Virginia Museum of Transportation announces return of Norfolk & Western Class J 611 steam passenger locomotive

newspaperFor nearly 20 years she’s sat silent, but on Saturday, May 30, the Norfolk & Western Class J 611™ Steam Passenger Locomotive, the most powerful steam passenger locomotive ever built, will triumphantly return to her hometown of Roanoke, Virginia under her own steam power.

It’s a dream come true for thousands around the world.

“Once again her beauty, power, mechanical ingenuity and deep baritone whistle will capture the imagination of young and old alike,” said Beverly T. Fitzpatrick, Jr., executive director of the Virginia Museum of Transportation and home to the iconic Class J 611.

To welcome the historic locomotive home, the Virginia Museum of Transportation is planning a celebration like no other. The Class J 611 will arrive in Roanoke under her own power between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. (EDT), and will stop near the old N&W Passenger Station, now home to the Roanoke Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau and O. Winston Link Museum. No passenger tickets will be sold for the Class J 611 Homecoming Train. The Homecoming Celebration will be open to the public and free of charge. The Museum will announce additional Homecoming Celebration weekend details at a later date.

 

611 Excursion Schedule

Once she thunders home, the Class J 611 won’t sit idle for long. The graceful, streamlined giant of a locomotive will participate in Norfolk Southern 21st Century Steam excursion program throughout June and July.

“She will run free helping us remember and celebrate America’s proud industrial heritage,” Fitzpatrick said. “The 611 has the ability to transport passengers back in time to the golden age of passenger rail travel.”

The Museum anticipates excursion tickets will go on sale to the general public on May 6. Donors to the Fire Up 611! Campaign who have made the restoration possible will be the first to receive additional information by mail. For more information on excursions and the homecoming celebration, visit fireup611.org.

 

Date/Train
Origin –Turn Point/Destination
Excursion dates and times are subject to change.
Saturday, June 6
The American
Manassas, Virginia to Front Royal, Virginia (Riverton Junction)
Morning departure.
Departs from and returns to Manassas. No layover/No deboarding.
Sunday, June 7

The American

Manassas, Virginia to Front Royal, Virginia
Morning departure.
Departs from and returns to Manassas. No layover/No deboarding.
Sunday, June 7

The American

Manassas, Virginia to Front Royal, Virginia
Afternoon departure.
Departs from and returns to Manassas. No layover/No deboarding.
Saturday, June 13

The Cavalier

Lynchburg, Virginia to Petersburg, Virginia
Morning departure.
Departs from and returns to Lynchburg. Two-hour layover in Petersburg.
Sunday, June 14

The Cavalier

Lynchburg, Virginia to Petersburg, Virginia
Morning departure.
Departs from and returns to Lynchburg. Two-hour layover in Petersburg.
Friday, July 3

The Pelican

Roanoke, Virginia to Lynchburg, Virginia
Morning departure.
Departs from and returns to Roanoke. No layover/No deboarding.
Friday, July 3

The Powhatan Arrow

Roanoke, Virginia to Radford, Virginia (Walton Junction)
Afternoon departure.
Departs from and returns to Roanoke. No layover/No deboarding.
Saturday, July 4

The Pelican

Roanoke, Virginia to Lynchburg, Virginia
Morning departure.
Departs from and returns to Roanoke. No layover/No deboarding.
Saturday, July 4
The Powhatan Arrow
Roanoke, Virginia to Radford, Virginia (Walton Junction)
Afternoon departure.
Departs from and returns to Roanoke. No layover/No deboarding.
Sunday, July 5
The Pelican
Roanoke, Virginia to Lynchburg, Virginia
Morning departure.
Departs from and returns to Roanoke. No layover/No deboarding.
Sunday, July 5
The Powhatan Arrow
Roanoke, Virginia to Radford, Virginia (Walton Junction)
Afternoon departure.
Departs from and returns to Roanoke. No layover/No deboarding.

 

A 20-year dream results in a successful yearlong restoration.

The Class J 611 is being restored at the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer, North Carolina. The 611 left for restoration on May 24, 2014, and was the guest of honor at the North Carolina Museum’s Streamliners at Spencer event. Restoration began shortly after and has progressed since.

“The North Carolina Transportation Museum Foundation has been a wonderful partner during the restoration,” said J. Preston Claytor, chairman of the Fire Up 611! committee. “We could not have completed this restoration without that team of dedicated mechanical volunteers who donated more than 8,000 hours of time over the course of a year.”

Scott Lindsay, president of Steam Operations Corporation, a company that specializes in steam locomotive restoration and repair, led the refurbishment. The mechanical team completely overhauled the 4-8-4 locomotive, originally designed and built in Roanoke, to meet current Federal Railroad Administration guidelines and strict safety standards.

“We brought together the country’s foremost experts in steam locomotive technologies,” Lindsay said. “The technical know-how necessary to restore steam locomotives is becoming exceedingly rare. We were fortunate to find the skilled labor and craftsmen who helped us restore this pinnacle of steam locomotive technology.”

According to Fitzpatrick, restoring the Class J 611 was always at the top of the museum’s wish list, but no one knew if it could ever happen.

Fitzpatrick brought together a team of steam locomotive technology experts, business leaders and railroad consultants to conduct a feasibility study in 2013.  The study revealed that the Virginia Museum of Transportation would need $3.5 million to restore, operate and preserve the Class J 611. An additional $1.5 million would be needed for an endowment to keep the 611 preserved and accessible for future generations.

“Once we had the numbers, we turned to rail fans around the world and asked if they would help,” Fitzpatrick said. “They supported the campaign in a way we simply could have never imagined.”

To date, more than $3 million has been raised from rail fans across the United States and 19 additional countries. In the spring of 2014, the Fire Up 611! committee and the museum’s board of directors decided to move ahead with the restoration without the funds for the preservation and education facility in place, citing a tight timeline to participate in the Norfolk Southern 21st Century Steam Program in 2015, Amtrak’s return to Roanoke, and the positive momentum of ongoing fundraising efforts.

The museum continues to raise funds for the on-site preservation and education facility, and hopes to break ground on the building in summer 2015.

“Now, our fundraising will focus on maintaining and preserving Norfolk & Western’s treasures so that future generations can experience steam locomotive technology at its best,” Fitzpatrick said.

Donations to the Fire Up 611! Campaign can be made through fireup611.org.


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