, and laying down new tracks for rail equipment access to the building.
The Back Shop is now open each time the museum is open, offering the chance to explore larger museum exhibits, a wonderful venue for business and corporate rentals - we were even able to fly RC airplanes inside during the Learning to Fly event.
The 1905 Back Shop....is back!
The Powerhouse was constructed in 1896, part of the original set of structures that made up Southern Railways’ largest locomotive repair facility in the southeast. It was an essential part of the Shops from the site’s inception. After all, before the first steam locomotive could be repaired and made worthy of pulling people and goods down the tracks, workers needed power. The building predates the Back Shop by nearly 10 years, the Master Mechanic’s Office by 15 years, and the Bob Julian Roundhouse by almost 30 years.
As the Powerhouse was essential to locomotive maintenance occurring in the Roundhouse and complete locomotive overhauls in the Back Shop, it required employees working around the clock, in three 8 hour shifts. Two workers were stationed in the Powerhouse to shovel coal into two large boilers, which created steam to turn the generator and produce electricity. In 1913, the power demands were so high that eight automatic, coal fired boilers were added to keep up with power demands. The powerhouse expanded twice more, in 1924 and 1938.
As the 1950s and 60s saw the transition from steam powered locomotives to diesel power, Spencer Shops was slowly shuttered, and the Powerhouse fell out of use.