611 Ferry Move back to Roanoke Set for May 30

The long-awaited return of Norfolk & Western Class J No. 611 after its restoration will occur on May 30 when the 4-8-4 will travel under steam from North Carolina to its home in Roanoke, Va.

The 220-mile trip will begin on the former Southern Railway main line with No. 611 entering its former home rails at Lynchburg, Va.

From there the 611 will traverse a route that it once traveled in scheduled passenger service in the 1950s.

No public tickets are being sold for the ferry move to Roanoke, which the 611 is expected to make without any diesel helpers.

However, a welcome home reception for the 611 in Roanoke at the former N&W passenger station will be open to the public. The 611 is expected to arrive in Roanoke between 2 and 6 p.m.

Among the VIPs who will be aboard the excursion train to Roanoke will be NS CEO Wick Moorman and President Jim Squires.

The 611 is owned by the Virginia Museum of Transportation and officials say that the May 30 date is significant because it is 65 years and one day after the engine entered revenue service and one year after its appearance at the Streamliners at Spencer festival that in part served as a kickoff for the locomotive’s restoration at the North Carolina Transportation Museum.

In the meantime, workers have completed insulating the 611’s boiler. Jacketing and painting the locomotive are the next tasks to complete. A testing firing will then be conducted before the locomotive makes its test runs.

The 611 was one of 14 Class J passenger locomotives built at Roanoke in 1950 and ran in revenue service through 1959.

It was displayed in Roanoke’s Wasena Park until being restored to operating condition in 1981. It pulled numerous excursions through late 1994 when it was placed on display at the Virginia transportation museum in Roanoke.

The museum in 2013 began a study that concluded that the 611 could be restored for $3.5 million with another $1.5 million needed for an endowment.

The museum has thus far raised more than $3 million from across the United States and 19 countries.

Fund raising continues for an on-campus shop and education facility that the museum hopes to begin constructing this summer.

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