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N&W 611 Current Condition?

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N&W 611 Current Condition?
Posted by bubbajustin on Tuesday, February 14, 2012 11:40 AM

Hello all. I'm sure most of us remember the Norfolk Southern Steam Program and the N&W steam locomotives that made that program a great one. One of the stars of that show was the Norfolk and western Class J #611. I was laying in bed last night pondering and running some scenarios through my head. What kind of shape is the 611 in? It looks fairly good in the photos I've seen but obviously looks can be deceiving. What kind of shape is the crown sheet in? the stay bolts? the backheadder? The boiler it's self the Running gear? Honestly how hard would it be for someone to bring the J back into mainline service? 

 

I may be dreaming but I hope that one day the mighty J can stretch her legs again in the back woods if Virginia.

 

-Justin

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Posted by BigJim on Tuesday, February 14, 2012 12:04 PM

It looks good...except at Christmas time when they put a wreath over the headlight.

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Posted by bubbajustin on Tuesday, February 14, 2012 12:39 PM

HAHAHAHA! Thanks Jim!

 

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Posted by Train Guy 3 on Wednesday, February 15, 2012 3:03 PM

Mechanically the 611 is the same as the day they placed her in the museum. She does have small crack in her bullet nose and I believe a piece of glass on the Fireman's side has been cracked. I would say the cracked glass is from  vandals.Her rods and other external componets are oiled and greased through out the year. Also in contract with Norfolk Southern the 611 is moved atleast once a year for oil to circulate through her parts and to prevent flat spots on the wheels & roller bearings. Now I now the boiler has to be taken down and inspeced for FRA recertification, which if the 611 does return to excurison service I'm sure a full scale pull down and rebuild like in '81 would be done anyway. As far as the crown sheet, stay bolts, etc. I'm not sure what deteriation has occured, if any, from sitting there all those years. A much more qualified person than me would need to comment on that. I would say sitting under a roof since '94 has probably been a lot better on the 611 compared to being outside in the elements for 30 years.

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Posted by Thomas 9011 on Thursday, February 16, 2012 2:46 AM

According to the FRA, a steam locomotive has to be torn down completely, ultra sounded, and a  thorough inspection after 1472 days of service, or 15 years, whichever occurs first. So at the very least it would have to be torn down, boiler tubes removed, and new ones put in.

As a former mechanic of both steam and diesel locomotives the 611 is way over the hump for several reasons...

All the parts are accounted for and were in formally running condition.

It was in good running condition when it was donated to the museum.

It was current with the FRA the last time it was steamed up.

The paint is in good condition and the side panels are not rusting away.

The air brake system is in working condition.

 A big advantage of the 611 is that it has roller bearings both on the side rods and on the tender.  Roller bearings rarely seize up and require minimal maintenance if any. If the 611 still had friction bearings it wouldn't even be allowed on the main line as friction bearing axles were outlawed decades ago.

One big negative is that the 611 is a coal burner. This would probably be one of the main problems of returning the 611 back to steam.

If you want my 5 cents on the 611 as a mechanic, I would say the tender as it stands is pretty much ready to go. It has roller bearings, and the braking system is working. Flange wear would have to be checked with a gauge and the air brake system would have to be checked for leaks. It would have to be filled with water and see if anything leaks.

Running gear appears to be in good condition and would probably need minimal work done.

The piston rings would have to be replaced as there is no steam lubrication when it is moving back and forth in the yard and the rings have probably worn down.

Boiler tubes cut out and new ones put inside.

Frame was probably already magna fluxed  and FRA approved. I doubt if it would need any work.

Gauges would have to be re-calibrated and tested. The piping is probably still good.

Estimated time with 10 people working 40 hours a week. 6 months.

Estimated cost labor $192,000

Estimated cost parts $160,000

Total  $352,000

 

 

 

 

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Posted by BigJim on Thursday, February 16, 2012 8:42 AM

One big negative is that the 611 is a coal burner. This would probably be one of the main problems of returning the 611 back to steam.


Thomas,
The last time I looked, there didn't seem to be any shortage of coal around these parts.

Bubba,
Don't laugh! They really do hang a wreath around the headlight at Christmas...and it looks awful!!!

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Posted by daveklepper on Thursday, February 16, 2012 10:22 AM

I want to second thanks for the report.  Looks doable, and if the current NS steam program starts really taking off, it will be done and will be worth every penny in good public relations for NS, since it is a truly beautiful locomotive.

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Posted by Train Guy 3 on Thursday, February 16, 2012 1:34 PM

I think the coal burning part is not so much as a shortage of coal as it is to being able to refuel the tender. It takes a little more planning and expense, as it usually involves having to have a load of coal and a crane for loading at a certain stop on the system. Back when she was still under steam I did get to witness her being refueled in Lynchburg, VA was an interesting sight to see.

As far as the wreath goes it's not all that bad. Atleast they don't deck her out with a full set of multi-colored lights. I can forgive VMT for tring to put everyone in the Christmas spirt.... even the rolling stock.

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Posted by BigJim on Thursday, February 16, 2012 3:54 PM

As far as the wreath goes it's not all that bad. Atleast they don't deck her out with a full set of multi-colored lights. I can forgive VMT for tring to put everyone in the Christmas spirt.... even the rolling stock.

Actually it does! It ruins the entire appearance of the bullet nose. I think last year to begin with the wreath was hanging from the front grabiron and it looked in proper Christmas spirit. Then someone went and put it over the headlight and ruined the whole thing again.

Someone down there doesn't have the best of taste when it comes to putting your best face forward. And I don't even want to begin in on what they did to the C630. What a slap in the face that was!

As for moving the engine for lube purposes, I think there is a museum volunteer that uses a pinch bar to move her back and forth several times a year. The only time the NS does it is by the incidental moving of the engine for outside display purposes. In other words, they don't go in there for the express purpose of keeping things lubed.

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Posted by Beach Bill on Thursday, February 16, 2012 4:37 PM

Thanks all for the updates.  I couldn't help but think about when they first moved the 611 from the Transportation Museum down in Wasena Park for that return to service.  I was there for that event, with all sorts of executive types gesturing and waving.  And when they pulled, there wasn't even one squeak.  Those roller bearings are quality.

And a second on the "Hokie Hi".

Bill

With reasonable men, I will reason; with humane men I will plead; but to tyrants I will give no quarter, nor waste arguments where they will certainly be lost. William Lloyd Garrison
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Posted by Firelock76 on Thursday, February 16, 2012 4:57 PM

Thanks Thomas 9011 for that excellent report.  Let me tell you, when NS dropped the steam program it broke as many hearts here in Virginia as Apomattox did.  My wife (who's a BIG Art Deco fan) used to call 611 "MY ENGINE!"    She still feels the rage at NS after all this time!   Even if they only brought 611 back to run the racetrack between Petersburg and Norfolk that'd be good enough as far as I'm concerned.  Not holding my breath, but who knows?

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Posted by Thomas 9011 on Thursday, February 16, 2012 9:52 PM

The 611 was a great steam locomotive. I only rid behind her once but she sure could get a train up and moving and had a excellent sound! She was also the quietest steam locomotive I ever heard while sitting. It was almost dead silent.

I do remember you had to wear safety glasses if you wanted to stick your head out the door. If you didn't those sharp cinders would stick in your eyes. Not very good on camcorders either. I met a few people who had their camcorders out the out the door for 10 minutes and when they looked at the lens it was all chipped and scratched up from the cinders hitting the lens at 79mph. Crushed coal works great for sand blasting. We used to use it in the ship yards and called it "diamond dust".

Wasn't there another J class locomotive that was in a scrapyard that was donated to a museum recently? Two J's double heading would be a real hoot!

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Posted by bubbajustin on Friday, February 17, 2012 9:44 AM

Ohh wow! Thanks to all of you for the information. Sounds like the J is in very good shape! Obviously the J would need a home and a shop to rebuild it. Maybe NS can restore the J if the current program takes off. Hopefully it will. The J might also be a good candidate to restore for a preservation group. Of course, those prices stated don't reflect being towed to a restoration place. Plus finding people who actually know what they are doing.

 

Thanks again for all the information yall!

Lets hope that one day the beautiful and gorgeous Class J will once again thunder down the rails. 

Long live 611!

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Posted by Firelock76 on Friday, February 17, 2012 6:48 PM

Thomas 9011

The 611 was a great steam locomotive. I only rid behind her once but she sure could get a train up and moving and had a excellent sound! She was also the quietest steam locomotive I ever heard while sitting. It was almost dead silent.

I do remember you had to wear safety glasses if you wanted to stick your head out the door. If you didn't those sharp cinders would stick in your eyes. Not very good on camcorders either. I met a few people who had their camcorders out the out the door for 10 minutes and when they looked at the lens it was all chipped and scratched up from the cinders hitting the lens at 79mph. Crushed coal works great for sand blasting. We used to use it in the ship yards and called it "diamond dust".

Wasn't there another J class locomotive that was in a scrapyard that was donated to a museum recently? Two J's double heading would be a real hoot!

   

Oh, 611 could sure get a train up and moving all right. I rode behind it several times, although not at 79 mph.  When I (we) rode the speed limit had been set at 45 mph.  However, when the train started moving I got that same "set-back-in-the-seat" feeling during acceleration that you get on a jetliner.  And dittos on the quiet.  I was trackside in the Roanoke yard when 611 drifted past, and it only made a gentle "woosh-woosh" sound as it passed.  Incredible machine! 

Oh, and there are no other N&W clas J's around.  You may be thinking of three old N&W 4-8-0's that were recovered from a Roanoke scrapyard not too long ago.  One operates today on the Strasburg Railroad in Pennsylvania.

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Posted by coborn35 on Saturday, February 18, 2012 10:10 AM

Train Guy 3

Mechanically the 611 is the same as the day they placed her in the museum. She does have small crack in her bullet nose and I believe a piece of glass on the Fireman's side has been cracked. I would say the cracked glass is from  vandals.Her rods and other external componets are oiled and greased through out the year. Also in contract with Norfolk Southern the 611 is moved atleast once a year for oil to circulate through her parts and to prevent flat spots on the wheels & roller bearings. Now I now the boiler has to be taken down and inspeced for FRA recertification, which if the 611 does return to excurison service I'm sure a full scale pull down and rebuild like in '81 would be done anyway. As far as the crown sheet, stay bolts, etc. I'm not sure what deteriation has occured, if any, from sitting there all those years. A much more qualified person than me would need to comment on that. I would say sitting under a roof since '94 has probably been a lot better on the 611 compared to being outside in the elements for 30 years.

Flat spots dont develop from sitting still partner Star

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Posted by selector on Sunday, February 19, 2012 4:05 PM

True, if you are thinking of the flat wheel problem and non-rotating wheels.  But heavy steel objects are still fluid in time...they do change shape, and they will compress against one another.  I suspect it is a good idea to move a locomotive periodically so that it doesn't have semi-permanently shape-altered precision surfaces.  I know for a fact that non-working rod mills and ball mills in concentrators are turned periodically to ensure their precision surfaces are not affected by sitting under compression in one aspect too long.

Crandell

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Posted by Firelock76 on Sunday, February 19, 2012 4:21 PM

I believe the main reason the Virginia Museum of Transportation moves 611 periodically is to keep the moving parts from locking up.  Maybe there wasn't much of a possibilty of that happening with roller bearings on the axles and side rods, but why take chances?   I'm sure the museum has also been hoping for the day when maybe, just maybe...

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Posted by Leo_Ames on Sunday, February 19, 2012 6:32 PM

What was done with the boiler lagging when she was retired?

I don't know about modern materials (Used to have asbestos in it, so I assume a different material is used in recent decades), but that was always a sponge for moisture for display locomotives.

Did they strip it away to make sure that couldn't happen?

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Posted by Firelock76 on Sunday, February 19, 2012 7:50 PM

Say, if you folks want a real treat search "you tube n&w 611 going home."  It's a promotional film shot in 1982-1983 by the NS about 611's rebuild and return to service.  You even get to see her with the streamline shroud removed.  "GASP!  SHE'S NAKED!"  Just a fun film with a lot of familiar faces in it.

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Posted by Thomas 9011 on Sunday, February 19, 2012 10:09 PM

I can't say I have ever heard of bearings getting flat spots on them from sitting too long either.

I know the biggest problem when moving a steam locomotive that has been sitting for a long time is that the pistons are rusted frozen to the cylinder. The pistons are frozen so hard that many times the wheels are locked up even if you push it with another locomotive. Since the smokestack is open to rain and snow, all that water goes right down the pipe into the cylinders where it collects onto bare metal. That is why many times when they move locomotives out of parks the side rods are taken off.

 All the other moving parts are typically ok since with friction bearings the bearing is solid brass which does not rust. They are also in the journal boxes which is filled with oil and shielded from the elements . The driver bearings are brass. All the side rods have brass bearings.

 I noticed in videos that they do move the 611 with the pistons connected. So that is a good thing. That will keep everything from becoming sized up.

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Posted by tomikawaTT on Monday, February 20, 2012 1:35 AM

Thomas 9011

All the other moving parts are typically ok since with friction bearings the bearing is solid brass which does not rust. They are also in the journal boxes which is filled with oil and shielded from the elements . The driver bearings are brass. All the side rods have brass bearings.

 I noticed in videos that they do move the 611 with the pistons connected. So that is a good thing. That will keep everything from becoming sized up.

Say WHAT???

611 has STEEL roller bearings, not friction bearings.  She has also been kept well lubricated, both bearings (including crossheads) and cylinders.  Not very likely to sieze up.

When I saw her in outdoor storage before she was moved to her present home the stack was covered.  That kept rain out of the smokebox, blastpipe and exhaust side of the steam system.

The biggest problem with recommissioning 611 (or any other stored or display steamer) is the boiler - and the plethora of new, more stringent, requirements laid down by the Federales.  The second is, once she's operable, where do you run her?  If you think NS wants to try to fit her into their operations, think again.

Chuck

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Posted by Leo_Ames on Monday, February 20, 2012 2:00 AM

I imagine if she was operable and available to use and they could come to terms, they'd love to use her. She'd be better able to coexist on excursions on the mainline in their 21st century steam program and she's a very recognizable part of their corporate heritage. But much of the burden would have to fall on the the Virginia Museum of Transportation just like what they're presently doing with the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum.

I see no reason why she'd be any less desirable than TVRM's 4501, 630, and 610 (Which doesn't even have any links with NS's heritage, being an ex Army locomotive). And if anything, she'd be better able to fit into their operations than these smaller locomotives that are currently going to be used in their new steam program.

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Posted by bubbajustin on Monday, February 20, 2012 8:42 AM

The 611 is honestly one of the best locomotives that was ever produced. She had roller berings and could be serviced in under one hour by a skilled crew. She is a very likley canadate to be restored. I hope that one day.... One day we will again see her thunder down the rails. Wink

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Posted by daveklepper on Tuesday, February 21, 2012 4:19 AM

611 with a string of matched red N&W historicalliy painted passenger rolling stock would be the main rival to IRM's Nebraska Zephyr for the USA's most beautiful train.

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Posted by Firelock76 on Tuesday, February 21, 2012 8:27 PM

Maybe 611 will run again someday  for one reason:  Like Mount Everest, "because it's there..."

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Posted by Fla RailFan on Wednesday, February 22, 2012 9:58 AM

Great video! Thanks.

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Posted by oltmannd on Wednesday, February 22, 2012 10:18 AM

Leo_Ames

I imagine if she was operable and available to use and they could come to terms, they'd love to use her. She'd be better able to coexist on excursions on the mainline in their 21st century steam program and she's a very recognizable part of their corporate heritage. But much of the burden would have to fall on the the Virginia Museum of Transportation just like what they're presently doing with the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum.

I see no reason why she'd be any less desirable than TVRM's 4501, 630, and 610 (Which doesn't even have any links with NS's heritage, being an ex Army locomotive). And if anything, she'd be better able to fit into their operations than these smaller locomotives that are currently going to be used in their new steam program.

From what I understand, the steam train will only be about a half dozen cars long and will be run for invited guests (shippers, politicians, etc. ) to ride.   I don't think they figured out how to do an affordable insurance deal to allow for paying customers on regular excursions.  I'm sure they'll let everyone know where and when it's running though.  It's all about the PR....

-Don (Random stuff, mostly about trains - what else? http://blerfblog.blogspot.com/

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Posted by Firelock76 on Wednesday, February 22, 2012 7:03 PM

Fla RailFan

Great video! Thanks.

Oh, you're very welcome!  I didn't post it, found it by accident doing some You Tube exploring, but I just had to let evryone else know about it.

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Posted by bubbajustin on Saturday, February 25, 2012 11:29 PM

A good point has been brought up. When the 611's cars picked that switch near the Great Dismal Swamp, insurance rates went though the roof! I bet that insurance would be astronomical!

And I totally agree with the most beautiful train in the world comment!

Long live the 611!

-Justin

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Posted by Firelock76 on Sunday, February 26, 2012 9:52 AM

Per bubbajustin's comment:  All steam excursions had problems with insurance in the late 80's, early 90's, not just Norfolk Southern.  But ways were found around it.  One result of the Great Dismal Swamp wreck was a speed limit set on NS excursions.  Prior to the wreck the excursions were allowed to run as fast as track conditions allowed.  After the wreck a speed limit of 45mph was set.  At any rate, according to Mr. Jim McClellan what really killed the excursion program was a lack of enthusiasm for it by NS management, they felt it was getting in the way of regular operations and becoming more trouble than it was worth.  McClellan was very much in favor of the program but as a junior VP didn't have much pull to keep it alive.  Add to that the passing of Bob, and then Graham Claytor and the program didn't have any more friends to speak for it.  Now with the Wick Moorman regime, I suppose anything is possible, but as I said in an earlier post I'm hoping, but not holding my breath.  And you bet, 611 on the head end of a Tuscan Red consist IS the most beautiful train in the world!

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