Posts Tagged ‘611’

Steam Saturday: Double Header in Bellevue

March 20, 2021

How is this for a steam double header? It’s June 17, 1989, in Bellevue and Norfolk & Western J Class 4-8-4 No. 611 and Nickel Plate Road 2-8-2 light Mikado No. 587 have teamed up for an Independence Limited trip that began in Cleveland and would pause overnight later today in Muncie, Indiana.

The train’s ultimate destination was the National Railway Historical Society Convention in Roanoke, Virginia.

The 611 had earlier this month pulled excursions between Buffalo and Ashtabula, and even did a Conneaut-Bellevue round trip.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

Steam Saturday: 1983 Independence Limited

February 6, 2021

It is July 27, 1983, and the wayback machine has landed us alongside the original Nickel Plate Road mainline east of Bellevue at Old Fort.

We are just in time to see Norfolk & Western J Class No. 611 cross the Sandusky River pulling the Independence Limited.

An all-time listing of excursions pulled by the 611 that was published in a book written by Jim Wrinn reports that the trip began that morning in Portsmouth, Ohio, and was bound for Fort Wayne, Indiana.

No. 611 was fresh off an appearance at that year’s National Railway Historical Society Convention in Richmond, Virginia.

For several years specials that were bound to or from an NRHS convention operated under the Independence Limited name.

This excursion of the Independence Limited would end in Chicago the next day.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

N&W 611 to Appear in North Carolina in November

September 19, 2019

The North Carolina Transportation Museum announced this week that it will offer several events later this year featuring Norfolk & Western Class J No. 611.

Among the events to be offered will be cab tours, night photo shoots, caboose rides pulled by the 611, and hand on the throttle sessions.

The events will held Nov. 1-3. at the museum in Spencer, North Carolina.

The 611 will travel to North Carolina after it completes a series of excursions and other events that begin later this month at the Strasburg Rail Road in Pennsylvania.

Tickets for the one hour VIP tour will include a presentation on the 611’s recent operations, a visit to the cab and a chance to blow the whistle.

The throttle time sessions will cost $611 and allow ticket holders to operate the 611 under the supervision of a qualified engineer for a half hour.

For $305.11 a ticket hold can work as a fireman including sitting in the fireman’s seat.

For $100, a ticket holder can ride for a half hour in the jump seat of the 611.

During these half-hour events, the 611 will pull a N&W caboose on the museum grounds.

Visitors can ride in the caboose for $10 plus museum admission.

The night photo shoot will held on Nov. 2 from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. with the 611 posed at the Bob Julian Roundhouse.

Tickets for the photo shot are $30 per person.

Event times and tickets are available at

N&W 611 Won’t Offer Excursions in 2018

June 18, 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.

Va. Museum Still Awaiting Amtrak Response on 611 Trips

April 17, 2018

Amtrak hasn’t said “yes” but hasn’t said “no” either to a proposal by the Virginia Museum of Transportation to operate excursion trains this fall pulled by Norfolk & Western Class J No. 611.

Nonetheless officials at the Roanoke-based museum understand that a change in Amtrak corporate policy regarding charters and specials may doom the trips and knock out future excursions so long as the policy remains in place.

Lisa Sphar, the museum’s executive director, said Amtrak has yet to answer the museum’s request for excursions that are being planning for later this year.

The museum had just submitted its request to Amtrak when a memorandum written to Amtrak employees by CEO Richard Anderson in late March about the policy change came to public attention.

In the memo, Anderson said the carrier was ending specials and charters except in certain circumstances in which they would promote Amtrak strategic initiatives.

“When this announcement came out, we were in the 11th hour,” Sphar said. “It took us by surprise as well as everybody else.”

However, she said the policy does allow for exceptions and the museum continues “to work with our friends and partners in the industry to look at options for continuing operations and remain hopeful for 611’s future.”

No. 611 is currently at the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer, North Carolina, undergoing routine maintenance.

The Virginia museum raised $1 million to get the 611 back into operation in 2015 after it had been idle for several years.

It has since pulled excursions on Norfolk Southern tracks in Virginia and North Carolina and last year museum officials talked about taking the steam locomotive built in Roanoke in 1950 to other states.

Amtrak cooperation figured prominently in those plans because Norfolk Southern said that starting in 2018 excursions behind the 611 would have to be arranged through Amtrak.

Although museum officials said discussions with Amtrak were cordial, there was nothing said that foreshadowed a significant change in Amtrak policy.

Catherine Fox, vice president of public affairs and destination development for regional tourism bureau Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge, said a study commissioned by the museum found 611’s 2015 excursions brought about 200,000 visitors to the valley and contributed from $4.5 million to $7 million to the economy.

Tax records show that the excursions increased revenue from $447,663 in 2013-2014 to $566,208 in excursion revenue alone for the museum in the following year.  In 2015-16, excursion revenue rose to $2 million.

Chasing N&W 611 Out of Roanoke

May 31, 2017

Last weekend I went to Roanoke, Virginia, to chase the Norfolk & Western J class 611 trips. I had hoped to get some of the last remaining N&W signals but the last one was replaced just a week before these trips. Well it’s still a steam engine and there’s many great photo opportunities in this area. I’ve shared a few of them here.

This includes showing the 611 leaving Roanoke and passing the freight car shops; climbing Christianburg grade at Shawsville, Virginia; and passing the coal dock at Vicker, Virginia.

Article and Photographs by Todd Dillon

N&W 611 May Expand its Excursion Range

May 27, 2017

Norfolk & Western 4-8-4 No. 611 might be pulling excursions outside of Virginia and North Carolina if the Virginia Museum of Transportation has its way.

“We cannot sustain excursions in the North Carolina, Virginia area after the exposure we’ve already had,” said museum Executive Director Beverly T. Fitzpatrick Jr.

Fitzpatrick said the market for tickets for trips in those two states is about played out.

“There are just [not] a lot of people that are going to ride anymore that haven’t already ridden,” Fitzpatrick said. “So we are now talking to Amtrak about broadening that base to see if we can go a lot of other places.”

He said it is uncertain what opportunities there might be to operate the J Class locomotive in excursion service elsewhere.

“Everything is not known at the moment but it’s exciting because nobody is saying no. Everybody wants to talk about the opportunities,” Fitzpatrick said.

N&W 611 Trip Changed for May 29

May 22, 2017

The Virginia Museum of Transportation has changed the operating schedule for excursions on May 29 behind Norfolk & Western J-Class No. 611.

The trip between Roanoke and Lynchburg, Virginia, has been canceled in favor of a trip between Roanoke and Walton, Virginia, via Radford.

The new trip will depart Roanoke at 7 a.m. and return at about 12:30 p.m. It will be the first time that a 611-pulled excursion has departed Roanoke westbound in the morning.

Other scheduled excursions will operate as announced.

This includes excursions between Roanoke and Radford on May 27, 28 and 29, all of which have 1 p.m. departure times.

There will be Roanoke-Lynchburg trips on May 27 and May 28, leaving at 7 a.m. and returning at 12:30 p.m.

All excursions will use Norfolk Southern routes that were originally owned by the N&W.

Chasing the N&W 611

April 29, 2017

Last Sunday morning I chased the Norfolk & Western No. 611 trip from Greensboro, North Carolina, to Roanoke Virginia.

The first two photos are from Reidsville, North Carolina. Strangely enough, I had this overpass all to myself not another railfan in sight.

Next is a rural overpass east of Chatham, North Carolina. Picture four is at Danville, Virginia.

The last one is near Hurt, Virginia, where the trip gets off the Southern mainline and takes the old Virginian route to get to Roanoke. From there I was unable to chase due to not being familiar with the roads.

Article and Photographs by Todd Dillon

VTM Has Sold 28% of N&W 611 Trip Tickets

January 18, 2017

Ticket sales for steam excursions next spring sponsored by the Virginia Museum of Transportation have been good thus far.

Fire up 611The museum told Trains magazine that it has sold about 3,000 tickets for excursions to be pulled by Norfolk & Western J-class No. 611. That is 28 percent of the tickets available.

The North Carolina Transportation Museum is sponsoring trips of its own in early April whereas the VTM trips are set for late May.

VTM told the magazine that tickets are still available for most excursions with the strongest sales thus far having been for the May 27 roundtrip between Roanoke and Walton, Virginia.

Ticket sales for the NCTM trips have been slower because those tickets were recently placed on sale.  Thus far 350 tickets have been sold for that museum’s two trips.

Thus far, the two museums have announced 13 excursions for the 2017 season.