England calling when No. 611 arrived at Strasburg

Posted by Jim Wrinn
on Thursday, August 22, 2019

The arrival of Norfolk & Western 4-8-4 No. 611 at Pennsylvania’s Strasburg Rail Road Wednesday gave me a moment to pause and feel like a bit of British railway preservation philosophy has finally taken hold in the U.S. My friend Mike Long sent me the picture above of the Class J with SRR’s 2-6-0 No. 89 as a pusher just for the fun of it.  


Due to changing circumstances at Amtrak and Norfolk Southern, No. 611 no longer has a mainline excursion venue. But instead of doing nothing, and sitting in Roanoke, Va., under the shed, she’s spending two months at the Strasburg. She’ll be a performer for residence — the Celine Dion plays Las Vegas of steam locomotives, if you will — or a month or so at one of the nation’s best known and most visited tourist railroads (and don’t forget, our oldest short line). She’ll get a new audience after several years of visiting Spencer, N.C., and the museum there. The northeast is still a region that has a deep railroad culture. She can reunite with SRR’s N&W M Class No. 475 for a duet or two. And her Tuscan red stripe will be welcomed in the heart of Pennsy country. It keeps the 611 brand fresh and new. Thanks go to Scott Lindsay for coming up with the idea and to now retired SRR CEO Linn Moedinger for agreeing to it. 

The picture I took above at Grosmont, England, in 2008 makes me think about the excitement of No. 611 visiting the Strasburg, where multiple engines can be on the move at any time.   

The thing about No. 611 at Strasburg (and Nickel Plate Road 765 at Cuyahoga Valley next month, the Gramlings’ tank engines, and others) is that the British have been doing this for years. They move engines from one preservation railway to another often. It’s a way to keep things fresh in a country the size of Michigan. And it helps to create new constituencies. So, if you visit No. 611 while she’s in the Keystone State this fall, keep in mind that you’re participating in a very British activity in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country. 



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