“Queen of Steam” locomotive returns to her home in Roanoke

Published: Nov. 8, 2023 at 6:34 PM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Tuesday night, the Norfolk & Western Class J #611 steam engine locomotive, or the “Queen of Steam,” returned to the Virginia Museum of Transportation after a five-week excursion in Goshen. This was the first time 611 traveled on the main line since 2017.

Gavin Miller, a board member at the museum and program manager for the 611 program, says an excursion on the locomotive is a unique experience for people of all ages.

“It’s really an educational moment,” said Miller. “You know, 611 is a great ambassador to new generations. . . it’s a good thing for another generation to know what a steam locomotive is. And that’s really the case here. We saw family members of all ages having a great time, young kids, older adults . . . To have these experiences, to ride behind a steam locomotive, to hear the iconic whistle is just really a great thing.”

The train was built 73 years ago in Roanoke, but many are still fascinated by its iconic whistle and streamlined design. Museum officials say 20,000 passengers and spectators traveled to the Shenandoah Valley to see the train.

But 611 means something special to residents here at home.

“There’s a lot of pride and heritage, you know, this is something that people’s families worked on,” explained Miller. “We hear a lot of stories of, you know, ‘my grandfather worked on the boil,’ or ‘my grandfather was an engineer.’ So it’s just near and dear to people here in the Roanoke Valley.”

The locomotive will be on display in the museum through winter.