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'NoDa Express' train takes a test run

The shortline railroad, which runs from Charlotte into the central part of North Carolina, hopes to rent the train out for excursions.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Train enthusiasts lined the tracks of the Aberdeen Carolina & Western railroad Thursday for the appearance of the shortline railroad's forthcoming NoDa Express.

The passenger train made the journey from the railroad's headquarters in Candor through Stanfield. As the train crossed the Pee Dee River into Stanly County Thursday, it paused so photographers could capture photos and videos of the train in front of the Duke Energy hydropower power plants.

The excursion was the debut run of the railroad's new E-Unit engine number 103. The new engine joined the existing engine, ACWR 271, and seven other cars for the test run.

Railfans and photographers lined railroad crossings as they followed the train on its journey.

"It's a unique engine. There's not a lot of these around," Joseph Navin, a railfan who drove from Greensboro, said. "I think it's great. I think the community support is probably good for them."

The railroad told WCNC Charlotte in September they hope to soon begin renting out the passenger train for excursions such as private parties and business retreats. The railroad's current business is hauling freight regionally across central North Carolina. Last year, the train made its first public appearance when it parked along the railroad's tracks near 34th street in the popular NoDa neighborhood.

"We wanted to bring a unique experience to Charlotte. Having a new venue like this... could be a good fit," Jennifer White, president of the railroad, explained at the time. "NoDa is very trendy... and our railroad tracks go right through it."

The train features social space, including an indoor bar car and an outdoor car, which was converted from an old "maintenance of way vehicle" once used to build and maintain the railroad.

White said a team at the company's Candor-based headquarters has been restoring cars for the train. Some of the cars come from the company's vintage stock, while others were acquired from other companies or rescued from abandoned sidings. 

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Founded in 1987, the ACWR is a shortline railroad operating 150 miles of tracks in North Carolina. The railroad's western terminus is in Charlotte, where it connects to the large rail yard operated by Norfolk Southern. At their eastern edge, they connect to the rail network operated by CSX. 

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