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Norfolk and Western #611 Excursion:

Norfolk and Western #611 Excursion:




            In 1994, Norfolk Southern ended their steam program. One of the locomotives from the program was Norfolk and Western J-class 4-8-4 #611. The #611 was sent to the Virginia Museum of Transportation.


            A few years ago, Norfolk Southern started a new steam program. #611 was not initially chosen to participate as it needed an overhaul. A group called “Fire up 611” formed to raise the $2.5 million to restore the steam locomotive. I chipped in $10.


            The money was raised by the time Streamliners at Spencer happened last year. #611 participated and its restoration started on the second day of the four day event.



Norfolk and Western #611 at Streamliners at Spencer where its restoration commenced.



            Following Streamliners at Spencer, 611’s was restored in the museum’s roundhouse and restoration kicked into high gear. In late March of this year, there was a successful test fire in the locomotive’s boiler. In May, #611 ran under its own steam for the first time in 20 years.


            Soon, a series of excursions were announced in June and July that would be hauled by #611. Since I had kicked in $10; it was enough for me to decide to go ride behind #611.


            I decided to ride an excursion pulled by #611 out of Lynchburg, Virginia on June 14th. While I intended to ride Amtrak all the way there and back, the Crescent which I had looked into taking was sold out. I was able to come up with plan B that involved getting part way there on Amtrak.


            My new plan was to fly Air Canada from Toronto to Washington National Airport where I would ride a Regional train to Lynchburg. I would ride behind #611 the next day. The morning after I rode #611, I would take another Regional train back to Alexandria, Virginia, and fly home to Toronto; changing planes in Montreal. However, the day before, I ended up getting a cold just like on my Six Flags Make up trip last October. The trip unfolded as follows:


June 13, 2015:


            I left home at 7:50 am. My mom gave me a ride to the Richmond Hill Center. I boarded a GO Transit route #40 bus to the airport. The bus left one minute late.


            The ride took about 25 minutes. When I got to the terminal, I got off and photographed the bus.



            I then went inside. I saw the Union Pearson Express train which had opened a week earlier. I got a preview ride on in a few days before it opened thanks to my sister's co-worker.


            I had some minor problems checking in with Air Canada, but I was soon able to check in. I went to clear customs. One person mentioned my 4-8-4 Northern hat which I bought when I visited the Museum of Science and Technology in Ottawa back in 2009.


            I cleared Customs and security without incident and checked my suitcase.


            I then bought a Pepsi and went to my gate. I photographed an Eygptair plane.



            I logged into Pearson's Wi-Fi. I photographed an Air Canada Embraer E175.



            I worked on this report some more. I went to a Tim Horton's near my gate and bought a donut. I then photographed my plane to Washington.



            I then headed back to my gate. Boarding began a few minutes later. I was seated in the forward most seats in economy class. The plane left on time. As we taxied out to the runway, I photographed various planes at the terminal from overseas.





            The plane then took off. I filmed the take off roll. From my seat, I could see we were flying over downtown Toronto and I could make out the Union Pearson Express.


            I watched the movie “Alexander and the Terrible Horrible no Good very Bad Day” which took up most of the flight.


            We soon began our descent into Washington DC. I could make out the Washington Monument. As we landed at Washington National Airport, I filmed the landing. However, my ears popped. This has never happened on Air Canada before.


            We were soon at the terminal I got off and photographed the plane.



            I then went to the baggage claim. Unlike the last time I landed at Washington National Airport, my suitcase arrived with me! I then headed to the Metro station.


            My plane was on time, so I had a few hours to kill. I decided to go for lunch at the Pentagon City mall. While I was waiting for my subway, I phoned my mom to let her know I was in Washington.


            A subway train soon arrived and I photographed it.



            I boarded 1000 series car #1192. A few months ago, Washington Metro's new 7000 series cars had began to enter service. However, there are not many trains in service right now.


            I rode to Pentagon City and photographed the train.



            I then headed to the food court and had lunch at Taco Bell. I then headed back to the subway. I then rode a train to King Street-Old Town. I filmed the train pulling out and walked to the Alexandria train station. I still had more than two hours before my train left.


            I saw the northbound Silver Star in the station and attempted to film it departing, but a CSX freight blocked my shot. I did see it had a new Viewliner 2 baggage car.


            The freight cleared and I filmed the northbound Silver Star and took a photo of it.



            I then went to the waiting game. No other freights passed until just before the southbound Silver Star arrived.




            When the southbound Silver Star arrived, I filmed the train pulling it. I saw it also had a new Viewliner 2 baggage car. I photographed the train.




            I then filmed the train pulling out. In the near future, the Silver Star will loose its dining car as an experiment.


            I went to the air conditioned station building for a few minutes. I headed out to film train #195 arrive and then photograph it.



            I filmed train #195 departing. A few minutes later, they announced that my train was soon arriving. However, they misidentified my train as #171. However, the Amtrak employee soon realized her mistake and made another announcement correctly identifying my train as #147.


            When train #147 arrived, I filmed it. I saw that the train was being led by P32-8BWH #512! It's rare to see a P32-8BWH leading so that was a treat!



            I was seated in Amfleet 1 coach #82595. Despite the fact the Crescent was sold out, there were plenty of free seats on this train. We soon departed.


            After my ticket was taken, I went to the cafe car because I was really thirsty. I then worked on this report. The train made stops at Burke Centre and Manassas. At Manassas, I saw a caboose near the station. We soon departed.


            A little while later, we stopped at Culpeper. I went to the cafe car for dinner. I ate it back at my seat. The train stopped at Charlottesville. After we left Charlottesville, the crew announced we'd be just over an hour to Lynchburg.


            It started raining outside. At one point, the HEP went out in my coach, but was restored less than a minute later.


            The rain also stopped.


            A little while later, we were stopped due to a freight train that had gone into emergency. The freight train was on a single track line so there would be no way to get around it.


            After several minutes, the freight train passed us. Unfortunately, we had to wait for additional trains to pass.


            After a second Norfolk Southern Intermodel train passed, we were underway again. We passed another freight train. I played Plants vs. Zombies for a few minutes.


            We were soon approaching Lynchburg. I readied my stuff in preparation to get off.


            Train #147 arrived into Lynchburg 48 minutes late. I got off and took some photos.






            I then walked to a nearby bus terminal and caught a bus to my hotel. I walked over and checked in. I headed to my room and called a taxi for tomorrow morning. I then phoned home. I watched TV before I set my alarm and called it a night.


June 14, 2015:


I got up at 5:55 and got dressed. I got a call on my cell phone from the taxi company confirming if I still needed the cab at 6:30. I said yes. This was much better than the taxi company that made me miss the Lakeshore Limited on my Washington-Cleveland trip.


             I went to the lobby for breakfast. After breakfast, I went back to my room and got my stuff together. I bought a Pepsi from a vending machine.


            The taxi had arrived a few minutes early.  We left and soon arrived at the Norfolk Southern railway yard where #611 was waiting with its train. The excursion would not be leaving from the Amtrak station.


            I paid the driver and took some photos.






            I was seated in the 18th car which is a former Great Northern dome full length dome from the same order as Amtrak's remaining dome car. There were two short length domes in the consist as well.


            The train departed five minutes late. We actually reversed out and backed up quite a ways. The train was being wyed. We were soon going forwards.


            I worked on this report for a little until my laptop's battery ran out. At various points, we saw many railfans photographing the train. We passed a Norfolk Southern intermodel going the other way.


            At one point, we stopped. I went a few cars forward and found an outlet and charged my laptop and worked on this report some more. After awhile, we were moving again. We passed another Norfolk Southern intermodel. We stopped again a few minutes later.  After several minutes, we were moving again.


            We paused in a Norfolk Southern rail yard. I saw an SD90MAC NS had bought from Union Pacific.



            I could make out a small railroad museum. I attempted to photograph it from the train.




            We were underway again. At one point, I bought a Coke because I was really thirsty. As we went around a curve, I photographed the front of the train from the dome.



            Eventually, we arrived in Petersburg. I got off and photographed the train.



This was my coach for the ride.







            I walked to the front of the train and was finally able to photograph #611.




            It was nice to see #611 living again. When I saw it last year, it was inoperable. I walked to a coffee shop called “Demolition Coffee” and had lunch. I also worked on this report some more.


            I returned to the station and took some more pictures of #611 and its train.





            The last car on the train was former Seaboard observation car “Hollywood Beach” which like #611 was also at the Streamliners at Spencer event last year. I then got back on the train. We departed at 2:45 pm.







Here’s Hollywood Beach during last years Streamliners at Spencer.


            I expected the train to by wyed, but it took another route out of Petersburg.


            A little while later, we overtook a Norfolk Southern freight. We passed the spur that Amtrak's new Norfolk service uses. After awhile, we rejoined the line we had taken to Petersburg; so we basically made one big loop.


            We passed two Norfolk Southern intermodel trains going the other way. We stopped by a NS yard. After several minutes, we were underway again. We passed two more Norfolk Southern freights.


            After awhile, we were getting close to Lynchburg. I could see my hotel from the train. I wished the train could have stopped there.


            The train slowed to a crawl for the last few miles. We eventually arrived at the yard in Lynchburg where we boarded.


            I got off and photographed the train.






            I then walked over and photographed the #611 again.





            I then photographed some Norfolk Southern power at the diesel shops in the yard.



            I then walked through a nearby mall parking lot. Lynchburg University had many buses stored including a D40LF and a D60LF. I photographed them. It’s ironic the University has an articulated bus while Lynchburg’s main transit system (which doesn’t run on Sundays) only uses 35 foot Gilligs.







            I then walked over to an Arby's and ate dinner. I phoned for a cab to meet me at an Exxon gas station. It took several minutes, but the taxi came to the wrong gas station across the street! I walked over and got in the cab and went back to my hotel.


            I worked on this report for a few minutes before I asked for a wake up call at 6:00 am. When I was on the Amtrak train the day before, I had checked Google Maps transit and saw there would be a bus on route 1B that would get me to the Amtrak station 34 minutes before the train was scheduled to depart. I eventually called it a night.


June 15, 2015:


            I got up at 6:00 am and got dressed I went to the lobby for breakfast. I then went to my room and finished packing. I checked out of my hotel and walked to a bus stop expecting a bus to come around 6:46 am. While waiting, I photographed a bus going the other way.



            6:46 am came and no sign of a bus. I became anxious. I ended up walking towards the station without any sign of a bus. I ended up missing the train by 2 minutes! Stupid Google!!!!!!!!!!



The unused part of my ticket.


            I phoned my mom and let her know I had missed the train because of a non existent bus. I wasn't sure what to do.


            After awhile, I ended up taking a Greyhound bus to Roanoke. I was told it would come at 8:20 am. It was at least 10 minutes late. Shortly after we left Lynchburg, we passed the Norfolk Southern yard and I caught a glimpse of #611 again. I learned that the bus to Washington would leave at 2:00 pm and get me there at 8:15 pm. My Air Canada flight left at 4:25 pm. I was in trouble. I ended up booking a flight with US Airways that would get me into Toronto a little after midnight. All things considered, it was most likely my cheapest option with was about $460 Canadian. If I had my way, Google would reimburse me.


            I wandered around the area around Roanoke for awhile. I walked on a bridge over the Norfolk Southern main line. I waited to see if any freight trains would pass. None did, but I attempted to photograph some Norfolk Southern locomotives in the distance.



            I walked around and went by the local city bus terminal. They had a sign advertising planning a trip with Google Transit which had screwed me in Lynchburg!


            At one point, I saw an 18 wheeler take a right turn too tight and it blew out the tires on the right side of the trailer with two loud booms! I asked a woman who was nearby the truck at the time if she was okay. She said she was, but she could feel the heat.


            I had lunch at a Subway and eventually caught a bus to the airport. Along the way, the bus passed near the Virginia Transportation Museum which owns #611. I saw Wabash E8 #1009 which also was at Streamliners at Spencer last year.



Here’s Wabash #1009 at Streamliners at Spencer.


            The bus didn’t go to the airport but a mall a couple blocks away. I still had plenty of time and walked the rest of the way.


            I was able to check in with US Airways and checked my suitcase for $25 U.S. I then cleared security.


            If my plane was on time, I would have at least three hours. I attempted to use the airport’s Wi-Fi but it worked occasionally at best. I did manage to call Air Canada and arranged for a {small} credit as a result of what happened.


            My plane ended up getting delayed by over an hour! Jeez, only the Amtrak train was on time! However, I would still be making my connecting flight in Charlotte.


            The plane showed up around 6:10 pm. Although I was booked on US Airways, the plane was in the livery of American Eagle. American Airlines recently took over US Airways. I photographed the plane a Dash 8 turboprop as it taxied to the gate.



            Several minutes later, we were allowed to board. I had an aisle seat. We departed over an hour late.


            The flight was just over an hour and we landed in Charlotte. However, we had to sit on the tarmac waiting for a gate to park at! Several minutes later, a gate opened up and we were able to get off. I photographed the plane and another American Eagle plane.




            I went into the terminal. I had well over an hour before my plane to Toronto left. I wanted to make sure that I would NOT have to go through security a second time like what happened when I flew Jetblue from Buffalo to Washington in 2013! Fortunately, I would not have to.


            I ended up getting a 15 minute massage from a place in the terminal. Despite my anxiety and having a cold, I found Charlotte’s airport terminal was one of the nicest airports I’ve ever been in! They even had large rocking chairs all over the terminal and a fairly decent food court. I bought dinner at a Burger King in the food court. I phoned home to let my mom know I was at Charlotte.


            I logged into Charlotte’s airport Wi-Fi and went online for a little while. The gate agent called people on my flight to show their boarding passes and passports. This hasn’t happened before, but considering this was the last flight of the night to Toronto, they want people to have there passports before they get on the plane.


            My plane soon arrived. I would be flying on an American Eagle Embraer E175. I photographed the plane as it came.



            After several minutes, boarding commenced. I had a window seat this time, though I initially sat in the wrong seat. When I realized what had happened, I moved to the right seat. From my seat, I photographed another US Airways jet.



            The plane left on time. That was the first thing to leave on time since the Amtrak train I had missed! We had a long taxi out to the runway stopping to let planes take off and land across the taxiways. From the plane, I could see an intermodel terminal.


            On the second and third days of Streamliners at Spencer, the special train that PRR E8 #5809 led was heading for that terminal.


            When my plane finally took off, I filmed the take off roll. We were soon at cruising altitude. There wasn’t much to see as it was dark. I was given a form to fill out for Canadian Customs. I filled it out. We hit a few rough patches of air, but none too bad.


June 16, 2015:


            We were approaching Toronto. I could barely make out Lake Ontario from the plane. It was good to be almost home; three and a half hours after I SHOULD have been home!


            I filmed the landing. We were soon parked at Terminal 3. I got off the plane. However, I was unable to photograph it.



            The customs inspection was fast and painless. I then went to get my suitcase. Just like what happened in Paris, my suitcase got to the baggage claim before I did. I got my suitcase and met my mom. We then headed home where I had to take out the garbage for the next day before I went to bed.




            This was a disastrous end to a pretty cool trip. I am miffed about the lack of a bus Google Transit said there would be. If I do a make up trip, it’s not going to be until next year soonest. Between missing this train from Google Transit and the taxi company in Cleveland making me miss the Lakeshore Limited in 2007, it’s hard to win.


            It was still good riding behind #611 on the main line. The last time I rode behind a steam engine on a mainline railroad was back in 2004 when I rode behind CP 4-6-4 Hudson steam locomotive #2816. However, back then, I rode in a GO Transit bi-level commuter coach. Despite what happened on this trip, I’d still like a chance to ride behind other notable steam locomotives; especially Union Pacific Big Boy #4014 which is undergoing restoration and will be pulling excursions in a few years. I’ll definitely go to ride behind that engine!


            On top of what happened on my way home, when I got home, I learned my friend Greg in Chicago had a serious heart attack and was in the hospital! However, when I posted this report, he had been moved out of intensive care to a regular hospital room which hopefully means he’ll recover.


            As things currently stand right now, I don’t have any plans until August when I plan a second trip to Europe! Until next time…