This past weekend, David and I were fortunate enough to take an excursion aboard the Norfolk & Western Class J 611 Steam Passenger Locomotive. No. 611 was one of fourteen Class ‘J’ passenger locomotives built for the Norfolk & Western Railway between 1941 and 1950. However, this 611 steam engine train is the only one in existence today.
We love train rides!
David and I are not big train buffs but we do love to ride them. We find trains pretty fascinating. Our interest in riding trains stemmed from our trip down the Blue Ridge Parkway in 2005. This was the trip when we fell in love with the mountains. Our first train ride was on The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad in Bryson City, North Carolina. A couple of years after that, we made a trip to the mountains to ride a fall train excursion near Staunton, Virginia.
The track across the gap:
This year is the second run of excursions for the No. 611 steam engine train. It didn’t work out for David and me to ride No. 611 last year. However, we sure enjoyed watching the train steam through the gap down below our home on the mountain.
We can hardly see the cars on the track from our deck, but we sure do hear the usual Norfolk Southern diesel trains roll through every day. The trains are not constant and the track is far enough away to where the sound of the train whistle is pretty charming. Most of the time David and I will yell out “Train coming!”.
In the winter when the trees are bare, the bright headlight on the front of the trains dimly cast across our bedroom wall as the trains curve around to make their way through the gap.
Believe me, there is no mistaking the sound of No. 611 steam engine train as she steams through the gap. Her whistle is like a symphony orchestra! It’s pretty awesome to hear her. We love to watch the trail of smoke and steam puff up into the sky as she winds through the valley and down into the gap.
No. 611 Steam Engine Excursions:
So, I joined The Virginia Museum of Transportation’s email listing to help stay better informed about new excursions last year after we missed the train ride. Early this spring I received an email announcing that there would be excursions in 2016. David and I bought the tickets as soon as they went on sale and waited a long time to take our train ride.
The American excursion runs by our home on the side of the mountain. It is a half day, 102 miles round trip. The trip begins in history-rich Manassas, Virginia through the rolling hills of Northern Virginia. Most of this is the familiar territory in which David and I have explored for years.
The excursion went through our old stomping ground of Bull Run Mountain, and interstate 66 (the highway that David and I commute to work on every day). Along the way are historic landmarks, vineyards, beautiful rolling farmland, and open pastures.
The journey continues towards the Shenandoah River. Then the train turns around on the “wye” along the river called Riverton Junction in Front Royal, Virginia. Saturday afternoon after our excursion, David and I were able to see 611 on display and buy souvenirs at the 22nd Annual Manassas Heritage Railway Festival. The festival was in full swing when we arrived back from our journey.
To sum up, we had so much fun on this train. No. 611 took us on quite the adventure. We never knew there was so many train enthusiast of all ages. It was amazing how many people lined the side of the railroad just to get a glimpse of the awesome engineering marvel.
I hope that No. 611 will be able to make future excursions. This old train brings out the good in people. Best of all No. 611 brings people together to make wonderful memories and making memories is what life is all about.
Consequently, If you are interested in learning more about the Norfolk & Western Class J 611 Steam Passenger Locomotive, visit FireUp611.org to learn more.