N&W 611 Won’t Offer Excursions in 2018

In an announcement that was not really much of a surprise, the Virginia Museum of Transportation said over the weekend that there will be no mainline excursions this year for Norfolk & Western Class J No. 611.

However, the 4-8-4 built in Roanoke, Virginia, will be steamed up at a later date and available for public view.

“We are very pleased to announce that we are engaged in substantive conversations about exciting potential 2019 excursions and special appearances for 611,” said Trey Davis, chairman of the Forward 611 Committee. “We will continue to seek opportunities for the public to experience a pivotal piece of American history firsthand, under steam.”

Museum officials cited Amtrak’s new policies restricting excursions and specials for grounding No. 611.

Amtrak has expressed a willingness to meet with museum officials later this year to discuss future excursion opportunities.

No. 611 is currently at the North Carolina Transportation Museum having mechanical work done at the Spencer shops.

The locomotive is expected to return to Roanoke later this summer amid some public events. Details about those events have yet to be announced.

“We’re working hard to ensure the public continues to have opportunities to engage with 611 and are planning unique events to provide opportunities to experience 611 under steam in 2018,” said Will Harris, president of the VTM board of directors. “The Virginia Museum of Transportation and NCTM are both planning special events with the locomotive in Roanoke and Spencer, respectively.”

One event at which the 611 is expected to appear is the Sept. 29 annual Big Lick Train Tug at which teams of six and 12 people will try to pull the locomotive by hand.

VTM is also raising money to equip the 611 with a positive train control apparatus and to build a permanent home for the locomotive in Roanoke that will also serve as an education center.

Amtrak’s policy changes have also led to the cancellation of planned trips this year by Milwaukee Road 4-8-4 No. 261 and Southern Pacific 4-8-4 No. 4449.

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