Norfolk & Western 611 will be the “Spirit of Roanoke”

N&W 611 receives new designation: “Spirit of Roanoke”

Norfolk & Western 611 departing Ashville, NC 1994

The only Norfolk & Western J-class 4-8-4 in existence today has a new designation: “The Spirit of Roanoke.” The Norfolk & Western 611 steam locomotive is currently on displayed at the Virginia Museum of Transportation in Roanoke.

Virgina Museum of Transportation executive director Bev Fitzpatrick told Roanoke’s News7  television that the 611 is worthy of a new name. “We’re now talking about it as the one thing that embodies the rail history of Roanoke better than anything else.”  She then added “When you think about the fact it was not only built here, but plied these rails up and down from Cincinnati and Columbus to Norfolk and back hardly ever stopping for maintenance because they had just engineered it so well, it’s an icon.”

In regular service on the Norfolk and Western Railway for nine years, the Norfolk and Western 611 pulled thousands of passengers, at times hitting speeds of 110 miles per hour.  The 611 later returned to the rails in the early 1980s after a major overhaul, and pulled thousands more on steam excursions.

The museum has plans to move the 611 in the next six months. Its new home will be the third track under the museum pavilion, a location that will offer a better view of the locomotive.


No. 611 was built at N&W’s Roanoke Shops in 1950. Fifty-two years ago, on Oct. 24, 1959, it made its last regular service run, pulling a round trip excursion from Roanoke to Williamson, W.Va. It returned to service in 1982 as part of Norfolk Southern’s steam program, and was retired a second time in 1994.

The Norfolk and Western 611

The Norfolk and Western 611, Famous Class J Steam Locomotive.

Publish Date: 08/08/2010 13:03

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4 Responses to Norfolk & Western 611 will be the “Spirit of Roanoke”

  1. Robert says:

    Wish it would run again. It’s a shame it’s simply stuffed and mounted at the museum. NS is restarting a steam program, so the door would be open for 611 to run on NS again. But, the problem is, who would repair it so that it could run with FRA certification? Wick Moorman at NS stated it would only run again if VMT started a steam restoration program like TVRM’s.

  2. SteamTrainFan says:

    I visited the museum in 2010 and a volunteer who was a recent retired N&W Operations and Maintenance employee noted that the 611 could possibly return to the rails by 2013. Per the volunteer, the last overhaul in the early ’80’s was designated to last for 30 years of operation, so he stated that the boiler and all the other components should not require a lot of extensive repairs. I hope it does return in the near future – I took a day-long excursion on the 611 back in the 1985 timeframe and truly enjoyed the trip.

    • avandiver says:

      I actually climbed into the cab of the 611 as a child. I’ll never forget that. If she is returned to running condition, I would travel wherever she is to ride again.

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