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Home / News & Reviews / News Wire / 611 owners say the locomotive is ready to ramble NEWSWIRE

611 owners say the locomotive is ready to ramble NEWSWIRE

By | June 20, 2017

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Norfolk & Western 4-8-4 No. 611 is seen at the North Carolina Transportation Museum prior to its departure for Roanoke in May 2015. Officials with the Virginia Museum of Transportation say they’d like to work with Amtrak to take the locomotive on excursions on passenger routes in the East.
David J. Stewart
ROANOKE, Va. — Three years of excursion service has proved that Norfolk & Western No. 611 is up to the task of heavy duty excursion service. Now its owner, the Virginia Museum of Transportation in Roanoke, wants to run the iconic 4-8-4 in new territory: Amtrak routes within the Norfolk Southern system as early as the 2018 season.

Fans, friends, and families may see a wider schedule by 2018 depending on how well the museum, Amtrak and Norfolk Southern work out the details.

“We know if you go to the same place too many times, you’re going to saturate the market. We saw some indication of that this year,” says Bev Fitzpatrick, museum director.

No. 611 capped its 2017 season with three days of trips from Roanoke to Lynchburg and Walton, Va., over Memorial Day weekend, the same trips 611 made since it rolled out of the shop fully restored in 2015.

“We’re looking to go further and wider,” Fitzpatrick says. “Places that are more distant from the Roanoke or Charlotte (N.C.) area, where we’d be able to find great ridership. Norfolk Southern suggested that we ask Amtrak.

We don’t know what the cost will be. We don’t have any idea about the details yet,” he says, “but that’s the way we’re heading, and we feel good about it. We’ve talked to Wick Moorman and a couple of folks in operations to see where might be able to go under their umbrella.”

Moorman is Amtrak CEO, and past CEO and chairman of Norfolk Southern.

“We would have never had 611 without Wick,” Fitzpatrick says. “He loves the locomotive. He understands the value of it, and we’re hopeful that he will find a way to help us.”

Among the details, the three parties would have to find locations where they can turn the train, Fitzpatrick says. One Amtrak route that will definitely not host 611 is the Northeast Corridor. The locomotive’s cylinders are set too wide to clear the corridor’s high station platforms.

17 thoughts on “611 owners say the locomotive is ready to ramble NEWSWIRE

  1. This desire of the folks in charge of 611 to run her all over the NS system could be expanded to all over the U.S., if they were to join up with Ross Rowlands desire to run another “Freedom Train”. 611 could be the primary power with 844, 4449, 3751 and maybe even 2926 as assisting power in their general districts. This would expose a large audience of people to the 611 all over America. That sure couldn’t hurt with maintenance, repair and upkeep money drives for the 611. A lot more people who have never seen 611 (and may never get another chance) might be inclined to loosen their purse strings somewhat more than normal. After all every dollar (or penny for that matter) counts.

  2. How about here in steam starved New England. For example up the Conn. Valley line, most recently opened to Amtrak. Maybe Springfield to White River Junction? Boy, am I dreaming.

  3. Also Harrisburg to Scranton, Reading, and Allentown. There should be ways to avoid high level platforms at Harrisburg if some of the tracks even have them.

  4. consider this: every ticket should have an amortized amount added to it, to cover the eventual cost to maintain and the inevitable rebuilding. This amount could then be placed in some endowment to insure the future life of this functioning artifact. It is the future for which we can provide, by our actions in the present.

  5. I could have told them the 611 was up to excursion service. I rode behind either her or the 1218 at least 10 times during the eighties and early nineties on the Suwanee Steam Special. There was not one single delay on those trips due to a locomotive malfunction. Both engines performed flawlessly, every time.

  6. Andrew, this is already being done. VMT dedicates $16.11 of every ticket sold to a restricted fund for the next renovation of 611. They figure 611 is good to go for about 15 years.

  7. All railroads over which Amtrak operates are theoretically “Amtrak railroads”, whether or not there is actual service over a particular line. Therefore virtually all class I lines are available for these excursions. The only major considerations are servicing, turning, and boarding facilities.

  8. Well there is all kinds of places they can run, the Pittsburg line, on the old DH, and even up in New York on the Erie.

  9. Walter E. Rittle, you’re absolutely right in regards to the trips that could run out of Harrisburg. During the layover in Reading, it’d be a great public relations and publicity opportunity to pose 611 in front of the local DoubleTree hotel where I work. If they offer $250 cab ride tickets, I’ll buy one! Another trip that COULD work would be a doubleheader trip with RBMN 425 from Muhlenberg to Jim Thorpe and return over the Reading and Northern, but I’m not sure if Hometown Trestle could support 611’s weight. Also, it’d be nice to see 611 on a trip from Scranton to Binghamton and return. Now that CP surrendered that trackage to NS, it’s a possibility.

  10. How about spending a few weeks on the Western Maryland Scenic Railways tracks while we’re waiting for steam to return?

  11. The railman community should wish them well in this bold strategic effort. That includes putting cash into the fare box, aka: buying excursion tickets instead of solely standing trackside with a gaggle of cameras.

  12. Why are these fools talking about leaving the 611 in NC & Va????Get it the heck out of those 2 states & headed west!The owners of the 765 have no problems getting into states east & west of Indiana.NS has a big network in Ohio & Indiana.Or here is a novel idea Fitzpatrick.Double head it with the 765 in Indiana on the Wabash main line to Decatur

  13. They need to get it down here to Atlanta as well! NS has lots of facilities here, and Amtrak still runs the Cresent through here. I saw her run the loops for what may be the last time, and would ride her out of Atlanta to say Toccoa and back like Southern used to do.

  14. I would love for 611 to run up to PA and run on a rare mileage freight only route like Harrisburg to Reading, Bethlehem to Harrisburg, Harrisburg to Scranton, Harrisburg to Renovo. I rode behind 611 from Manassas last year, and behind 765 from Bethlehem to Pittston and Lewistown to Altoona. I hope NS continues being steam friendly as well as Amtrak. Wick is a steam fan but he is set to retire soon as his replacement takes over at Amtrak. Some CEO’s have little interest for steam excursions, look at David Goode and Hunter Harrison for examples. They think they get in the way of freight trains and cost the railroad money to run. Look at CSX for another example, and Harrison is CEO now, replaced Michael Ward. You won’t see steam on CSX again for a very long time. The last public steam excursion on CSX was in October 1994 in WV with 261 which subbed for 765.

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