The 611 locomotive was one of the original steam trains built in the town of Roanoke. From 1950 to about 1994, it served the needs of all kinds of passengers in their travels across the Roanoke Valley. Through the Virginia mountains and wide coal fields surrounding the town, the 611 would rumble through with an impeccable track record, until Roanoke, VA was one of the most influential commercial and recreational train hubs in the state.
Originally built by the Norfolk & Western engineers in Roanoke’s own shops, the 611 was the twelfth of fourteen Class J steam trains. It made its name pulling the Powhatan Arrow, the famed passenger train, from Norfolk to Cincinnati, then retired from service in 1959. In 1962, rather than scrap the old girl, they moved her to the Virginia Museum of Transportation in Roanoke where train enthusiasts from all over the country could enjoy her blend of aesthetic beauty and powerful mechanics.
But that is not the end of the 611 story. In September of 1982, they brought her out of retirement, set her on the rails once more, and watched her steam out of the city for a few more runs. For the next 12 years, the 611 became part of the Norfolk Southern’s successful steam program; carrying rail fans and school children down the same tracks so many had traveled in years past.
The 611 was put into temporary retirement at Roanoke's Virginia Museum of Transportation on December 7, 1994. A complete renovation was finished in North Carolina, and the 611 came steaming back into Roanoke on May 30, 2015.
For more information about the 611, call The Great 611 Steakhouse at 540-989-4675, or the Virginia Museum of Transportation at 540-342-5670.