As far as surviving steam locomotives go, Norfolk & Western’s No. 611 is a baby. She’s only 70 years old.
She was built in May of 1950, very late in the age of steam when diesels when rapidly replacing the labor intensive steam locomotives. No. 611 was built in the shops of the Norfolk & Western and was at the cutting edge of steam technology at the end of an age.
No. 611, known as “Spirit of the Roanoke”, is one of the most powerful Northern type (4-8-4) locomotives ever built with a tractive effort of 84,981 pounds. Tractive effort is the theoretical figure of how much a locomotive can pull. As a comparison to other northerns in existence, Union Pacific’s 844 tractive effort is 63,800 pounds and Southern Pacific’s 4449 is 64,800 pounds. 611is clearly in another tractive power league.
This Norfolk & Western locomotive was also very innovation is a way to decrease the labor it took to maintain these beasts. The locomotive used roller bearing and many of the 200 other bearings were self lubricating which cut down of man-hours of maintenance. The locomotive could be run 15,000 miles a month and only need servicing ever one and a half years.
Unfortunately No. 611 was in service for a short time, she was retire in 1959, giving Norfolk and Western just under ten years of service.
The locomotive was dormant, placed on static display in Roanoke Transportation Museum in Roanoke, Virginia. She was restored in the early 1980’s and returned to steam on August 14, 1982.