N&W J 611 Restoration Project Update

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Staff member
Restoration of 
Norfolk & Western Railway Class J 611
Study Findings & Report
Fire-Up 611 Committee
— Virginia Museum of Transportation
June 2013

The Fire Up 611 committee was formed at the direction of the Board of Directors of the Virginia Museum of Transportation (VMT) in February 2013. The objective of the Committee was to examine the feasibility of restoring Norfolk & Western Class J 611 to operational condition. Appointed to the Committee were:
Preston Claytor: Chairman of the Fire Up 611 Committee and Safety consultant.
Mr. Claytor was on the 611 locomotive crew during its last excursion runs. Boynton Beach, Florida.

Cheri George: Owner of a software consulting company. Ms. George was a volunteer fireman for the 611 and was part of the crew during its last excursion runs. Atlanta, Georgia.
Ron Davis: President of the Norfolk & Western Historical Society. Roanoke, Virginia.

Beverly T. Fitzpatrick, Jr.: Executive Director, Virginia Museum of Transportation. Roanoke, Virginia.
Will Harris: A board member of the Virginia Museum of Transportation and president of North Fork Lumber Company. Goshen, Virginia.
Bill Honeycutt: Consultant, President of the Historical Society of Western Virginia, representing the O Winston Link Museum. Roanoke, Virginia.
Ken Lanford: President, Board of Directors of the Virginia Museum of Transportation. Roanoke, Virginia.
Scott Lindsay: President, Steam Operations Corporation. Steam Operations Corporation specializes in the restoration of historic rail equipment. Mr. Lindsay was also on the 611 locomotive crew during its last excursion runs. Birmingham, Alabama.
Jeff Sanders: President of the Roanoke Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society. Roanoke, Virginia.
Jim Stump: An executive search consultant, a Roanoke native and railroad enthusiast. Charlotte, North Carolina.
Jim Wrinn: Editor of Kalmbach Publishing’s TRAINS Magazine, Waukesha, Wisconsin. Vice President of the North Carolina Transportation Museum Foundation, Spencer, North Carolina.

The Mission

The specific mission assigned by the VMT Board was to examine the mechanical condition of the locomotive, and estimate the cost required to restore the locomotive to exceed current Federal Railroad Administration regulations. Additionally, the committee was asked to develop a plan for operation outside of the museum while minimizing the time that the locomotive is unavailable for public display at the VMT. A business plan also needed to be prepared, including costs for operation and long-term maintenance of the locomotive.
Early Committee meetings focused on the Board’s desire to keep the museum’s highest drawing exhibit at the museum. Additionally, the Committee recognized that 611 would require a shop facility for rebuilding and maintenance. It was determined that a shop facility on museum grounds would serve the mechanical needs of the 611, while allowing visitors to see 611 on display and under maintenance.

As part of business planning, potential ridership needed to be evaluated. An online survey was created to gather important patron data.

With these tasks at hand, the Fire Up 611! Committee determined that the project would be divided into specific task forces of Mechanical, Shop, Operations and Museum Impact. Specific groups studied issues, prepared plans and identified revenues and/or costs associated with the plan.
611 Mechanical Restoration

Lead by Scott Lindsay, the group identified the mechanical requirements to restore the engine to operation. A physical inspection of the locomotive revealed that the work done in 1995 to prepare the locomotive for long-term storage had paid off. The Norfolk Southern Steam Department employees were experienced in restoring locomotives that had been stored as museum exhibits for extended periods of time. They removed items subject to deterioration, removed rust causing debris and applied rust inhibitors to moving parts subject to freeze-up or rusting.

With this good news, a plan was developed to restore the 611 under current Federal Railroad Administration regulations.

Restoration requirements include:

• Repair of engine truck
• “Form 4” preparation, and accompanying boiler work
• Preparation and stocking of tool car and auxiliary tender
• Removal of jacket and lagging
• Removal/inspection of flexible staybolt caps & staybolts
• Appliance repair
• Tender inspection & repair
• Running gear inspection & repair
• Airbrake inspection and repair
• Application of new safety appliances (event recorders/cab signals etc.)
• Installation of new tubes and flues
• Superheater testing/repair
• Reassembly, hydro, fire testing and test runs
• Painting

Estimated time for completion of work is nine months. The rebuild will be headed by Scott Lindsay, assisted by skilled paid staff and volunteers.

Mechanical Facility

Building on VMT’s requirement to maximize 611’s exhibit time at the museum, the Committee decided that an on-site maintenance facility was required, and a facility with suitable infrastructure to host the restoration located. These goals are divided into two phases.

Phase 1

The Committee was unable to locate a suitable facility in the Roanoke area to host the restoration. The search turned outside of Roanoke and the North Carolina Transportation Museum (NCTM) at Spencer, North Carolina was selected. The NCTM has many advantages, including a close proximity to Roanoke, 20-stall roundhouse and several restoration bays. NCTM also provides the ability for visitors to view the restoration in progress.

Phase 2

With a rebuild location identified, the committee turned its attention to an on-site mechanical shop at VMT. Crouch Engineering of Brentwood, Tennessee assisted with facility design and property placement.
It was decided that a 2 track shop of sufficient length to house 611 to be located on the far west end of the museum property. The shop would feature a 120-foot inspection pit on one of the two tracks, an overhead crane, and offices. Additionally, it includes a long corridor with inward facing windows on one wall, allowing museum visitors to view the locomotive. In keeping with the history of the Norfolk and Western (N&W), the building will resemble a “Lubretorium.”
Lubretoriums were buildings designed and constructed by the N&W in the 1940s to service their modern coal burning steam locomotives

Excursion Operations

Committee members met with Norfolk Southern representatives to discuss the Fire Up 611 business plan, and inquire about operational opportunities. 611 was invited to participate in the 21st Century Steam Program, both for public and employee excursions.
The Committee began evaluating interest and potential demand for 611 operations. An online survey was posted gathering facts regarding desired ride lengths, train amenities, ticket prices, and destinations.
Committee members Cheri George, Scott Lindsay or Preston Claytor rode 21st Century public excursions, delivering a brief presentation of the Fire Up 611 project. Support for an operating 611 was immense, substantiated by the online survey.


The Fire Up 611 Committee recommends that a capital campaign be undertaken to finance the restoration of the N&W 611. The project plan incorporates the construction of an on-site shop facility, working capital to make the locomotive a successful mobile ambassador for the museum, the city of Roanoke and the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The Committee wishes to thank the VMT Board of Directors, staff, volunteers, and interns for allowing us to work with them on this exciting opportunity, and we look forward to the successful launch of 611’s return to steam.

Respectfully submitted for the committee

J Preston Claytor
June 28, 2013


Forum Host
Staff member
Roanoke Times:

Four months.

Three and a half million dollars.

One Norfolk & Western J-Class 611 thundering down the rails again.

The Virginia Museum of Transportation is holding a news conference at 11 a.m. today to announce it intends to make a dream come true for the rail fans who come to Roanoke from around the world to see the 611 steam engine.

The museum is launching its “Fire Up 611!” fundraising campaign with a goal of having the venerable Roanoke-built engine, considered by many to represent the apex of steam technology, operational in 2014 so it can be used for Norfolk Southern’s 21st Century Steam passenger excursion program.

To have the engine ready in time, the museum needs to raise $3.5 million by October, said marketing director Peg McGuire. That goal includes $1 million for the restoration of the engine, $2 million to construct a mechanical shop on the museum’s property where the 611 can be sheltered and worked on, and the remainder for business and marketing expenses. The campaign starts with about $150,000 already in hand, she said.

Full Story Here:


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Staff member
WBDJ 7 Roanoke TV:

Leaders at the Virginia Museum of Transportation launched a major fundraising campaign earlier Friday.

The museum says it must raise at least $3.5 million, but it would like to raise $5 million to make sure it can run for the next 15 years.
Virginia Transportation Museum executive director Bev Fitzpatrick said its time to stop dreaming and start doing.

“This locomotive is the finest locomotive of its kind in the entire world, the most powerful of its class,” Fitzpatrick said. “And 611 fans from all over the world come specifically to the Virginia Museum of Transportation to see 611 and 1218. She's the queen of steam and nobody across the United States can ever put anything back on the tracks as good as 611.”

Full Story, with video:

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