News & Reviews News Wire N&W No. 611 debuts for the Virginia Scenic Railway’s ‘Shenandoah Valley Limited’

N&W No. 611 debuts for the Virginia Scenic Railway’s ‘Shenandoah Valley Limited’

By Lucas Iverson | October 10, 2023

Mainline Mountain railroading to headline the J-class 4-8-4’s fall excursions on the Buckingham Branch Railroad

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Streamlined steam locomotive running through the fall foliage.
Norfolk & Western No. 611 traverses the fall foliage along the Buckingham Branch Railroad in October 2023. David Cooper photo

GOSHEN, Va. — The first weekend of the Shenandoah Valley Limited with Norfolk & Western steam locomotive No. 611 is now in the books. In its first fall excursion through the home state of Virginia since 1994, the J-class 4-8-4 led six half-day trips unassisted out of Goshen along the Buckingham Branch Railroad with diesels added to the other end of the train for the return trip at Staunton, Va. The Shenandoah Valley Limited is a partnership between Roanoke’s Virginia Museum of Transportation and the Virginia Scenic Railway – owner of the locomotive and excursion operator for the railroad, respectively.

“No. 611 performed well during the first weekend of public excursions,” said Zac McGinnis, social media coordinator and member of the engine crew for the locomotive. “On Saturday’s afternoon trip, the locomotive and engine crew fought leaves on the rails and slipped down to walking speed but conquered the ruling grade at North Mountain without stalling.”

Even with its status as a short line, the Buckingham Branch is touted as mainline mountain railroading, according to McGinnis. Signals, slow orders, and grade profiles on the railroad are the norm for the No. 611 to tackle while maintaining average speeds of 25-30 mph due to curvatures and keeping to the excursion’s time duration (The locomotive is designated for 40 mph on the short line). From the videos and photos presented so far, the 4-8-4 looks to be right at home. Though the section of the former Chesapeake & Ohio Railway is no stranger to mainline steam excursions.

“Some of our crew have operated steam over this line with the Chessie Steam Special [Reading T-1 4-8-4 No. 2101) and Chessie Safety Express [Chesapeake & Ohio 4-8-4 No. 614] so they’re familiar with the route,” said McGinnis.

With four more consecutive weekends of service left, No. 611, the Virginia Museum of Transportation, the Virginia Scenic Railway, and the Buckingham Branch are also settling into the weekday turnarounds at the hamlet of Goshen. “The crew will do routine inspections and servicing of the locomotive and tenders,” McGinnis explained. “Coal will be delivered, and the train will be serviced and restocked.”

No. 611 will continue to operate the Shenandoah Valley Limited on Oct. 13-15, 20-22, 27-29, and Nov. 3-5. Departure times each day out of Goshen are scheduled for 9 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.

Watch N&W No. 611 steam into action on Trains.com Video!

4 thoughts on “N&W No. 611 debuts for the Virginia Scenic Railway’s ‘Shenandoah Valley Limited’

  1. 40mph track is class 4 , but if mistaken is nevertheless getting much maintenance and the slow orders are those required after work is performed.

  2. It would seem that Va DOT and BBrRR would make some efforts to slowly remove some speed restrictions. Probably both track work and the expensive need to ease some curves. That will help the Cardinal for time keeping.

    1. Bringing the track up to FRA Class 3 would be a start.

      The permanent speed restrictions (curves, bridges etc.) handled C&O’s fleet of through line trains for decades so if C&O didn’t think a better alignment was necessary, why should Virginia or Amtrak?

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