The iconic steam passenger locomotive will be restored at the Bob Julian Roundhouse
at the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer, North Carolina.
After the restoration, the Class J 611 will return to its home at the
Virginia Museum of Transportation in Roanoke, Virginia.
The Bob Julian Roundhouse is one of the few facilities equipped to house a steam
locomotive the size of the Class J 611.
March 24, 2014 — ROANOKE, VA — The Virginia Museum of Transportation’s Board of Directors and the Fire Up 611! Committee announce an agreement with the North Carolina Transportation Museum & Foundation (NCTMF) in Spencer, North Carolina, to house the iconic Norfolk & Western Class J 611 Steam Passenger Locomotive during her restoration. After the restoration is complete, the Class J 611 will steam back to its home at the Virginia Museum of Transportation in Roanoke, Virginia.
No date has been set for the Class J 611 to move to the North Carolina Transportation Museum (NCTM). Before the Class J 611 can move, the Virginia Museum of Transportation (VMT) must raise adequate funding to restore the locomotive and ultimately build a preservation and education facility to house her. To date, the VMT has raised almost $2.3 million. Donations have poured in from every state, the District of Columbia and 18 countries.
“Like us, the North Carolina Transportation Museum strives to preserve and showcase our rail heritage,” said Beverly T. Fitzpatrick, Jr., executive director of the Virginia Museum of Transportation. “We can’t think of a better venue to host the Class J 611 during her much anticipated restoration.”
One of the largest buildings on the North Carolina Transportation Museum campus is the 37-stall Bob Julian Roundhouse. The Roundhouse was built in 1924 and is one of the biggest surviving steam era roundhouses left in North America. Its 100-foot turntable and restoration shop are capable of handling a locomotive the size of Class J 611. The museum, located on 57 acres, encompasses 13 historic shop buildings that were part of Southern Railway’s largest steam locomotive shop, which dates to 1896.
“The North Carolina Transportation Museum is honored at the opportunity to partner with the Virginia Museum of Transportation and the Fire Up 611 Committee to provide a location for the restoration of this iconic locomotive,” said Steve Mersch, NCTMF president. “Speaking on behalf of the museum and foundation employees, volunteers and the local community we are all very excited that once again Historic Spencer Shops will house the repair of a mainline steam locomotive just as it did in decades past.”
Once the funds are raised, the Class J 611 – a 4-8-4 locomotive – will be moved dead-in-tow to the North Carolina Transportation Museum. The locomotive will then undergo its 1,472-day inspection and receive repairs. The process is expected to take six to nine months. After repairs are made, the Class J 611 will steam back to her home at the Virginia Museum of Transportation in Roanoke.
About the Class J 611 Steam Passenger Locomotive
The Norfolk & Western Class J Locomotives were a marriage of beauty and power. Designed, constructed and maintained in Roanoke, Virginia, the Class Js were known for their bullet nose, modern lines, graceful curves and baritone whistle. Her exquisite design combined with unbridled power to make the engine the iconic symbol of modern steam locomotives. Number 611, the last remaining engine of her kind, is known as the Spirit of Roanoke .
The Class J 611 Steam Locomotive was built in 1950 and pulled the Powhatan Arrow, the famed passenger train, from Norfolk to Cincinnati. The Class J 611 retired from passenger rail service in 1959. In 1962, she was moved to the Virginia Museum of Transportation in Roanoke, Virginia. In 1981, Norfolk Southern pulled her out of retirement and restored her to her original glory.
She was retired from excursions in 1994 and moved back into the Virginia Museum of Transportation, where she sits today, greeting tens of thousands of her fans who visit from across the globe every year. Since her retirement, rail fans have clamored, hoped and dreamed that she return to the rails, to blow her whistle and steam over the Blue Ridge and Appalachian mountains once again.
About the Virginia Museum of Transportation, Inc.
Home to two of the most powerful steam locomotives in existence today—the N&W Class A 1218 and the N&W Class J 611—the Virginia Museum of Transportation is celebrating 50 years of the road, rail and air. The Museum regularly attracts visitors of all ages from across the U.S. and around the world. Through exhibits, artifacts, and an outstanding collection of rail equipment, cars, trucks, airplanes, and more, the Museum tells the story of Virginia’s rich transportation history.
The Virginia Museum of Transportation, Inc. is the Official Transportation Museum of the Commonwealth of Virginia, but receives no state funding. The Museum is located in the historic Norfolk & Western Freight Station at 303 Norfolk Avenue SW, Roanoke, VA 24016. Open Monday–Saturday 10-5 and Sunday 1-5. 540/342.5670. www.vmt.org.
About the North Carolina Transportation Museum:
The North Carolina Transportation Museum, located in historic Spencer Shops, the former Southern Railway repair facility is located just five minutes off I-85 at Exit 79 in Spencer, N.C., and about an hour from Charlotte, Greensboro or Winston-Salem. The museum is part of the Division of Historic Sites and the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources.