Monday, March 18, 2013

Especially Steamy Iron Horse Roundup for March 2013

TVRM's Southern 2-8-0 Consolidation is seen chugging eastbound with a Norfolk Southern 21st Century Steam special at Chucky, TN on March 10, 2013.Ron Flanary

NORFOLK SOUTHERN- Thanks in no small part to the Tennessee Valley Railroad Musuem, the Norfolk Southern's 21st Century Steam program is off to a pretty early start this season, with a number of excursions having already run between Chattanooga, TN and Roanoake, VA earlier this month.

The TVRM has posted a schedule on their homepage for the remaining excursions over the Norfolk Southern this spring including trains to Norfolk, VA as well as Spencer and Asheville, NC with more excursions to be announced.

Meanwhile, the Ft Wayne Railroad Historical Society's Nickel Plate Berkshire #765 will once again be traversing Norfolk Southern's former Pennsy mainline through the Alleghenies at least as far east as Altoona, PA with excursions over Horsehoe Curve that are available to the public on Memorial Day weekend. The big Lima was the first steam locomotive to move through central Pennsylvania's Horseshoe Curve under its own power in more than 30 years when it made a ferry move from Pittsburgh to Harrisburgh, PA and return in August 2012 for a series of Employee Appreciation Specials to mark the 30th anniversary of the Norfolk Southern.

Norfolk & Western J Class steam locomotive #611 is seen is seen heading northbound over the Trace Fork Branch trestle with an excursion at Amonate, VA in June 1994. Made famous by the night photography of O Winston Link in the late 1950s, the 611 was built in the N&W's Roanoke Shops in 1950 and was retired in 1959 before becoming part of an earlier incarnation of the Norfolk Southern's steam program. The 611 was pulled from excursion service in 1994 and has been on display in the Virginia Musuem of Transportation in Roanoke ever since.Bob Lyndall
VIRGINIA- The Virginia Museum of Transportation has announced that they're undertaking a feasability study on restoring former Norfolk & Western J class 4-8-4 #611 to service, which has been on display at the Roanoke, VA museum since 1994- when the Norfolk Southern decided to cancel their first incarnation of their steam program.
Called "Fire Up 611!," the study isn’t a guarantee the engine will actually be fired up. The committee will look not just at what repairs and upgrades the 611 might need, but what sort of financial strain a restoration would put on the museum’s day-to-day operations.

If bringing the beloved streamlined 611, which was built in the Norfolk and Western Railway’s Roanoke shops, back to life turns out to be feasible, the transportation museum will have to put out a call to the international rail community to raise the funds, Museum Executive Director Bev Fitzpatrick said. The engine is considered the most modern steam locomotive in existence.

A volunteer team of steam engine enthusiasts has stepped forward to conduct the study. They include Atlanta, Ga. software consultant Cheri George, Birmingham, Ala., historic rail equipment restorer Scott Lindsay and Roanoke rail safety consultant Preston Claytor all of whom volunteered on the 611’s crew during the interval when Norfolk Southern used it for passenger excursions, 1981 to 1994.

The museum is launching a fund raising campaign today to pay for the study’s expenses, said museum public relations director Peg McGuire. Should the task of getting the 611 operational prove to be out of the museum’s reach, the funds will go into an endowment to pay for the locomotive’s upkeep as an exhibit.
The Museum has set up a website called Fire Up 611! where visitors can find out more information about plans to reactivate the #611, donate or take a survey on which cities they'd like to see the #611 visit should it be restored to service.

Santa Fe 4-8-4 Northern #3751 seen scaling Cajon Pass with Amtrak diesels north of San Bernardino, CA en route to the Grand Canyon in May 2012

CALIFORNIA- While the San Bernardino Railroad Historical Society plans for Sante Fe 4-8-4 #3751 aren't quite as ambitous as last year's trip to the Grand Canyon, the 1927-built Northern is scheduled to hit the high iron nonetheless.

The SBRHS announced that the #3751 will be running under her own power from Redondo Jct near LA's Union Station to San Bernardino for San Bernardino Railroad Days on April 27th and returning to Los Angeles on April 28th. The passenger cars will consist of meticulously restored vintage coaches and Amfleet passenger cars and tickets are available to the general public at the San Bernardino Railroad & History Museum website.

Milwaukee Road #261 is seen with a cut of gondola cars on the Twin Cities & Western's former Milwaukee line west of Minneapolis in May 2010. Mitch Goldman photo
MINNESOTA- For the first time since 2008, Milwaukee Road's 4-8-4 #261 will be hauling excursion trains. This will also mark the first time that the Friends of the 261 will operate the 1944-built ALCo as outright owners of the locomotive. When the #261 was taken out of service, the organization had the unexpected opportunity to buy the locomotive from the National Railroad Museum in Green Bay, WI in 2010 [previously, they Friends had been leasing the #261 from the museum long-term- NANESB!].

The #261 was successfully test-fired late last year and will power a passenger train from the Twin Cities to Duluth, MN and return on the weekend of May 11th and 12th. The excursion is part of a larger celebration of National Train Day held by the Lake Superior Railroad Museum that will also feature the a dinner train over the North Shore Scenic Railroad with the LSRM's 1923-built 4-6-2 Pacific- Soo Line #2719.

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