611 Crew Proclaims Test Firing a Success

There were smiles all around this week as Norfolk & Western J Class No. 611 completed a successful test firing at the North Carolina Transportation Museum.

It was the first time that the streamlined 4-8-4 has been in steam since dropping its fires in December 1994 at the conclusion of the Norfolk Southern steam program.

Field reports indicated that the 611 was fired all day and achieved a maximum working boiler pressure of 300 psi.

Crew members opened the throttle to blow out the ports on the pistons and valves, and also sounded the Hancock three-chime long-bell whistle.

The test results noted that a few minor pipefitting leaks need to be fixed, but officials proclaimed that the restoration of the 611 is entering its final stages.

“We’re ready for insulation next,” Fire Up 611! Chief Mechanical Officer Scott Lindsay told Trains magazine. “The test was a success from every aspect.”

As for the next steps, crews will set the safety valves during the next fire up. The locomotive’s tender is also being repainted and lettered.

It has been a relatively short trip for the 611 to get to this point. After being moved from its home at the Virginia Museum of Transportation in Roanoke last May, the locomotive underwent a 1,472-day inspection.

Restoration work began in earnest last June. The locomotive is expected to return under its own power next month to Roanoke and celebrate its 65th birthday.

The steamer is expected to pull a series of excursions this year over NS tracks although no details have yet been released.

It is a good bet, though, that one of the first, if not the first, excursion will end or begin in Roanoke.

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