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611 Birthday Celebration

May 29, 2019 @ 10:00 am - 5:00 pm

The Virginia Museum of Transportation will celebrate the sixty-ninth anniversary of the delivery date of the 611, one of fourteen Class ‘J’ passenger locomotives built for the Norfolk & Western Railway between 1941 and 1950 and the last one in existence today.

Simple lines, a bullet nose, and a Tuscan red stripe made the Js stand out as one of the most beautiful streamlined steam locomotives ever built.  The Js were the pride of the N&W’s fleet of home-built steam locomotives. They powered the famous named trains like the Powhatan Arrow, Cavalier, and  Pocahontas. The Js, along with the Class A and Y freight engines embodied the ingenuity of N&W designers and represented the pinnacle of steam technology. Extensive use of roller bearings on the rods and axles provided a smoother ride and simpler maintenance. More than two hundred moving parts were lubricated by a mechanized system cutting down time to service the engine.

The 611 rolled out of N & W’s East End Shops in Roanoke on May 29, 1950 at a cost of $251,344. The locomotive shared duties with the other thirteen Js, pulling the company’s premiere passenger trains along the N&W’s right-of-way. 

Through the efforts of many people, the 611 in conjunction with the Virginia Museum of Transportation and in collaboration with the Norfolk Southern and the dedicated volunteers who continue to maintain and operate the locomotive – ensures that people today may experience the golden age of America railroading, inspiring a new generation of steam fans. 

Come celebrate transportation history in Virginia. The Virginia Museum of Transportation features over 45,000 square feet of galleries and exhibits; three-plus acres of rail yard exhibiting over 50 cars — including three of the most powerful steam locomotives ever built. The Class J, 611, Class A 1218 and Class Y6a 2156 provide a window into one of America’s and Roanoke’s great historic periods. 

A short presentation on the history of the 611 will be given an 11:00 AM and 1:00 PM by Ken Miller. Ken is the Secretary of the Roanoke based, Norfolk & Western Historical Society and editor of the NWHS magazine. He is also the Historian and Director of the The Roanoke Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society, whose mission is to preserve and educate the public about the rail history of southwest Virginia. 

See also the documentary: 611: American Icon – The very best of America!
Two years in the making, the official documentary of the Class J 611 includes exclusive footage of the restoration and rare historical video and captures the locomotive running under steam for the first time in 20 years! 


Standard admission rates apply.

About the Virginia Museum of Transportation: The mission of the Virginia Museum of Transportation is to advance all modes of transportation across the Commonwealth, to celebrate and preserve the hard work and ingenuity of generations past, and to inspire current and future generations to value this industry which is essential to Virginia’s history, culture, and economic growth. 



May 29, 2019
10:00 am - 5:00 pm


The Virginia Museum of Transportation
303 Norfolk Avenue
Roanoke, VA 24016 United States
(540) 342-5670


Virginia Museum of Transportation