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VMT announces steam locomotive excursions

The Virginia Museum of Transportation (VMT) and the North Carolina Transportation Museum (NCTM) are have announced in partnership that the Norfolk & Western Class J 611 steam passenger locomotive will return to the mainline in 2016 with public excursions and special appearances.

Today, the 611 is the only Class J still in existence and is owned by the VMT. It was restored at the NCTM in 2014-2015 through a worldwide fundraising effort by the VMT.

“A ride behind the 611 is a bucket list dream come true for everyone who remembers the golden age of steam, or who has been lucky enough to learn her story,” VMT Executive Director Beverly T. Fitzpatrick Jr. said.

The 611 will move from Roanoke to the North Carolina Transportation Museum in February in preparation for maintenance and its annual Federal Railway Administration inspection. Following that work, spring will see a total of four weekends of public excursions behind 611 on the Norfolk Southern system.

A variety of seating options, including coach, first class, and dome cars is planned for each excursion. In addition, special appearances by 611 are planned for Roanoke, Manassas and Danville, and Spencer, N.C. 

Following the NCTM excursions, the remaining three excursion weekends will be hosted by the Virginia Museum of Transportation.
On April 23-24, full-day trips will depart Greensboro, N.C., to Roanoke, and return to Greensboro. 611 will return to Roanoke to lead half-day excursions on May 7-8. Morning excursions will run from Roanoke to Lynchburg and back via the Blue Ridge grade. Afternoon trips will run from Roanoke to Walton and return via the Christiansburg grade.

On June 4-5, 611 will pull a total of three trips from Manassas to Front Royaland return, one roundtrip on the morning of Saturday, June 4, and two roundtrips on Sunday, June 5, as part of the 22nd Annual Manassas Heritage Railway Festival.

The 2016 public excursion schedule includes: April 23 — The Roanoker, Greensboro, N.C. to Roanoke; April 24 — The Roanoker, Greensboro, N.C. to Roanoke; May 7 — The Powhatan Arrow, Roanoke to Lynchburg; May 7 — The Pelican, Roanoke to Walton (Radford); May 8 — The Powhatan Arrow, Roanoke to Lynchburg; May 8 — The Pelican, Roanoke to Walton (Radford);  June 4 — The American, Manassas to Front Royal (runs once); and June 5 — The American, Manassasto Front Royal (runs twice).

For excursion information and to sign up for email notifications, visit www.FireUp611.org. 

The Roanoke Transportation Museum, originally formed as a partnership of the Norfolk & Western Railway and the City of Roanoke, first opened its doors in 1963 in Wasena Park along the Roanoke River.

Although all modes of transportation were represented, the Museum focused on telling the story of Roanoke’s rich rail heritage.