It seems that maintenance of aging steam locos never ends. In 2015, 4-8-4 number 611 was probably the most welcome site for railroad fans in North America.
There is nothing like main line steam operating, something that hasn’t been a part of day to day life in the USA for over 60 years. 611 is one of 14 J class locos built for the Norfolk & Western line in the 1950s.
The Js were the most powerful passenger steam locomotives ever built operating at 300psi with a tractive effort of 80,000lbs. Many Js operated upwards of 15,000 miles per month and several logged over three million miles by the time they were retired in 1959.
Interestingly 611 had a huge derailment and nearly disappeared into a river in 1956. Fortunately at that time steam was still considered valuable and after repairs she ended up in the best condition of all the J class locos. Lobbying by concerned rail fans over a number of years meant that she was not cut up like many other magnificent steam locomotives in the USA.
Last summer, 611 worked a number of excursion trains, and gave pleasure to thousands of people who came out to ride the trains or watch her steam past.
Despite the major overhaul, she now requires repairs to the pony truck. Some $200,000 is being spent on this project.
611 is expected to be back on the rails in time for the 2016 excursion season, and with the new repairs will run for many years.
How lucky we are to have this engine, which is a supreme example of steam power. I wish we could see steam on regular trains again!
ROANOKE (WSLS 10) – An update on the 611 Steam Engine. It’s going back into the shop in January 2016 for new wheels.
The Virginia Transportation Museum says they hope to have more excursions next year but have not heard from Norfolk Southern yet. For the 611 to run properly it needs new axles and bearings. The repairs come at a cost of $200,000.
Museum Executive Director Bev Fitzpatrick says the damage is from years of steel on steel not just the trips over the summer. The new wheels will mean it can run for many years.
The Norfolk and Western Class J 611 steam passenger locomotive made a historic return to the rails over the summer.
Following two decades spent in retired silence, the 65-year-old engine’s restoration and triumphant return resulted in an estimated $4.5 to $7 million of total economic impact in the Virginia communities she visited, with excursion passengers in Roanoke alone accounting for an estimated $549,300 of outside money spent in Roanoke in 2015.