Fire Up 611! Meets Fundraising Objective

The Virginia Museum of Transportation and the Fire Up 611! Committee said on Friday that they have enough money to restore the Norfolk & Western Class J No. 611 steam passenger locomotive but that more donations are needed to fund a shop. The Fire Up 611! committee received some 2,000 donations from the United States and 15 other countries, including contributions made by some Akron Railroad Club members.

 “We have achieved a significant milestone, but there is still much work to be done,” said Bev Fitzpatrick, Jr., executive director of the museum. “Our goal from the beginning has been not only to get the 611 up and running, but to also keep it operational for decades.” Until enough funds are raised to pay for a maintenance facility, the 611 will remain at the museum in Roanoke, Va., where it has been since its 1994 retirement from a previous Norfolk Southern steam program. The museum started the Fire Up 611! Campaign on June 28, 2013, with the objective of raising $3.5 million by Oct. 31 in order to restore the locomotive in time for excursions in Spring 2014. “We knew going in that we were operating on a very ambitious timetable to be able to begin excursions in the spring,” Fitzpatrick said. “Good things have happened and are continuing to happen. This is not a matter of   ‘if’ she’ll run again; it’s a matter of ‘when.’” The committee outlined the funding objectives needed to get the 611 rolling again:

  • §  $500,000 to $750,000 to restore No. 611 to meet current Federal Railroad Administration guidelines.
  • §  $2 million to $2.5 million for a shop to maintain the engine in operating condition for decades. This also will house an educational center to teach science, technology, engineering, math, and social sciences to students of all ages.
  • §  $500,000 for business operations, including marketing, fundraising, business tools, insurance, and working capital.
  • §  $1.5 million for an endowment to fund the locomotive’s continued operation.

 

Noting that the 611 was designed and built in Roanoke,  Fitzpatrick said it is known for its technology, mechanical perfection, streamlined design and low baritone  whistle. “It’s important that we keep this Roanoke icon in Roanoke as much as possible,” he said.

Donors to the project will be listed on a permanent wall of honor. The facility will also keep the 611 accessible to the public during maintenance periods. “We believe that the facility will protect our donors’ investment in the Class J 611,” Fitzpatrick said. “We want future generations to enjoy the power and elegance of the Class J 611.” The museum is negotiating an agreement with the North Carolina Transportation Museum Foundation and Steam Operations Corp. to have the 611 restored at the roundhouse at the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer, N.C.

The Spencer museum hosts one of the largest and last surviving roundhouses equipped with the tools necessary to restore the massive locomotive. “It will take approximately six to nine months to restore the Class J 611,” said Scott Lindsay, president of Steam Operations Corp., a member of the Fire Up 611! Committee who also worked on the 611 during its last excursion runs. “The team is assembled and ready to go.” Potential investors and fans of the Class J 611 are invited to visit fireup611.org for more information or to donate. For stock gifts, wire transfers, or questions about giving to Fire Up 611!, call 540-342-5670, ext. 105 or email fferguson@vmt.org

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