A famous Roanoke train will ride the rails once again.
The Virginia Museum of Transportation announced Friday that a fundraising campaign has raised enough money to mechanically restore the 611 locomotive.
The museum's executive director says nearly 2,000 donations have come from all over the world since the "Fire Up 611" campaign started earlier this year.
Even though the initial goal of restoring the train has been reached, the museum says the fundraising campaign will continue.
The hope is to use the extra money to build a maintenance facility for the museum.
Here is the news release:
The Virginia Museum of Transportation and the Fire Up 611! Committee announced today that the Fire Up 611! Capital Campaign raised the funds to mechanically restore the Norfolk & Western Class J 611 steam passenger locomotive.
Close to 2000 donations have poured in from across the United States and 15 foreign countries, demonstrating worldwide appreciation for the Roanoke-designed and built locomotive. With the current funding in place for restoration of the mechanical components for the steam engine, the campaign will turn its focus toward raising funds to provide the maintenance facility that will keep the locomotive running for decades.
“We have achieved a significant milestone, but there is still much work to be done,” explains Beverly T. Fitzpatrick, Jr., Executive Director of the Virginia Museum of Transportation. “Our goal from the beginning has been not only to get the 611 up and running, but to also keep it operational for decades.”
The fundraising campaign will continue until additional funds are raised to build a maintenance facility. Until those funds are raised, the Class J 611 will remain at the Virginia Museum of Transportation in Roanoke, Virginia.
The Virginia Museum of Transportation launched the Fire Up 611! Campaign on June 28, 2013 with a goal of raising $3.5 million by October 31, 2013, in order to restore the 611 in time for excursions in Spring 2014. “We knew going in that we were operating on a very ambitious timetable to be able to begin excursions in the spring,” adds Fitzpatrick. “Good things have happened and are continuing to happen. This is not a matter of ‘if’ she’ll run again; it’s a matter of ‘when.’”
In June, the Fire Up 611! Committee outlined the fund necessary to complete this project:
1. $500,000 to $750,000 to restore the Class J 611. The restoration includes a complete overhaul to meet current Federal Railroad Administration and strict safety guidelines.
2. $2 million to $2.5 million for a maintenance facility. The facility will be used to maintain the locomotive so that she can run for decades. It will also house an educational center that can teach science, technology, engineering, math and social sciences to students of all ages.
3. $500,000 for business operations. Included in these costs are marketing, fundraising, business tools, insurance and working capital.
4. $1.5 million for an endowment to maintain and operate the Class J 611 for decades.
The Next Milestone: The Maintenance Facility
For the Class J 611 to successfully operate excursions, the locomotive will need a dedicated maintenance facility. “The 611 was conceived, designed, engineered and built in Roanoke,” says Fitzpatrick. “She is known worldwide for her technology, mechanical perfection, streamlined design and low baritone whistle. It’s important that we keep this Roanoke icon in Roanoke as much as possible.”
The facility will house maintenance equipment for the Class J 611, an exhibit gallery and an educational center so students of all ages can learn about steam technology, science, engineering, math, social sciences and history. All donors to the project will be listed on a permanent wall of honor. The facility will also keep the 611 accessible to the public during maintenance periods.
“We believe that the facility will protect our donors’ investment in the Class J 611,” Fitzpatrick says. “We want future generations to enjoy the power and elegance of the Class J 611.”
In 2012, visitors from every corner of the United States and 49 foreign countries visited Roanoke and the Virginia Museum of Transportation to see the Class J 611 in person.
“Roanokers should feel proud that their city built such a beautiful locomotive,” Fitzpatrick says. “She was designed and built by the craftsmen of the Roanoke Valley. She’s a symbol of our past and a signal of what we, as a community, can do in the future.”
While the Fire Up 611! Committee continues to meet with interested investors, the Virginia Museum of Transportation is working to finalize agreements with the North Carolina Transportation Museum Foundation and Steam Operations Corporation. The 611 will be restored at the roundhouse at the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer, North Carolina - just a few hours from Roanoke, Virginia. The facility hosts one of the last surviving roundhouses equipped with the tools necessary to restore the massive locomotive.
The team of industry leaders at Steam Operations Corporation will provide the expertise to allow the Class J 611 to meet current safety and Federal Railroad Administration regulations. Steam Operations Corporation was responsible for shutting down the Class J 611 after its last excursion run in 1994. The team has first-hand knowledge of what is required for restoration.
“It will take approximately nine months to restore the Class J 611,” says Scott Lindsay, president of Steam Operations Corporation, a member of the Fire Up 611! Committee who also worked on the 611 during its last excursion runs. “The team is assembled and ready to go.”
Interested investors and fans of the Class J 611 are invited to visit fireup611.org for more information.
About the Norfolk & Western Class J 611
The Norfolk & Western Class J Locomotives were a marriage of beauty and power. The bullet nose, modern lines, graceful curves and baritone whistle combined with unbridled power to make the engine the iconic symbol of modern steam locomotives.
The Norfolk & Western Class J Locomotives were designed, constructed and maintained in Roanoke, Virginia. These streamlined locomotives have captivated the hearts of rail fans worldwide since they first began to roll out of the N&W Roanoke Shops, beginning in 1941.
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, the 611, the last Class J locomotive in existence, 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 in excursion service. 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.
More information about the Fire Up 611! Campaign and Committee can be found at fireup611.org.
How to Give
The Virginia Museum of Transportation gratefully accepts donations to the Fire Up 611! Campaign. Donors may visit fireup611.org to download pledge or donation forms or to make a gift securely online. For stock gifts, wire transfers or questions about giving to Fire Up 611!, please call 540.342.5670 ext. 105 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The Virginia Museum of Transportation is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization, so donations from US donors are deductible as allowed by law.