Monday, June 6, 2016

The Norfolk & Western Class J611...Train Whistles of the 1940's

On Sunday, we had a short day for our stay-cation so we focused on a couple of places in "our backyard." Visit number one was at Chapman Mill which to our surprise held a surprise for the day.
When we arrived there were guys standing in various strategic spots along the railroad track that ran behind the mill. All of them had massive cameras with massive lenses, some with tripods.

While exploring the mill my husband found out a train was about to come down the tracks. Trains are a big deal in my family and the setting was certainly unique, so we agreed to stay to see the train chug through. My husband staked a claim near the mill whereas my daughter and I staked a claim down the road, near one of the photographers. Eventually he came over to chat.

Turns out, history was about to chug down the tracks. The Norfolk & Western Class J611 was on its way from Manassas to Front Royal. According to the photographer, one of the reasons this was historic was because it would likely never happen again. A new department head at the train's museum had apparently this would be its final run.  All I could think of was a 1959 Doris Day and Jack Lemmon movie called, It Happened to Jane.

However here is the rest of its history for all the vintage lovers out there. Between 1941 and 1950 fourteen of these beautiful trains were built. Only one exists today. That one and only train was on its way to us!!!! We couldn't yet hear the train whistle, so on with the history. In its day, not only was it fast, but it also pulled luxury cars. Even on this day the train was allowing passengers from Manassas to travel in style. Rates for the excursion ranged up to $1000! “It’s a masterpiece,” John Nutter said of the 611. “It’s the most efficient steam engine ever built. Some would argue it’s the best passenger engine ever built.” (The Roanoke Times, "'Old 611' Begins Journey From Museum Piece to Running Locomotive", Tonia Moxley, May 24, 2014.) It was capable of pulling up to 15 passenger cars at 110mph. They averaged 15,000 miles per month, with some obtaining nearly 3 million miles in their tenure. With these facts the writer of this Salisbury Post article dubbed the train a "war horse" and the "Queen of Steam." Read more of his comments here. (Salisbury Post, "Queen of Steam: When it Comes to Locomotives, the Class J611 Has Few Rivals", Mark Wineka, April 7, 2016.)

On that note...all of which I heard from the photographer...and with a tip from him to look for the Texas Special (especially since we were both Texans)...we heard the whistle!!! Following are the photographs my husband took...



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Wasn't that grand? I'd love to wear one of my 1940's dresses and have some photos done up close to the train. (sigh) What a great setting with a gorgeous training for a stunning historic photo shoot.

If that wasn't enough greatness, then enjoy this video that my daughter took!



Resources:

http://fireup611.org/about-611/

http://www.roanoke.com/news/local/roanoke/old-begins-journey-from-museum-piece-to-running-locomotive/article_2baf4240-e3ac-11e3-b609-001a4bcf6878.html

http://trn.trains.com/news/news-wire/2016/01/11-norfolk--western-no-611-to-steam-again-in-2016

http://www.salisburypost.com/2016/04/07/the-queen-of-steam-when-it-comes-to-locomotives-the-class-j-611-has-few-rivals/

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