N.C. Transportation Museum Receives National Park Service Grant

“Jim Crow car” at N.C. Transportation Museum

The North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources has been awarded a grant by the National Park Service to renovate a 1920s rail car built to comply with Jim Crow laws that is now at the N.C. Transportation Museum in Spencer. The $287,442 grant will fund renovation of a car which has not been used since 1969. 

“The preservation work on Southern Railway Car No. 1211, known as the ‘Jim Crow Car,’ will allow the Transportation Museum to continue to grow its interpretation of African American and human and civil rights narratives,” says N.C. Division of State Historic Sites and Properties Director Michelle Lanier.

This project is supported through a grant from the African American Civil Rights grant program of the Historic Preservation Fund as administered by the National Park Service, Department of Interior.

“The North Carolina Transportation Museum is so very appreciative of the National Parks Service for funding this meaningful project, which will help us preserve a unique piece of history and hallmark of the Civil Rights movement,” says N.C. Transportation Museum Director Kelly Alexander. 

Dedicated to all forms of transportation history, the museum is a railroad heritage site, boasting the largest repository of rail relics in North and South Carolina. It sits of the grounds of what was Southern Railways’ largest steam locomotion repair facility built to service the 75,000 freight cars and 1,400 locomotives owned by the company. 

Construction began on the new rail yard and repair shop in 1896. The facility closed in 1960 and it was donated to the state in 1977. It became part of the N.C. Division of State Historic Sites and Properties and exhibits followed a few years later.

The N.C. Transportation Museum has in its collections the 44-seat coach built for Southern Railways to adhere to the laws of segregation at that time. It featured 22 seats in the rear that were designated for African Americans and referred to as “the Jim Crow car.” It is one of only a few such cars nationwide held by a museum for public viewing, including the Southern No. 1200 located at the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. 

Today the coach is in disrepair. Torn seats have been removed that need to be reupholstered and reinstalled. Other repairs include asbestos removal, evaluation for lead paint and possible removal, rust removal and other structural repairs to the car.

When renovated, the No. 1211 will allow museum staff to contextualize segregation during the Golden Age of Railroading and its inherent inequities. It also will expand upon the story of Spencer Shops’ own history of segregation, with limited jobs and separate accommodations for those African American workers who were essential in developing this site into the largest transportation hub between Washington, D.C. and Atlanta at that time. 

The N.C. Transportation Museum is located at One Samuel Spencer Dr., Spencer, N.C. The mailing address is 411 Salisbury St., Spencer, N.C. 28519. It is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday and closed Monday. Admission is $4 to $6 based on age and prices are doubled when a train ride is added. It can be reached at (704) 636-2889.

For additional information call (919) 814-6657. For information about the site call (704) 636-2889, ext. 240. The N.C. Transportation Museum is part of the Division of State Historic Sites within the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.

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