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Class J 611 homecoming to kick off Norfolk Southern 21st Century Steam excursions

Roanoke, Va. - Apr 16, 2015

 

The 611 is going home again, coming back from its second restoration to headline Norfolk Southern’s 21st Century Steam excursions in 2015.

Sixty-five years after the Class J 611 was built at Norfolk & Western Railway’s shops in Roanoke and placed into service for the first time May 29, 1950, the locomotive is scheduled to return under steam May 30, fulfilling the dreams of its Virginia Museum of Transportation owners and rail enthusiasts worldwide.

Chairman and CEO Wick Moorman, who launched plans for 21st Century Steam in 2010, and President Jim Squires will be aboard a J-powered train from Spencer, N.C., where the 611 has been undergoing restoration at the North Carolina Transportation Museum since June 2014.

Neither progress of rail industry dieselization nor ravages of time spent lying dormant on display for decades could defeat the 611, which survived the scrap heap of other steam locomotives and two retirements to take its place among a trio of iconic engines that will power 21st Century Steam this year. The others are Southern Railway 4501 and Nickel Plate Road 765.

VMT is a new sponsor with Norfolk Southern, joining the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum and the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society to operate excursion trips between June 6 and Oct. 11. Tickets and schedule details will be available on the websites of trip sponsors.

Here is the schedule. All excursions are round trips.

Date/
Other Information

Origin – Turn Point/Destination

Locomotive

Operator

Weekend of June 6

Manassas – Riverton Junction, Va.

N&W J 611

VMT

Weekend of June 13

Lynchburg – Petersburg, Va.

N&W J 611

VMT

June 27

Bristol, Va. – Bulls Gap, Tenn.

SOU 4501

TVRM

June 28

Bristol – Radford, Va.

SOU 4501

TVRM

Weekend of July 4

Roanoke – Lynchburg and Walton, Va.

N&W J 611

VMT

Weekend of July 18

Fort Wayne – Lafayette, Ind.

NKP 765

FWRHS

Weekend of July 25

Youngstown – Ashtabula, Ohio

NKP 765

FWRHS

Weekend of Aug. 1

Buffalo – Corning, N.Y.

NKP 765

FWRHS

Weekend of Aug. 8

Allentown – Pittston, Pa.

NKP 765

FWRHS

Weekend of Aug. 15

Scranton, Pa. – Binghamton, N.Y.

NKP 765

FWRHS

Weekend of Sept. 12

Jersey – Cleveland, Tenn.

SOU 4501

TVRM

Weekend of Sept. 12

Trips celebrate 100th anniversary of the Nicholson Bridge

Scranton – Nicholson, Pa.

NKP 765

FWRHS

Weekend of Sept. 26

Macon – Tennille, Ga.

SOU 4501

TVRM

Weekend of Oct. 3

Atlanta – Toccoa, Ga.

SOU 4501

TVRM

 

Southern Railway’s 4501 was the pioneer locomotive in Norfolk Southern’s initial steam excursion program that operated from 1964 to 1994. The 4501 returned to excursion service in 2014 after being rebuilt at TVRM’s Chattanooga shops. Nickel Plate Road 765 was built in 1944 by Lima Locomotive Works at Lima, Ohio, and has been used in excursion service since 1979.

But it is the powerful sleek N&W Class J 611 with its bullet nose and tall-as-a-man driving wheels on a 4-8-4 configuration that many associate with the halcyon days of steam railroading. Its initial restoration in 1982 after two decades of retirement was occasion for a movie, “Going Home,” produced by Norfolk Southern. “The J being alive of course is the greatest joy that we true rail fans have had in many many years,” an appreciative fan says in the movie. The resurrection kept the J chugging in excursion service until 1994, when Norfolk Southern concluded its steam program, and 611 was retired a second time and put on display again at VMT.

Norfolk Southern’s 2010 announcement of plans to operate 21st Century Steam prompted hope that the 611 might ride the rails yet again. In 2013, VMT launched a study and then a capital campaign, “Fire Up 611!” to fund restoration of the locomotive. Norfolk Southern donated $1.5 million from proceeds of sale of a Mark Rothko abstract expressionist painting. The 611 was towed to the North Carolina Transportation Museum in May 2014 for display among a group of historic locomotives, and the restoration began there in June.   

About Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society
The Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society was formed in 1972 with the goal of saving Nickel Plate Road steam locomotive 765 from rusting away in a city park. The organization was successful in restoring the locomotive to operation on Sept. 1, 1979. Since then, NKP 765 has operated on over a dozen different railroads from New York City to Rock Island, Illinois, hauling more than 300,000 passengers on excursion trains covering over 52,000 miles of operation. FWRHS is currently developing Headwaters Junction, a railroad tourist attraction in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

About Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum
Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum was founded in 1961 in Chattanooga to create an interpretive operating museum of historic equipment and artifacts in an authentic setting. Today it operates an extensive schedule of historic and scenic trains in Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia, supported by its East Chattanooga shop facility. TVRM is the largest operating historical excursion railroad in the Southeast.

About Virginia Museum of Transportation
The Virginia Museum of Transportation, Virginia’s official transportation museum, is home to two of the most powerful steam locomotives in existence today: The N&W Class A 1218 and the N&W Class J 611. The Museum attracts visitors of all ages from across the U.S. and around the world. Through exhibits, artifacts, and an outstanding collection of rail equipment, cars, trucks, airplanes, and more, the Museum tells the story of Virginia’s rich transportation history.

About Norfolk Southern
Norfolk Southern Corporation (NYSE: NSC) is one of the nation’s premier transportation companies. Its Norfolk Southern Railway Company subsidiary operates approximately 20,000 route miles in 22 states and the District of Columbia, serves every major container port in the eastern United States, and provides efficient connections to other rail carriers. Norfolk Southern operates the most extensive intermodal network in the East and is a major transporter of coal, automotive, and industrial products.

 

Norfolk Southern Media Inquiries:
Rick Harris, 404-529-2310 (rick.harris@nscorp.com)

Norfolk Southern Investor Inquiries:
Katie Cook, 757-629-2861 (InvestorRelations@nscorp.com)

http://www.norfolksouthern.com

 

Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society
Kelly Lynch, 260-466-2766 (lynch@fwrhs.org)

Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum
Steve Freer, 423-331-4501 (sfreer@tvrail.com)

Virginia Museum of Transportation
Peg McGuire, 540-339-2753 (pmcguire@vmt.org)