Preserving America:  Jim Crow Car to Be Restored


By Carla Charter

SPENCER, N.C.- Thanks to a $287,422.00 grant from the National Park Service, The Transportation Museum of North Carolina will be able to proceed with its renovation of the Southern 1211 rail car. The 1211 was built in 1928 for the Southern Railway and was used as a Jim Crow Car.  “We are thankful to the National Park Service for giving us the ability to tell this story in such a real way to visitors.  Whenever visitors can stand and walk through a piece of equipment like this it makes history more real.” said Mark Brown, Information and Communications Specialist at the North Carolina Transportation Museum.

The Southern 1211 was segregated into two sections by a wall with 21 seats in each section.    The African American section of the train was closer to the front of the train.  “The seats in the front were more likely to have to deal with smoke and sparks from the steam locomotive, so the seats that were further away were most sought after,“ Brown said.

“The exterior of the car is good. The interior needs a full renovation. We need to reupholster and reinstall the seats, complete asbestos removal, test for possible lead paint, and remove the rust. Once the renovations are completed the car will be displayed in the Bob Julian Roundhouse, the largest remaining roundhouse in North America,” Brown said.  The Transportation Museum of North Carolina is located on 60 acres, on land which originally served as a railroad maintenance facility.

“It’s hard to say how many Jim Crow cars are out there but only a handful of museums have these cars. These include museums in San Diego, Florida, and the Smithsonian Museum of African American History along with us,” Brown continued.,

All types of transportation were affected by Jim Crow laws and the museum shows how widespread oppressive those laws were. “We have another motor car, which is like a bus but it runs on rails, which was a segregated car that ran on the Hampton-Branchville Line. However, the interior of that car is not open to visitors. We also have a restored Barber Junction Railroad Depot which once had separate waiting area for whites and blacks.  We have a panel where the wall once existed explaining the segregated waiting areas, “Brown said.

Other vehicles at the museum include the private car of James Buchanan Duke, Founder of Duke University, Duke Tobacco and Duke Power. “It is the equivalent of a private jet today,” Brown said.  The museum also has a Studebaker Wagon from the 1800s, a steam locomotive from the 1900s and a restored Model T.  Visitors may also take a train ride on the museum’s restored train cars. For more information about the North Carolina Transportation Museum visit their website at


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