For nearly 20 years she’s sat silent, but on Saturday, May 30, the Norfolk & Western Class J 611™ Steam Passenger Locomotive, the most powerful steam passenger locomotive ever built, will triumphantly return to her hometown of Roanoke, Virginia under her own steam power.
It’s a dream come true for thousands around the world.
“Once again her beauty, power, mechanical ingenuity and deep baritone whistle will capture the imagination of young and old alike,” said Beverly T. Fitzpatrick, Jr., executive director of the Virginia Museum of Transportation and home to the iconic Class J 611.
To welcome the locomotive home, the museum is planning a Homecoming Celebration that will be open to the public and free of charge. Details will be released at a later date.
The graceful, streamlined giant of a locomotive will participate in Norfolk Southern 21st Century Steam excursion program throughout June and July.
“The 611 has the ability to transport passengers back in time to the golden age of passenger rail travel,” Fitzpatrick said.
The Class J 611 is being restored at the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer, North Carolina.
Scott Lindsay, president of Steam Operations Corporation, a company that specializes in steam locomotive restoration and repair, led the restoration. The mechanical team completely overhauled the 4-8-4 locomotive, originally designed and built in Roanoke, to meet current Federal Railroad Administration guidelines and strict safety standards.
“We brought together the country’s foremost experts in steam locomotive technologies,” Lindsay said. “The technical know-how necessary to restore steam locomotives is becoming exceedingly rare.”
In 2013, the Museum brought together steam locomotive experts, business and railroad leaders to conduct a feasibility study. The group found that $3.5 million was needed to restore, operate and preserve the 611. An additional $1.5 million would be needed for an endowment to keep her accessible for future generations.
To date, more than $3 million has been raised from fans across the U.S. and 19 additional countries. The museum continues to raise funds for the on-site preservation and education facility.
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