Today. I am getting to ride tne of he most beautiful steam locomotives ever produced, the Norfolk and Western J-Class 4-8-4 #611 in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. We will depart from Goshen, Virginia with 611 on the lead and travel over to Staunton, averaging about 35 mph.
The Norfolk and Western 611 (N&W 611) is a steam locomotive built in 1950 by the Norfolk and Western Railroad in Roanoke, Virginia. It’s also known as the “Spirit of Roanoke” and the “Queen of Steam”.
It was designed to pull 15-car passenger trains from Norfolk, Virginia to Cincinnati, Ohio. The J-class series were known for hauling heavy trains at high speeds with reliability. The N&W 611 can pull cars at a top speed of 110 mph across flat terrain.
It was a part of the last American steam passenger accident westbound Pocohontas near Cedar WV. On January 23, 1956, the locomotive derailed near Cedar, West Virginia, while operating the westbound crack N&W passenger train Pocahontas between Roanoke, Virginia and Cincinnati, Ohio. Tragically, the engineer lost his life, and 60 others, including passengers and crew, sustained injuries. Following significant repairs, the locomotive was back in service by the subsequent month.
The N&W 611 was donated to the VMT in 1962 as the sole survivor of the class J locomotives. It has been restored twice: once as part of the Norfolk Southern Railway’s steam program in 1982, and again as part of the VMT’s Fire up.
After it was retired again in 1994, the locomotive was put on display at the Virginia Museum of Transportation (VMT) in Roanoke. In 2015, the N&W 611 was restored again and has been pulling excursions since. It is an American treasure.
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Bill Murray is the President of The Weather Factory. He is the site’s official weather historian and a weekend forecaster. He also anchors the site’s severe weather coverage. Bill Murray is the proud holder of National Weather Association Digital Seal #0001 @wxhistorian
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