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Spencer in Rowan County, North Carolina — The American South (South Atlantic)
 

The Muscle of Spencer Shops

A Milestone in Restoration

 
 
The Muscle of Spencer Shops Marker image. Click for full size.
By Michael C. Wilcox, December 29, 2016
1. The Muscle of Spencer Shops Marker
Inscription. The Muscle of Spencer Shops
While the Bob Julian Roundhouse, located just south of here, provided routine maintenance for Southern Railway's steam locomotives, the Back Shop was where the heavy lifting was done—literally. Locomotives came to the Back Shop for major overhauls and repairs. Ceiling-mounted cranes were used to lift locomotives weighing up to 90 tons and shuttle them through the building. A machine shop was located on the eastern side of the building. When completed in 1905, the Back Shop became the largest manufacturing building in the state of North Carolina. Building this behemoth took 2.5 million bricks and $483,000—a project that today would cost in the tens of millions to complete. The giant windows and skylights provided an abundance of natural light in the building. The building, which could accommodate 15 locomotives at a time, is 596 feet long (nearly two football fields), 150 feet wide and 80 feet high. Workers turned out one completed locomotive per day.

A Milestone in Restoration
Ater work at Spencer stopped altogether, the shop buildings fell into deep disrepair for decades. By the time the shops were donated to the State of North Carolina for use as a transportation museum, the Back Shop had hundreds of broken windows, badly damaged brick and was covered
Middle Panel image. Click for full size.
By Michael C. Wilcox, December 29, 2016
2. Middle Panel
upper photo caption:
Rowan County celebrated its 200th anniversary in April 1953. As part of festivities, the Spencer School band toured the Back Shop, which had by then been modified to service diesel locomotives. An assembly line took the diesel prime movers from disassembly, to overhaul to reassembly, while body work was done on the other side of the building.
center photo caption:
The Back Shop was divided, with one side for locomotives and the other for machinery. This view shows the line of shafts and belts used to operate many of the machines. Small electric motors mounted on the steel columns were used to power the line shafts.
lower photo caption:
This interior view shows three of the four tracks used for locomotive servicing. Locomotives entered the south end of the building and worked their way through repair stations. The skylights and large windows let in natural light, allowing electricity to be used for machinery rather than lighting.
in kudzu vines.
Preliminary efforts to stop further damage, including a new roof, began in 1980, but a more extensive restoration would be more than 20 years later. In 2005, the initial phase of restoration was completed, including replacing the roof again (the 1980 roof was damaged first by a tornado and then by Hurricane Hugo in 1989), stabilizing the foundation, extensive masonry work, replacing windows and skylights, and sandblasting/repainting steel roof trusses. Additional restoration needed to complete the building's transition to an exhibit hall includes installation of a new floor, electrical and plumbing work, construction of interior walls, restroom installation, and much more.
 
Location. 35° 41.252′ N, 80° 26.086′ W. Marker is in Spencer, North Carolina, in Rowan County. Marker can be reached from South Salisbury Avenue. Touch for map. Marker is located on the grounds of the NC Transportation Museum. Marker is at or near this postal address: 411 S Salisbury Ave, Spencer, NC 28159, Spencer NC 28159, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Town of Spencer (a few steps from this marker); Historic Spencer Shops (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Norfolk & Western Caboose 555012 (about 500
The Muscle of Spencer Shops Marker image. Click for full size.
By Michael C. Wilcox, December 29, 2016
3. The Muscle of Spencer Shops Marker
feet away); Spencer Shops Roundhouse and Turntable (about 500 feet away); Southern Public Utilities Co. 1927 Streetcar #85 (about 500 feet away); Food Lion LLC (about 600 feet away); Food Lion Trailer No. 893615 (about 600 feet away); Magnetic Signal Company (about 700 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Spencer.
 
Categories. ArchitectureCharity & Public WorkIndustry & CommerceRailroads & Streetcars
 
Muscle of Spencer Shops Marker - left panel image. Click for full size.
By Michael C. Wilcox, December 29, 2016
4. Muscle of Spencer Shops Marker - left panel
lower photo caption:
Southern Railway streamlined diesel No. 4235 gets nose repairs and other mechanical upgrades in the Back Shop on June 30, 1950.
A Milestone in Restoration - right panel image. Click for full size.
By Michael C. Wilcox, December 29, 2016
5. A Milestone in Restoration - right panel
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 21, 2017. This page originally submitted on June 21, 2017, by Michael C. Wilcox of Winston-Salem, North Carolina. This page has been viewed 76 times since then. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on June 21, 2017, by Michael C. Wilcox of Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
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