As reported here in February (see Virginia Museum of Transportation Looks Into Firing Up the 611), the Virginia Museum of Transportation has completed their Feasibility Study which was to look into whether they should restore iconic ex-Norfolk & Western J Class Number 611 to operating condition and return her to excursion service. The result of the study is that the museum intends to perform the restoration on the locomotive, if their supporters are able to fund the project.
The specific mission of the study was to determine the mechanical condition of the locomotive, and what the cost would be to rebuild the locomotive to exceed current Federal Railroad Administration regulations for steam locomotive operation. In addition to this, the committee was to develop a plan for operation of the locomotive outside of the museum and minimize the time that the locomotive is not on public display when not in operation.
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
Estimated time for completion of work is nine months. The rebuild will be headed by Scott Lindsay, assisted by skilled paid staff and volunteers.
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.
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.
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.
In an obvious move, the committee contacted Norfolk Southern regarding the use of the locomotive in it’s 21st Century Steam Program. Upon the completion of the restoration, 611 will be invited to join the steam program in both public and employee excursions.
So with these pieces to the puzzle solved, the museum will begin to raise funds to now restore the 611 and return her to excursion service once again. For more information on the program and how you can donate, visit their website at Fire Up 611.