Posts Tagged ‘N&W 611’

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.

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.

N&W 611 Makes Ferry Move to North Carolina

January 7, 2017

The first trip under steam of 2017 of Norfolk & Western No. 611 occurred on Friday when the J class locomotive left Roanoke, Virginia, for North Carolina.

Fire up 611The 4-8-4 left the home of its owner, the Virginia Museum of Transportation, to travel to the North Carolina transportation Museum for overhaul work.

No. 611 is scheduled to pull public excursions over Norfolk Southern tracks in April and May in North Carolina and Virginia.

The ferry move followed the former Virginian Railway to a connection at Hurt, Virginia, to a former Southern Railway route.

The consist of the train included an auxiliary water car, two tool cars, and a gondola.

The April trips will depart from the North Carolina cities of Spencer and Greensboro while the May excursions will depart from the Virginia cities of Lynchburg and Roanoke. Tickets will go on sale at noon on Jan. 12 at

3 More N&W 611 Trips Set in North Carolina

January 5, 2017

Three more excursions featuring Norfolk & Western No. 611 have been announced.

NC Transportation MuseumThe J Class 4-8-4 will pull trips in early April sponsored by the North Carolina Transportation Museum.

The excursions include a day-long roundtrip from the museum to Lynchburg, Virginia, on April 8.

Shorter trips will run from the museum in Spencer on April 9 to Charlotte and Greensboro, North Carolina.

Ticket sales will begin at noon on Jan. 12 for the public with select museum members having the chance to purchase tickets starting at 9 a.m. on Jan. 10.

The excursions will use Norfolk Southern tracks that were once owned by the Southern Railway.

N&W 611 To Pull Excursions in Spring 2017

December 22, 2016

Steam will return to Norfolk Southern rails in 2017. The Virginia Museum of Transportation said its Norfolk & Western Class J 4-8-4 No. 611 will pull excursions in Virginia and North Carolina in April and May with additional trips possible.

Fire up 611Tickets will go on sale in January for the excursions that will include:

• From Greensboro, North Carolina, to Roanoke, Virginia, via the former Southern Railway main line to Altavista, Virginia, and the former Virginian into Roanoke on April 22 to 23.

• Lynchburg, Virginia, to Petersburg, Virginia, on May 6 and 7.

• Roanoke to Lynchburg on May 27, 28, and 29 with trips up the Blue Ridge grade in the morning and up Christiansburg grade in the afternoon.

The 611 is slated to run on Jan. 6 from Roanoke to the North Carolina Transportation Museum where it will receive its annual maintenance.

N&W 611 To Return to Roanoke on Oct. 24

October 20, 2016

Norfolk & Western No. 611 will return to Roanoke, Virginia, this month during a welcome back event at the Virginia Transportation Museum.

Fire up 611The J-Class 4-8-4 has been at the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer, North Carolina.

It will leave in the early morning hours from Spencer and travel over Norfolk Southern tracks to Roanoke.

The VTM will open at 7 a.m. with the 611 expected to arrive between 7:30 and 9:30 a.m.

The steamer is expected to operate under its own power with a dead head consist.

Museum visitors will have the opportunity to purchase breakfast and lunch at the museum grounds.

For an additional $25 fee, visitors will be permitted to climb into the locomotive cab and blow the whistle.