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Two transportation museums announce steam excursions

The Virginia Museum of Transportation (VMT) and the North Carolina Transportation Museum (NCTM) announce together that the Norfolk & Western Class J 611 steam passenger locomotive will return to the mainline in 2017 with a schedule of public excursions.

The sleek and powerful Class J steam passenger locomotives, designed and built in Roanoke, Va., by the Norfolk & Western Railway, widely were hailed as the finest steam passenger locomotives in the world.

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,” said Beverly T. Fitzpatrick Jr., VMT executive director. “611 is the star of the museum’s collection and a traveling ambassador for the remarkable rail heritage of Norfolk Southern.”

The 611 will move from Roanoke to the North Carolina Transportation Museum this month 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.

The first two trips will be hosted by the North Carolina Transportation Museum. On Saturday, April 8, 611 will run from Spencer to Lynchburg, Va., and return. On Sunday, April 9, it will travel from Spencer to Charlotte and return at noon and from Spencer to Greensboro and return in the evening.

Following the NCTM excursions, the remaining excursion weekends will be hosted by the Virginia Museum of Transportation.

On April 22 and 23, full-day trips will depart Greensboro to Roanoke, Va., and return to Greensboro.

611 will depart from Lynchburg, Va., to lead full-day excursions on May 6 and 7 to Petersburg, Va., and return.

On May 27, 28 and 29, 611 will pull a total of six half-day trips. Morning excursions will run from Roanoke to Lynchburg, Va., and back via the Blue Ridge grade. Afternoon trips will run from Roanoke to Walton and return via the Christiansburg grade. The morning and afternoon trips are separate excursions

2017 Public Excursion Schedule:

  • April 8 — The Virginian: Spencer to Lynchburg, Va.
  • April 9 — The Charlotte Special: Spencer to Charlotte
  • April 9 – The Piedmont Limited: Spencer to Greensboro
  • April 22 — The Roanoker: Greensboro to Roanoke, Va.
  • April 23 — The Roanoker: Greensboro to Roanoke, Va.
  • May 6 — The Powhatan Arrow: Lynchburg, Va., to Petersburg, Va.
  • May 7 — The Pocahontas: Lynchburg, Va., to Petersburg, Va.
  • May 27 — The Powhatan Arrow: Roanoke, Va., to Lynchburg, Va.
  • May 27 — The Pocahontas: Roanoke, Va., to Walton (Radford), Va.
  • May 28 — The Powhatan Arrow: Roanoke, Va., to Lynchburg, Va.
  • May 28 — The Pocahontas: Roanoke, Va., to Walton (Radford), Va.
  • May 29 — The Powhatan Arrow: Roanoke, Va., to Lynchburg, Va.
  • May 29 — The Pocahontas: Roanoke, Va., to Walton (Radford), Va.

Ticket sales to the general public will begin at noon Thursday. For excursion information and to sign up for email notifications, visit www.FireUp611.org.

“We are so grateful to Norfolk Southern Corporation for allowing the Class J 611 to run during 2017,” said Fitzpatrick. “We are also thankful to many partners including the North Carolina Transportation Museum, the Roanoke Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society, the Norfolk & Western Historical Society, and the many donors who are helping us bring back the wonder for 611’s passengers and fans of all ages.”

About the Virginia Museum of Transportation

The Virginia Museum of Transportation is home to the famed Norfolk & Western “Big Three” steam locomotives. The N&W Class J 611 and the N&W Class A 1218 are the stars of the museum’s collection while the N&W Class Y6a 2156 is on loan from the Museum of Transportation in St. Louis, Mo. The museum is the official transportation museum of the Commonwealth of Virginia, but receives no state funding. The museum is located in the historic N&W Freight Station at 303 Norfolk Avenue SW, Roanoke, Va., 24016. Open MondaySaturday, 10-5, and Sunday, 1-5. www.vmt.org and www.FireUp611.org.

About the North Carolina Transportation Museum 

The N.C. Transportation Museum, located in historic Spencer Shops, the former Southern Railway repair facility, is located just five minutes off I-85 at Exit 79 in Spencer, and about an hour from Charlotte, Greensboro or Winston-Salem. 411 S. Salisbury Ave, Spencer, N.C. 28159.  704-636-2889. www.nctrans.org.

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