Bringing her back to life

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In early June, Larry Stanfill arrived at Streamliners at Spencer to see the incredible line up of locomotives. He expected to stay a few days.

Larry works on the staybolts. Photo by Scott Lindsay.

He’s still there.

That’s because he took one look at the 611 and knew that he wanted to be a part of her restoration. “I heard the call for volunteers and decided to fill out an application,” he says. “I’m glad I did.”

Larry volunteers two days per week and is enjoying the tedious process of restoring the locomotive. “I’m impressed most by her size,” he says. “It’s amazing to see how the 611 was designed and engineered.”

Larry’s time in the restoration bay has seen him sorting through mechanical drawings, cleaning and inspecting staybolts and helping in any way he can. “I’ve gotten to know all 2200 of those staybolts,” he says. “That’s a lot of staybolts.”

Larry has loved trains since he was “knee high to a grasshopper,” he says. “I love steam locomotives. It’s almost like they’re alive – you can hear them breathing. I think it’s a good thing we’re restoring the 611. It will remind people how the railroad helped build our country.”

Flue season!

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Late last week, the flues for the 611 arrived in Spencer. The flues help to heat the water that creates the steam that powers the locomotive.


Photo by Scott Lindsay

Restoration almost halfway complete!

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The Virginia Museum of Transportation and the Fire Up 611! Committee are pleased to report that the restoration of the Norfolk & Western Class J 611 Steam Passenger Locomotive is approximately 45 percent complete.

“We are pleased with the professionalism, technical expertise and passion our mechanical team and volunteers are bringing to this project,” says Beverly T. Fitzpatrick, Jr., executive director of the Virginia Museum of Transportation.

Busy weeks ahead

In the next few weeks, the mechanical team, led by Scott Lindsay and Tom Mayer of Steam Operations Corp., will install a new rear flue sheet and finish installing the stay bolt caps. Bob Yuill is continuing the repairs to the superheater units. The air compressors are close to being reassembled and the feed water systems are being inspected and made road ready.

Work also continues on 611’s tender. Within the next few weeks the tender’s stoker screw and tender deck will be made as good as new.

flue sheet out

The old rear flue sheet after being removed from the 611.

staybolt caps

Staybolt caps have been inspected and cleaned and are almost all installed.

stoker screw

The stoker screw on 611’s tender.





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Bob Yuill, a former Norfolk Southern General Foreman for Steam —  is tasked with inspecting and repairing all 60 of the 611’s superheaters.

The Elesco Type E superheater units re-heat the steam generated by the boiler, increasing its thermal energy and giving the 611 more efficient power. Bob inspects each superheater carefully, looking for any defects or thin spots in the steel tubes. After the superheaters are inspected and fixed, Bob fills the superheater with water and hydrostatically tests the units. If a superheater does not pass the test, Bob rebuilds the unit to its original design specifications.


Bob Yuill, steam expert, and John Otey, mechanical volunteer, work on the superheaters.

Staybolt caps

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A requirement of 611’s 1472-day inspection is the inspection of each staybolt.  To perform the inspection the cap must be removed, bead blasted and have its pressure bearing seat ground.  The bolt is tested and if it is not broken a new copper washer is installed and the cap is reinstalled.  With over 2,200 flexible staybolts the job is time consuming for the 611’s mechanical crew.IMG_0765

New projects — like the valves and cylinders!

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Ultrasonic testing is complete (and results are being analyzed).  Superheater testing and repair is underway. So what now? The 611 mechanical team is moving on to other projects —  like the valves and cylinders. 

The Class J locomotives were designed with piston valves (manufactured by Baker), and has two cylinders, both 27 inches x 32 inches.

Valve cylinders 2

Valve cylinder The left cylinder head sits on the shop floor. Photos by Preston Claytor.

The valve and cylinder heads are removed and a cardboard cover installed to keep dirt out. Photo by Preston Claytor.


“Jewelry off. This is the getting serious.”

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June 4, 2014: As soon as Streamliners at Spencer ended, the restoration work began — quickly. Within days, the iconic nose was off and the skirts removed. A crew from the Age of Stream Roundhouse made the trip to Spencer, NC, to give us a hand.

The work was summed up by a fan on Facebook — “Jewelry off. This is getting serious.”

The restoration was underway.

Photo by Lisa Strom on behalf of the Virginia Museum of Transportation.

Photo by Lisa Strom on behalf of the Virginia Museum of Transportation.

With the nose off, the crew begins to remove the rust and dust that collected over the years.  Photo by Peg McGuire

With the nose off, the crew begins to remove the rust and dust that collected over the years.
Photo by Peg McGuire on behalf of the Virginia Museum of Transportation. 


The dust clears. Photo by Lisa Strom on behalf of the Virginia Museum of Transportation.

Photo by Lisa Strom on behalf of the Virginia Museum of Transportation.

Photo by Lisa Strom on behalf of the Virginia Museum of Transportation.

611 on the ground

Photo by Lisa Strom on behalf of the Virginia Museum of Transportation.



The first wrench is turned and the restoration is underway.

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The 611 arrived at the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer, North Carolina, in time for Streamliners at Spencer, an event that brought together 1930s to 1950s streamlined locomotives from all over the United States.

On May 30 — one day past the 611’s 64th birthday —  the first wrench was turned and the first bolt was removed from the iconic locomotive by Wick Moorman, Norfolk Southern’s Chairman, in a ceremony in front of thousands of rail fans that had gathered for the occasion. The turning of the wrench signaled the beginning of the mechanical restoration. 


The story behind the story


Behind the ceremony is a special story, and it involves an old wrench, cherished memories and a tribute to a good father by his grateful son.

The wrench that Mr. Moorman used was a 14-inch Walworth “Genuine Stillson” pipe wrench. The wrench was once owned by James Sylvester Stump, Sr., father of James Stump, the vice chairman of the Fire Up 611! Committee. Jim’s dad worked for Norfolk & Western from 1934 to 1975; the wrench always in his toolbox, ready and willing to be used on Norfolk & Western locomotives and cars. 

“My dad loved the Class J locomotives and he always referred to them as ‘locomotives’ — not engines,” Jim said. “He was very proud of all the Norfolk & Western’s home-built Roanoke steamers.” 

Jim said that his dad followed all the J’s. “During heavy passenger loads around holidays, Dad was often asked to work overtime in the Roanoke ‘Coach’ Yard adding and changing passenger cars,” he said. “The cars he added and removed from the busy passenger trains were behind the 611 and the other J-class locomotives.” 

Watching Mr. Moorman turn the wrench to symbolize the beginning of the restoration touched Jim and his family deeply. “Little did we know that the Walworth 14 Wrench would once again be recalled to service on a very special Norfolk & Western J Class 611 on a very special day.”