Norfolk & Western‘s “611” steam locomotive is part of railroad history and legend, a powerful engine that could pull a train at 100 miles per hour and had to power to traverse the steep tracks of the Blue Ridge.
It’s also part of my history. After my father died in an industrial accident in 1949, my mother remained a resident of Gibsonton, Florida, but decided to move back to her native home of Floyd County, Virginia, in 1952.
We arrived at the train station in Roanoke on an N&W passenger train pulled by one of the giant steel 611-style locomotives. I remember her taking my picture dwarfed by one of the giant wheels of that steam engine. I’ve searched our scrapbooks but cannot find the photo. I guess it was lost over the years.
My memories of that train ride, which included two transfers between Tampa, Florida, and Roanoke, are not lost. It fostered a love of trains that continue. As a young photographer I was fascinated by the railroad images of O. Winston Link and still often visit his museum in the old train station in Roanoke.
Last of those J-class locomotives resided without power for two decades at the Transportation Museum in Roanoke but is not being restored to run again.
“Fire up 611” is an stirring promotion piece put together some time ago by good friend and fellow videographer Dave Perry. Everytime I watch it, my memories flood back to the time I took that ride as a child and the times I saw the locomotive later in life.
Watch and enjoy. Even better, do what I did. Write a check and make a donation.