The Virginia Museum of Transportation today announced a feasibility study to look into whether it will be possible to get its world-famous 611 steam locomotive working again. What do you think of the idea? Sound off in the comments.
Rail fans have long hoped to see the Virginia Museum of Transportation’s historic Norfolk & Western Class J-611 steam engine roll down the tracks again under its own power.
Today, the museum announced that it’s organizing a study to find out what it will take to get the 611 fully operational.
Called “Fire Up 611!,” the study isn’t a guarantee the engine will actually be fired up. The committee will look not just at what repairs and upgrades the 611 might need, but what sort of financial strain a restoration would put on the museum’s day-to-day operations.
If bringing the beloved streamlined 611, which was built in the Norfolk and Western Railway’s Roanoke shops, back to life turns out to be feasible, the transportation museum will have to put out a call to the international rail community to raise the funds, Museum Executive Director Bev Fitzpatrick said. The engine is considered the most modern steam locomotive in existence.
A volunteer team of steam engine enthusiasts has stepped forward to conduct the study. They include Atlanta, Ga. software consultant Cheri George, Birmingham, Ala., historic rail equipment restorer Scott Lindsay and Roanoke rail safety consultant Preston Claytor, all of whom volunteered on the 611’s crew during the interval when Norfolk Southern used it for passenger excursions, 1981 to 1994.
The museum is launching a fund raising campaign today to pay for the study’s expenses, said museum public relations director Peg McGuire. Should the task of getting the 611 operational prove to be out of the museum’s reach, the funds will go into an endowment to pay for the locomotive’s upkeep as an exhibit.