J611 Back In Action This Month

Another Chance To See This Mighty Machine In Action

Following a successful return to service in 2015, J611 is again hauling tour trains in Virginia.

This streamlined monster is stated in the article which follows as the most technically advanced steam engine ever built. I am not sure about that and the South Africans with their “Red Devil”, developed in the 1980’s would probably argue that it has more advancements than a 1949 locomotive.

On the single track near Goedvertrouwd 3450, unusually, makes smoke whilst on a passenger service. June 11 1983. © Roger Griffiths

Whether J611 is the most advanced steam locomotive or not, it is an impressive machine. Designed to haul heavy passenger trains at speeds of 100 mph, it would have been something to witness this engine speeding past in the days of regular service.

Here is the timetable for 2016.

April 23 & 24, 2016 – The Roanoker, Greensboro, NC to Roanoke, VA and return

May 7 & 8, 2016 – The Powhatan Arrow, Roanoke, VA, to Lynchburg, VA and return

May 7 & 8, 2016 – The Pelican, Roanoke, VA, to Walton (Radford), VA and return

June 4 & 5, 2016 – The American, Manassas, VA, to Front Royal, VA and return

I am not sure how fast this engine is allowed to travel these days, but I suspect it is well under its maximum speed.

The article mentions that they expect this engine to be in service for the next 5 years or so. It will not run forever without further overhauls, so if you want to ride behind her, or see her in action, I would suggest you do it sooner rather than later.

A great example of US engineering.

Here is the story from the Northern Virginia Daily Newspaper

Steam locomotive trips to go through Front Royal

By Rachel Mahoney

J611 in 2015

Virginia Museum of Transportation’s Norfolk & Western Class J 611 steam locomotive is making another round of voyages after renovation work. Photo courtesy of Casey Thomason

Watching the Norfolk & Western Class J 611 steam locomotive cruise through Front Royal in June could bring a wave of nostalgia to those who remember it.

Tickets for excursions by the Virginia Museum of Transportation’s passenger locomotive – the last one in operation today – went on sale last week. The museum is offering various round trips out of North Carolina and Virginia in April, May and June. The American, a 102-mile half-day trip out of Manassas, will pass through Front Royal on June 4 and 5, turning on a wye at Riverton Junction.

Beverly Fitzpatrick Jr., executive director of the museum, said that response to the first round of 611 trips last year was enormous.

“You see grown men cry when this locomotive comes through,” he said. “We had 200,000 people last year during the excursion days who were staying on the railway watching this go by. They want to see it, they want to feel it.”

The Virginia Museum of Transportation formed a committee in 2013 for restoring the 611 and getting it rolling again. Norfolk Southern had restored the locomotive in 1981 and it ran excursions until 1994. Getting the 611 back in running order after 20 years of sitting pretty took plenty of labor and millions of dollars, and Fitzpatrick said the museum is hoping to keep the locomotive running for four to five more years.

“This locomotive is one of the fastest steam locomotives ever built,” he said. “It’s known as the most technologically advanced steam locomotive ever built – it’s an amazing product.”

Despite the work done to the 611, including replacement of the wheels from 1950 to the tune of $200,000 a pop, Fitzpatrick said most of the frame, exterior and major parts are still originals.

“One of the things that people love about the 611 is it’s not fancy, it’s just kind of a classy streamlined look…and that went down in the annals of time as one of the best designed steam locomotives ever built,” he said.

Besides the stylish exterior, Fitzpatrick said the distinct telltale whistle is a memorable part of the locomotive.

“Instead of a horn, it has a whistle – and a whistle is much different to the ear, so there’s a nostalgia I think that goes with this,” he said. “There is a lot of emotion attached to it ¬and I find it hard to grasp that maybe as deeply as I would like.”

An additional draw to the excursion out of Manassas on June 4 is the Manassas Heritage Railway Festival, where the 611 will sit on display during the afternoon. The locomotive will make one half-day excursion out of Manassas on Saturday morning and two half-day excursions on Sunday morning and afternoon.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com


• The American: a 102-mile half-day trip out of Manassas to Front Royal, on June 4 and 5.

• Tickets range in price from $129 per person for standard coach up to $899 for a private suite for up to four people.

• More information and purchase tickets: http://fireup611.org


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