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Home / News & Reviews / News Wire / NS steam operations to focus exclusively on No. 611 next season NEWSWIRE

NS steam operations to focus exclusively on No. 611 next season NEWSWIRE

By Chase Gunnoe | December 22, 2015

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No. 611 pulls a photographers’ special at the North Carolina Transportation Museum in May 2015.
Jim Wrinn
ROANOKE, Va. – Norfolk Southern says the railroad has “fulfilled the program’s goals, and we are scaling back now” in regards to its vastly popular 21st Century Steam Program. In an article published in The Roanoke Times on Dec. 21, Norfolk Southern said the company would not operate any 21st Century Steam trips for the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum or the Ft. Wayne Railroad Historical Society in 2016.

“For one thing, the 21st Century Steam program is over. Begun in 2011, the program was conceived with a five-year life span,” NS spokesperson Susan Terpay told the Roanoke Times.

“We have advised our third party, the Virginia Museum of Transportation, that we will work with them, if they meet financial and operational requirements, so that they can run 611 in Virginia and the Carolinas in 2016,” Terpay added.

Trains News Wire reached out to the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society and the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum to see how this affects their 2016 operations and schedule.

“I think we all understand its 611’s time to shine. We’ve been extremely fortunate to help usher in a successful 21st Century Steam program and mainline steam in general on NS,” said Kelly Lynch, the communications manager at Fort Wayne. “We’ve been developing relationships for several years and now it’s time to expand on those. We’ll also be working closer with NS as our Headwaters Junction project moves forward. NS has committed to assisting the FWRHS in getting the 765 anywhere it needs to go.”

TVRM President Tim Andrew says there will be greater opportunities to see steam-powered trains on the museum’s own railroad next year with both locomotives remaining on-site. Diesel locomotives had to supplement steam power on excursion trains during the 21st Century Steam program, but now both locomotives will be in Chattanooga, powering excursions without diesels, during the 2016 season.

No set schedule has been announced for No. 611 next season, but Virginia Museum of Transportation Executive Director Bev Fitzpatrick told the newspaper that his organization has had “ongoing discussions with Norfolk Southern” and they hope to announce something after the first of the year.

This story was updated Dec. 23 to reflect the comments of TVRM.

23 thoughts on “NS steam operations to focus exclusively on No. 611 next season NEWSWIRE

  1. I feel like this slope is getting slippery, as if NS is trying to soften the blow of the inevitable. Particularly concerning in light of the fact that we haven't actually heard a response to CP's latest offer. It's as if NS is trying to say to its investors "see, we can be cold and heartless too!"

  2. Mr. Schultz: WOW!! I don't think anyone could have said it any better or more clearly than you. I hope 611 gets to run beyond 2016; but who knows. I rode behind her in June and intend to do so again this next year as well as visit Mr. Schultzs' home state of Maryland and ride behind the 1309 when she is restored. He is correct; enjoy it while you can, donate and write to VMT and let them know how much you appreciate their efforts to operate the 611 and I'm sure it will filter over to the NS. For now, everyone have a very Merry Christmas and a Healthy and Peaceful New Year.

  3. It's a relief to hear that 611 will be running again in 2016. Is it a disappointment the program is being scaled back? Yes. Is it unexpected? No. Last year was unprecedented with three locomotives running thousands of miles of excursion service across basically the entire NS system in one summer. By dedicating the excursion fleet to 611, it prevents the fleet from getting stretched too thin. It also reduces the deadhead moves of just coaching stock across the entire NS system.
    Considering the dangers that lie ahead with Bill Ackman and Hunter Harrison knocking on the door, be happy there's steam running at all, because this could be the end, which would certainly be a shame.

  4. Not surprised and its a thanks to NS that I got to see 765 in NYS this last summer. Nothing lasts forever but nothing is necessarily set in stone to not happen either. Back in 94 when they killed the first program it was a pipe dream for steam to run on NS rail even with diesel power with it. Yet all these years later we have got years to see TVRM and 765 room.

    For a while 765 made due by running local and regional excursions and the last few years we got treated to seeing it on the big line going far. Frankly with their Headwaters proj they may prefer some time back closer to home to concentrate and regroup. NS is still allowing ferry moves also so its not a complete door slam.

    In regards to 611 given the investment NS made to the engine themselves and the amount of history behind it to the company I am not surprised they will allow some excursions. While the donation NS made is more of a drop in the bucket to them, it still carries weight to the region and employees. Also the engine is taken care of basically by the VMT, yet a free ambassador/marketing piece when it is allowed to roam on NS rails.If the foreseeable future means 611 runs excursions a few times a year down in VA/Carolina's and 765 can still find ways to move around up East I don't think anyone would or should complain in the least.

  5. Scaled back? Goals met? Heck NS you didn't even come to Huntsville, Alabama which used to a stronghold in your steam program with roundtrips to Chattanooga.

  6. I borrowed a local utility company bucket truck to get one shot of 611 on its last excursion in 1994. I told my wife of the time that I doubted 611 would ever run again. Miracles do happen. We should be thankful for what NS has provided for our enjoyment. Crabbing is not in order.

  7. Well, Reading, Pennsylvania hasn't even been TOUCHED by the 21st Century Steam Program. I don't think it'd kill NS & the VMT to bring N&W 611 up here to Reading for a few excursions to Allentown, Harrisburg, or, even Philadelphia.

  8. I have nothing but thanks for the NS for reviving the steam program, and I have nothing but faith in my friends involved with mainline steam that good things are ahead.

    If NS allows ferry moves as this article suggests, the network of steam-friendly regionals and tourist roads connected to NS provides plenty of places to run… if we (the railfan community) will continue to buy tickets and put our money where our shutters/record buttons are.

  9. It was so good last year and very pleasantly pleased with what we got in the past five years. Heads above the other railroads in providing pride for the men and women working for NS and its history and legacy. Great for NS's positive exposure to the public and absolutely wonderful for those who really care about steam, railroads and railroading in general. We have been very fortunate. Thank you Mr. Moorman for forging ahead with your 21st Century Steam Program

  10. I will never complain about a steam program. I do wish they would have come to Louisville at least once in the 5 years which they ran the program though 🙁

  11. From what I have read, the possible merger with CP will put people in charge that don't want steam running on their tracks. Enjoy it while you can.

  12. I suspect that one reason behind this is is that with the ongoing battle with Hunter Harrison and his threat of a hostile takeover the NS is trying not to give the appearance to its stock holders of being extravagant

  13. Once Hunter gets his hands on NS, the 611 will go back to retirement in Roanoke. Hunter has no heart or sole, only a wallet.

  14. We all saw this coming after five faithful years, folks… Nobody should be acting as if this is a "complete shocker" or an "unexpected surprise". It was only a matter of time before Norfolk Southern would pull the plug on how extensive these trips were, and how many locomotives were allowed to be involved. It is super silly to assume that this was all just because Wick Moorman is not at the helm anymore. Hopefully most of us picked up on the clue given by the VMT when they said in May 2014 that if they do not send N&W 611 to Spencer NOW, then NS in turn told them it might cripple her chances of participating in the 21st Century Steam Program in the future. Running steam on ANY mainline railroad, and even on designated tourist railroads, is a super expensive proposition. Yes, the public relations value cannot be measured in dollars and cents, but all the other factors still have to be taken into consideration when allowing these types of things. This is especially true with the ever remaining uncertainty in the overall environment of today's railroad industry. Us die hard railfans should in NO way begin treating James Squires as if he is the next David Goode. He is an honorable man who hopefully builds on the wonderful progress made by Moorman and continues to refuse the laughable offers of our faithful Canadian "takeover tyrant" Hunter Harrison. If there ever ends up being a hostile takeover of NS by CP, then you really will be guaranteed a permanent ban on ANY steam, dead or alive, on every single electron of steel rail owned by the newly married company. However… please… do not be discouraged. Keep going out and living your life to the fullest by the Grace of God, and keep soaking up the sights, smells, and sounds of Norfolk Southern's operations while you still can. Keep taking advantage of ALL the opportunities you can to ride and follow mainline steam excursions as well, because it could all come to abrupt end at ANY time. Railroading today is not done with the same methods and practices of a 1982-1994 "excursion friendly" environment anymore, folks… This is almost 2016… Not the 1950s… not the 1980s… WAKE UP… Times are different now… and if you think for a second that William Graham Claytor, Jr. and Robert Buckner Claytor or others like them are somehow going to magically reappear from the dead to kiss your boo-boos and make everything the same as it was, then you are dangerously living in a fantasy world. Let's be realistic, here folks… We still have wonderful people on this earth like Scott Lindsay, Preston Claytor, Cheri George, Bob Saxtan, Bev Fitzpatrick, Jim Stump, and a host of others across this nation who STILL give a rat's behind PLUS much more about America's rail heritage, and the world's preserved steam locomotives. Let's learn to be more grateful in the small things, and not just when everything in this life is peaches and cream. Life is too short…. Enjoy the good parts of railroading while you can.

  15. And NS is running trips with 611, so the facility is even more important for 611, 1218 and 2156. What happens to 765 and 630 (which didn't run in 2015 anyway) has nothing to do with 611's excursion seasons.

  16. Jim Norton – they didn't even run steam to Meridian, Mississippi as "rumored". Sure hope CP doesn't take over NS – they would Ruin the railroad.

  17. And just yesterday I received a request in the mail from the Fire Up 611 people – to donate money to build a 3-stall facility to house 611, 1218, and 2156 in Roanoke, VA. And now NS announces that they won't run trips for NKP765 or SOU630 in 2016?
    I'll just keep my money – thanks.

  18. Philip, your comment makes absolutely no sense. What does the NS not running steam trips in 2016 have to do with VMT trying to put the 611, 2156, and 1218 undercover out of the elements??? That is like punishing the neighbor kid for something your kid did.

  19. The heck with the 611 going west to Indiana.This ain t going to happen.Why did WICK have to leave to begin with???????

  20. What I don't understand is why NS would invest all that money in the program when they knew it wouldn't last forever and Wick would eventually retire? They did kick VMT in the butt to restore 611 so it could run this year, and they are allowing it to run again in the future. I guess more than one steam locomotive is too much for them now. But it was nice to have a locomotive from three NS predecessor railroads, Nickel Plate Road, Southern, and Norfolk and Western. This is going to kill any future trips in eastern PA on NS since 765 can no longer pull passengers on NS, just on other railroads. They never had steam trips on the Harrisburg-Reading-Philly or Reading-Allentown lines yet. They could return to PA and run trips on the Reading and Northern, and Delaware-Lackawanna (Steamtown) again without touching NS. On the R&N they would have to start in Jim Thorpe and run to Haucks or Pittston and return. Hopefully NS will let 611 run trips outside of Virginia, too.

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