Superheaters

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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.

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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. 

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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.”

The 611 leaves for Spencer!

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On May 24, 2014, thousands upon thousands of people gathered at the Virginia Museum of Transportation and throughout downtown Roanoke to watch the Class J 611 leave for the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer, North Carolina, for her long-awaited restoration.

At 2 pm, the horn on the Norfolk Southern diesels blew, the bells rang, and slowly the 611 was backed out of her prime spot under the pavilion. The tracks groaned under her weight. Camera shutters snapped and video rolled as people recorded the moment. 

What words or pictures can’t capture is the joy that cascaded through the Roanoke Valley on that sunny day. The applause, loud and clear and thrilling, could be heard blocks away. Fans in the Railyard, on the bridges and bunched along the fence next to the tracks simultaneously screamed when they saw her rolling. Even before the 611 came into view, the applause and cheering alerted you that she was seconds away.

The moment had arrived. This was no longer a dream. The restoration of the Class J 611 was a reality.  

Watch the video produced by RailTrek Media.

Trains Magazine recorded the festivities.

Trains Magazine recorded the festivities.

The Spirit of Roanoke was the star of the show.

The Spirit of Roanoke was the star of the show.

Thousands of people lined the tracks to witness the moment.

Thousands of people lined the tracks to witness the moment.

The 611 passes the Virginia Museum of Transportation.

The 611 passes the Virginia Museum of Transportation.

The 611 heads toward downtown Roanoke.

The 611 heads toward downtown Roanoke.

 

Class J 611 Rolls to Restoration on May 24

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Apr. 1, 2014 – ROANOKE, VIRGINIA – The Virginia Museum of Transportation today announced the Norfolk & Western Class J 611 Steam Passenger Locomotive—known affectionately as the Spirit of Roanoke—is ready to head to Spencer, N.C. for restoration. An “All Aboard” send-off party is scheduled for Saturday, May 24, from 10 am to 5 pm.

After leaving the Virginia Museum of Transportation on May 24, the Class J 611 will arrive at the North Carolina Transportation Museum on or about May 29, 2014. She will be the guest of honor at the museum’s Streamliners event, to be held May 29 through June 1. Restoration work will begin shortly after the event.

The restoration will be open to the public, but with limited viewing. Planned work includes a complete overhaul to meet current Federal Railroad Administration and strict safety guidelines.

“We’re pleased to send the 611 on to our fellow train enthusiasts at the North Carolina Transportation Museum where this exciting restoration will get underway,” says Beverly T. Fitzpatrick, Jr., executive director of the Virginia Museum of Transportation. “We’re grateful for the tremendous amount of support that allows us to reach this step of the program.”

The Fire UP 611 Committee of steam locomotive technology experts, business leaders and railroad consultants conducted a feasibility study in 2013.  The study revealed that the Virginia Museum of Transportation would need $3.5 million to restore, operate and preserve the Class J 611. An additional $1.5 million will be raised as an endowment for the iconic locomotive.

Although the original plan called for raising approximately $3.5 million prior to the start of restoration, the Fire Up 611! Committee and the Museum’s Board of Directors decided to move ahead with restoration now that $2.3 million has been raised. Fitzpatrick cites a tight timeline to participate in Norfolk Southern’s 21st Century Steam Program in 2015, Amtrak’s return to Roanoke, the momentum of the fundraising efforts and strong results as reasons in support of the decision.

“The restoration will take approximately nine months and needs to begin this spring so we can participate in Norfolk Southern’s 21st Century Steam Program in 2015,” says Fitzpatrick.   “As she travels the Norfolk Southern rail system, our 611 will draw the attention and interest of new donors and fans of the Class J 611 from the region and beyond.”

The Fire Up 611! Committee recommended that a preservation and education center be built at the Museum to keep the locomotive in top operating form. “The goal from the very beginning was not only to get her running, but to keep her running for generations to come,” said J. Preston Claytor, chairman of the Fire Up 611! Committee. “The facility secures the investments rail fans have made in the Class J 611.”

Amtrak’s plans to extend passenger rail service into Roanoke will play a role in the location of the preservation and education center. “Amtrak may need land owned by Norfolk Southern and leased by the Museum at present,” he says. “We are looking at ideas for the preservation and education facility’s location in conjunction with Amtrak Service, the Class J 611’s restoration, and the overall planning of this facility.”

In recent months, the Fire Up 611! Campaign saw major momentum, and the Museum is confident the remaining funds will be raised. “We’re going at full steam,” says Fitzpatrick. “Based on our success to date and projection for the campaign’s final stages, we decided we could send her to Spencer for restoration sooner rather than later.” In nine short months, donations to the campaign have been received from nearly 3,000 donors from every state and the District of Columbia in the United States and 18 foreign countries.

Agreement reached with North Carolina Transportation Museum

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The Virginia Museum of Transportation’s Board of Directors and the Fire Up 611! Committee announce an agreement with the North Carolina Transportation Museum & Foundation (NCTMF) in Spencer, North Carolina, to house the iconic Norfolk & Western Class J 611 Steam Passenger Locomotive during her restoration. After the restoration is complete, the Class J 611 will steam back to its home at the Virginia Museum of Transportation in Roanoke, Virginia.

No date has been set for the Class J 611 to move to the North Carolina Transportation Museum (NCTM). Before the Class J 611 can move, the Virginia Museum of Transportation (VMT) must raise adequate funding to restore the locomotive and ultimately build a preservation and education facility to house her. To date, the VMT has raised almost $2.3 million. Donations have poured in from every state, the District of Columbia and 18 countries.

“Like us, the North Carolina Transportation Museum strives to preserve and showcase our rail heritage,” said Beverly T. Fitzpatrick, Jr., executive director of the Virginia Museum of Transportation. “We can’t think of a better venue to host the Class J 611 during her much anticipated restoration.”

One of the largest buildings on the North Carolina Transportation Museum campus is the 37-stall Bob Julian Roundhouse. The Roundhouse was built in 1924 and is one of the biggest surviving steam era roundhouses left in North America. Its 100-foot turntable and restoration shop are capable of handling a locomotive the size of Class J 611. The museum, located on 57 acres, encompasses 13 historic shop buildings that were part of Southern Railway’s largest steam locomotive shop, which dates to 1896.

“The North Carolina Transportation Museum is honored at the opportunity to partner with the Virginia Museum of Transportation and the Fire Up 611 Committee to provide a location for the restoration of this iconic locomotive,” said Steve Mersch, NCTMF president. “Speaking on behalf of the museum and foundation employees, volunteers and the local community we are all very excited that once again Historic Spencer Shops will house the repair of a mainline steam locomotive just as it did in decades past.”

Once the funds are raised, the Class J 611 – a 4-8-4 locomotive – will be moved dead-in-tow to the North Carolina Transportation Museum. The locomotive will then undergo its 1,472-day inspection and receive repairs. The process is expected to take six to nine months. After repairs are made, the Class J 611 will steam back to her home at the Virginia Museum of Transportation in Roanoke.