[N&W] 611 History

nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Tue May 4 22:55:26 EDT 2004

Dan asked:
 >I am just starting to become aquatinted with the N at W. Could somebody explain
 >the story behind the 611? Why is it out of service and being stored as a
 >static display only? Are there any major mechanical problems?
No real mechanical problems other than the flue time has expired. The
Norfolk Southern deemed it not financially worthy to renew them. The
same with the 1218. Their steam excursion program is dead now.

David Luttrell - NWHS

I'm sure someone else could elaborate MUCH further...

Norfolk Southern cancelled the Steam program with little notice because
it "interfered with operations", and it's natural tendency to bring
thousands of fans to the trackside worked against NS' philosophy of
keeping folks away from the trains.  It also required a rather extensive
staffing level, and I suppose NS felt that it could make money better
without it.

I never got to see either engine in action, because "they were too far
away" and "they'll be there next year".  They weren't.  And because of
missing the opportunity, I now make a couple of pilgrimages a year into
N&W territory just to look around and photograph things that might not
be there next time....  the old signals are a good example of this.



The short answer is that NS simply has no interest in operating steam
excursions.  It's a freight company, and steam excursions are a great
to say the least.  One NS conductor told me, "Getting rid of them was the best
thing the railroad ever did."  His opinion seemed universal among
employees.  A
road foreman of engines from Mississippi said, "The 611 is where it belongs
- in
a museum!"

Passenger service of any kind arouses their ire as well.  A trainmaster from
Norfolk said, with some passion, that Amtrak trains, "financed by your dollars
and mine" (particularly galling), get in the way of their high-priority
freights, which really pisses off the railroad.  If Amtrak closed tomorrow, I
would expect to see spontanteous celebrations to break out among both
and rank-and-file across all freight railroads handling passenger trains.

Railroaders' opinions of railfans (referred to as "buffs") often range from
"harmless dorks who need to get a life" to thieves who ignore safety by
trespassing and and stealing railroad property.  (Most of us might take
to such descriptions, but anyone reading this can easily think of buffs who
these profiles.  Unfortunately, they are the ones who make impressions -
negative ones.)  While buffs like steam trains, few in NS felt they were
relevant to their freight business or shippers, who were only interested in
fast, safe and reliable delivery of their goods.  So why run steam trains to
satisfy buffs, who weren't wanted around the railroad anyway?
Some of us thought the steam excursions were a great PR tool; however, their
value as such was greatly overestimated by buffs, who were taken by surprise
when the program ended.

The reality at today's railroads is far different from what we may wish it to
be.  When you take a good look at the reality, it's a wonder NS didn't cancel
the steam program sooner.


The engine was in fine shape. Think looming liability lawyers, an
increasingly busy railroad and a new breed of management that probably
wasn't on the railroad during the glory days of steam and passenger service.
An understandable business decision in the shareholder-driven environment of
the '90s, but not a heckuva lotta fun for railfans...
Andre Jackson and/or Lisa Burrows


Unlike 1218 which is owned by Norfolk Southern, the 611 is owned by the
Virginia Museum of Transportation in Roanoke.  NS leased the locomotive for
the steam excursion program. At the time that NS announced they were dropping
the excursion program, the flue time on 611 was just about up.  I believe it
expired in December of that year.  NS obviously wasn't going to spend the
money and the museum didn't have the resources or a reason to re-flue 611.
As a result, it was returned to Roanoke and put back on display.

Jim Gillum

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