N&W Class J 611

Celebrating the return of the finest passenger steam locomotive ever
611 In Steam
Trains is celebrating the 611 with exclusive coverage and a special issue.

The return of the 611

In 2015 the railroad enthusiast community welcomes one of the most beautiful and most powerful passenger steam locomotives ever built back to operating condition, Norfolk & Western Class J No. 611. This magnificent steam locomotive has returned to the rails after 21 years of inactivity. Trains would like to celebrate this achievement, and to do so we’ve gathered some of our favorite photos of yesterday and today, found videos that delight us, and written about the inspiration that we find in this streamlined mechanical masterpiece. We hope you’ll enjoy this look at 611 in Steam!

611 history
Craftsmen at Norfolk & Western’s Roanoke Shops built No. 611 in May 1950, finishing the job on May 29. The locomotive was one of 14 Class J 4-8-4s, Nos. 600-613, that were homemade and employed on the railroad’s crack passenger trains between Norfolk and Cincinnati and on other lines, such as the route to Bristol, Va. The Tuscan red, gold, and locomotives were powerful, developing more than 5,100 hp, and they could sprint at speeds up to 110 mph. Sadly, the coming of diesel locomotives in the late 1950s meant the end for N&W steam and the Class J locomotives. The railroad retired No. 611 in 1959 and donated it to a city park in 1963. In 1981, N&W management decided to restore No. 611 and it operated on excursions under the new Norfolk Southern Corp. banner from 1982-1994.

611 restoration
In 2013, the Virginia Museum of Transportation organized the Fire Up 611! Committee to restore No. 611, to build a permanent home for the locomotive at the museum, and to create an endowment for its perpetual maintenance. Thanks to generous donors, many of them Trains readers, and the Norfolk Southern Corp., the committee raised more than $3 million to begin the work. The locomotive was moved to Spencer, N.C., where work took place in the roundhouse at the North Carolina Transportation Museum. Returned to steam on March 31, the locomotive is set to pull excursions in Virginia in June and July. For more information about excursions, see www.FireUp611.org.


VMT’s Bev Fitzpatrick to retire at end of 2017

ROANOKE, Va. – Virginia Museum of Transportation Executive Director Bev T. Fitzpatrick, Jr. will retire from his position at end of the calendar year after serving in the top spot for more than a decade, the Virginia Museum of Transportation announced on Friday. During his tenure, the museum has been able to expand its paid staff, increases budgets, and has logged an increase in attendance. Fitzpatrick was also instrumental in the Fire Up 611! campaign to restore Norfolk & Western 4-8...

611 owners say the locomotive is ready to ramble

ROANOKE, Va. — Three years of excursion service has proved that Norfolk & Western No. 611 is up to the task of heavy duty excursion service. Now its owner, the Virginia Museum of Transportation in Roanoke, wants to run the iconic 4-8-4 in new territory: Amtrak routes within the Norfolk Southern system as early as the 2018 season. Fans, friends, and families may see a wider schedule by 2018 depending on how well the museum, Amtrak and Norfolk Southern work out the details. “We...

Museum considers sending N&W No. 611 farther afield

ROANOKE, Va. — The Virginia Transportation Museum is considering letting its centerpiece attraction, Norfolk & Western 4-8-4 No. 611 roam farther from home. According to Roanoke TV station WSLS Channel 10, Director Beverly Fitzpatrick said the museum is talking with Amtrak about “broadening the base” of the locomotive's operations. Fitzpatrick said that after running solely to destinations on Norfolk Southern rails in Virginia and North Carolina for the past two years, &l...


N&W 611, past and present
A look at this iconic passenger steam locomotive, from its 1950 birth to its present-day restoration


Big Steam is Back DVD preview

See how your favorite big steam locomotives are rebuilt and run — from Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum's Southern Railway No. 4501, to the big steam story of 2016: the return of Union Pacific No. 844. You can now watch a preview of this new video production, which features popular steam locomotives from coast to coast! This all-new DVD is a wonderful companion to the 100-page collectors issue, Big Steam is Back. The 90-minute video covers the early years of steam preservation through tod...

Trains News Wire video for May 19

CSX yard humps, Norfolk & Western No. 611, Ringling Bros.'s Circus Train

Trains News Wire video for April 28

Union Pacific's California derailment, passenger pain at Penn Station, steam live streaming in North Carolina


Trains magazine is streaming live video of No. 611, including a test run to Greensboro, N.C., on Thursday, May 21, a send-off event and throttle time on Saturday, May 23, and the locomotive's return to Roanoke, Va., on Saturday, May 30. Learn more »

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Learn more about the stories and photos in this months issue

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