Posts Tagged ‘Virginia Transportation Museum’

N&W to Travel to Pennsylvania Soon

May 21, 2021

Norfolk & Western 4-8-4 No. 611 is expected to travel to Strasburg, Pennsylvania, in the coming days after its coal stocker was repaired.

The Virginia Museum of Transportation, which owns the Class J locomotive, said “barring any unforeseen circumstances” the ferry move will be made.

Officials have cited safety and security concerns for declining to say when the 611 will travel.

The locomotive had been scheduled to be in Pennsylvania by now and operate this weekend on the Strasburg Rail Road.

But that was delayed by problems with the coal stocker that were discovered when in preparation for the ferry move last Monday the locomotive’s fireman found the stoker screw was not moving.

An inspection found it had broken a few feet into the tender. 

After separating the engine from its tender, workers removed 35 tons of coal. Museum officials said the cause of the stoker screw break was likely a weak spot in the original casting.

They said an internal void was observed extending toward the edge of the stoker screw.

One it arrives in Strasburg, the 611 is scheduled to participate in a series of events and pull excursion trains through October.

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.

Tickets Still Available for N&W 611 Excursions

March 22, 2016

Although many of the tickets for trips behind Norfolk & Western 4-8-4 No. 611 have been sold, some are still available for the April 23-24 trips out of Greensboro, North Carolina.

The Virginia Museum of Transportation reports that 80 percent of the tickets have been sold for the Saturday trip to Roanoke, Virginia.

Fire up 611However, only about 23 percent of the tickets for the Sunday trip have been sold.

The April excursions from Greensboro will use a portion of the former Virginian Railway to reach Roanoke.

Tickets are still available in standard, deluxe, first class, dome class and chairman’s class. The latter includes meals and appetizers.

The museum said that between 80 to 90 percent of the tickets have been sold for the May 7-8 excursions, which will leave from Roanoke.

Trips on June 4-5 that will follow the former Southern Railway through northern Virginia still have plenty of tickets available. The Saturday trip is about 29 percent sold and the Sunday excursion is 44 percent sold.

For more information about trips and ticket availability, visit

N&W 611 Deadheads to Spencer

February 13, 2016

Norfolk & Western 4-8-4 No. 611 made a deadhead move on Thursday to the North Carolina Transportation Museum after being released from the shop of the Virginia Transportation Museum in Roanoke, Virginia.

Fire up 611Workers had finished working on the Class-J locomotive’s lead trucks in Roanoke before sending it off to Spencer, North Carolina, for further mechanical work.

The 611 traveled with a water canteen car, two tool cars and two gondolas.

The route from Roanoke involved using the former Virginian Railway to Altavista, Virginia, and thence over former Southern Railway via Danville, Virginia.

The ferry move made stops in Hurt and Danville for crew changes and servicing.

The 2016 excursion season for the 611 will begin on April 9 with weekend trips from Spencer to Lynchburg, Virginia.

Survey Work to Begin for N&W 611 Shop

February 28, 2014

Survey work for a new shop and educational facility for Norfolk & Western 4-8-4 J-class No. 611 has begun at the Virginia Museum of Transportation.

The work is being done by Crouch Engineering and includes preliminary design and engineering of the facility at VMT.

The facility be used for maintenance, repairs and educational exhibits.

“The Class J 611 is considered by many to be the finest steam passenger locomotive in the world,” said J. Preston Claytor in a news release. He is the chairman of the Fire Up 611! committee.

The museum is also taking applications for available positions to help with restoration of the 611.

Prospective volunteers must fill out an application and be approved before working on the project. To fill out an application, go to

NS Donates $1.5M to 611 Restoration Fund

November 23, 2013

With a $1.5 million donation from Norfolk Southern on its way, the restoration of Norfolk & Western class J steam locomotive No. 611 is close to being assured.

However, Trains magazine reported on Friday that the 611 will remain at the Virginia Museum of Transportation in Roanoke, Va., until the remainder of the funding has been raised.

NS announced at 6:11 a.m. on Friday that it has sold a well-known abstract expressionist painting and will donate the proceeds to the fund for restoration and long-term maintenance of the locomotive.

NS Chairman and CEO Wick Moorman said in a news release that the railroad sold its untitled 1959 Mark Rothko painting through an auction in New York City on Nov. 14 for $1.5 million.

“No. 611 is an American classic, a reflection of a time and a people who put the country on their backs and carried it into to the modern age of railroading,” Moorman said. “611 is not an NS, N&W, Virginia, or Roanoke locomotive. It belongs to everyone and every generation. In that spirit, and on behalf of NS employees everywhere, I announce our strong support for bringing back a true national marvel.”

NS President Jim Squires said that “with railroads as the backbone of the country’s transportation system – today as during 611’s time – we all can look forward to the brightest days of America’s future. No. 611 represents not just past glory but infinite possibilities for the future.”

Bev Fitzpatrick, the executive director of the Virginia museum, hailed the NS donation.

“People from 15 countries have contributed their time and resources to bring back the ‘Queen of Steam,’” Fitzpatrick said in a news release. “NS’ generous and timely support gives us the best opportunity to reach the $5 million needed to put this icon back on the rails and keep her moving for decades.”

Fitzpatrick said the Fireup 611! Fund now has about $2.1 million. It needs $3.5 million. “So we are now over halfway there. This is the most significant cash gift that the Virginia Museum of Transportation has ever received,” he said.

The $3.5 million figure is enough to pay for restoration and construction of a shop to be used to maintain the locomotive. The museum wants to raise a total of $5 million to be used to create an endowment and pay other related expenses.

Plans are for the 611 to be moved to Spencer, N.C., so restoration work can be performed at the North Carolina Transportation Museum.

“We feel comfortable if we can get to $3.5 million we can move 611 to Spencer” [for restoration]. So we are more than halfway to our goal, and the end is in sight.” Fitzpatrick said

Fitzpartick said the museum would like to have the 611 running sometime in 2014.

He expects that the NS gift will prompt other donors to chip in funds to the Fireup 611! fund, saying that the museum has made many requests for funding from several sources that have yet to come in.

“Our hope is that with the incredible support of Norfolk Southern, that folks will understand that we have momentum, that we are over halfway there, and the engine could be running next year if they help,” Fitzpatrick said.

Previously, the had raised $500,000 through individual donations. Thus museum fell short of its original goal of raising enough money by Oct. 31 to allow the engine to be make its first trip in spring 2014.

The museum now hopes to reach the $3.5 million objective by Dec. 31, which would allow the engine to be running by fall 2014.

“If we can garner the amount of support we need by the end of the calendar year, we would be very close to enabling that to happen,” Fitzpatrick says, adding that the Dec. 31 date is not a “drop dead” mark where “we are going to do it or not going to do it. But it does mean we can have it running in 2014. Our hope is to have it [the funding] to bed by Dec. 31 if people want it to run next year.”

No. 611 was built by N&W’s Roanoke shops in 1950. With its sister Class A and Y6 locomotives, it made up the “Magnificent Three” that pulled passenger and freight trains through the late 1950s.

Retired in 1959, the 611 was restored in 1982 and spent more than a decade in excursion service. It was retired again in 1994 and put on display at the Virginia Museum.
The Rothko painting that NS sold was created in 1959. Rothko (1903-1970) was a Latvian émigré who resisted having his works labeled. But art critics said he wanted people to have spiritual experiences when viewing them.

The Rothko painting that NS sold was an “oil on paper laid down on canvas” image measuring 29.5-by-21.5 inches and featuring amorphous forms that float on top of each other, “. . . wonderfully capable of moving the viewer to extreme states of feeling…” according to Sotheby’s, the auction house.

NS bought the painting in 1996. It was part of the railroad’s collection of public area visual art and historical artifacts that include train models, tools, clocks, safety and service awards, and maps. Some pieces – including the Rothko – have been loaned to museums in the U.S. and abroad for exhibitions.

Recreating a 1976 Moment

August 30, 2013


Here is a photographs my meeting with my sons David and Dennis in Roanoke, Va., recently for a recreation from 1976 with engine No. 1776. In 1976, Norfolk & Western Railway painted an engine for the nation’s bicentennial. The unit came to Akron so I took the boys over to see it and we took some pictures.

As it turned out, the boys had a picture of myself and the engine enlarged and framed. They gave it to me for my birthday.

I’ve had that picture hanging in my train room for years and said for the past five years that I would like to recreate another picture with the same locomotive as it is in the museum in Roanoke.

It was another of the miracles of this year that we were all available and able to get together as we all lived over 400 miles away and had the weekend off.    We met at the Hilton on a Friday as it was just across the street from the museum and it would be fun to just sit on the deck overlooking the city and talk and drink. Or is it drink and talk?

On Saturday morning, I dressed about the same as I did in 1976 and we went to the museum to recreate the picture.

It was 90 degrees but the humidity felt like 95 and my shirt and jeans were really too hot and I was totally awash for the day.

We had a great time and took a day trip through the Blue Ridge Mountains, following the railroad and stopping to have a picnic at an old abandoned station.

The pictures that accompany this post are from Dave’s girl friend, Julie, who graciously went along with us.

Article by Bob Rohal

N&W 611 May Return to Mainline Service

February 23, 2013

Norfolk & Western J Class No. 611 executes a photo runby during a May 21, 1989, excursion between Chicago and Fort Wayne. The J  Class locomotive may yet return to mainline steam service. (Photograph by Craig Sanders)

Norfolk & Western J Class No. 611 executes a photo runby during a May 21, 1989, excursion between Chicago and Fort Wayne, Ind.. The J Class locomotive may return to mainline steam excursion service on Norfolk Southern tracks. (Photograph by Craig Sanders)

The Virginia Transportation Museum announced on Friday that Norfolk & Western Class J No. 611 may return to mainline excursion service if a study of what needs to be done to restore and maintain the steam locomotive is positive and funding can be found to finance the endeavor.

The museum created a seven-member “Fire up 611?” committee that is expected to report its findings within 90 days.

The 4-8-4 pulled N&W passenger trains between 1950 and 1959, and returned to service in 1982 as part of the Norfolk Southern steam program. It has been on static display at the museum in Roanoke, Va., since the steam program ended in late 1994.

“The Class J 611 locomotive embodies both beauty and power,” said Bev Fitzpatrick, Jr., executive director of the Virginia Museum of Transportation in a news release. “Since her retirement from excursion service in 1994, fans have been clamoring, hoping, and dreaming of a day when she once again blows her whistle and thunders across the landscape.”

The museum said that the 611 committee will meet with specialists in steam locomotives operations and restoration, technical engineers, and experts on Federal Railroad Administration regulations and safety.

“Before we can promise our 611 fans that she will indeed return to service, we need to know what it will take to fix and maintain her,” he said.

Fitzpatrick said the museum will need the help of railfans to raise money for a restoration if the committee decides to move in that direction.

The committee will determine the restoration’s scope, the experts needed, and the location for the work as well as cost estimates based on the 611’s mechanical history, FRA boiler regulations that went into effect since the engine last ran, and other factors.

The museum has established a website – – with information about the effort to restore the 611. There is also a Fire Up 611 Facebook page and YouTube channel.