Thunder on Blue Ridge

Big American steam power in action is an increasingly rare spectacle on the main line in the 21st century. Dave Rodgers reports on the recent successful revival of one of the biggest US locomotives.

Thunder on Blue Ridge
With the famous Blue Ridge mountains as a backdrop, No. 611 is seen at full power blasting up the 1-in-83 grade on the 11-mile 300ft climb from Roanoke to Blue Ridge on the outward run to Lynchburg on Saturday, May 7.
The famed Norfolk & Western Railway (not Railroad), immortalised in the classic photographs by O Winston Link was until 1960, the last major steam-operated railway in the USA.

Its principal main line ran for 646 miles from the Atlantic coast at Norfolk, Virginia through the beautiful undulating Virginia landscape and Allegheny Mountains to Columbus, Ohio while many branch lines served the very productive West Virginian coal producing region.

The railway’s headquarters were in the city of Roanoke, Virginia.

Over the weekend of May 7/8, Norfolk & Western Railway J class 4-8-4 No. 611, which was restored and returned to service in May 2015, was brought out from display in the Virginia Museum of Transportation in Roanoke to operate four excursions.

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