Rail Day Brings Out the Fans

Big Meets Bigger: One of many volunteers and enthusiasts at Roanoke’s Rail day last Saturday prepares his large small scale engine in front of the mighty 611.

Anyone who didn’t have a camera in their hand on the railwalk Saturday had to be in the minority. The bright blue skies made for a picture perfect day, and for rail buffs there were limitless opportunities for shots of their favorite subject: trains.

Three museums celebrated National Train Day: the O.Winston Link Museum, the Virginia Museum of Transportation and the C&O Railway Heritage Center in Clifton Forge. For the first time in several years, the 611 was back on mainline tracks.

This year’s event featured the Southern Unit GP-59 diesel locomotive 4610, 1/8 scale train rides, telegraphy demonstrations, antique model trains, railroad photography and children’s activities.

With a boost from his mother, five-year-old Josh Moulse peered intently as the N-Scale model trains circled the detailed landscape. The tiny models exuded true train sounds — chugging, whistling and bell ringing. Like many boys his age, Josh is fascinated by trains; he has his own train set and “even sleeps in a boxcar bed,” according to his mother Wendy Moulse.

Tim Hammack of Forest has been a member of the Lynchburg Area N-Scalers for nine years. N-Scale came into existence around 1960 and is 1/160th of full size. “The advantage for us is the large amount of railroading that can be achieved in a small area,” said Hammack. (For more information on the Lynchburg Area N-Scalers, visit www.techammack.com/lans.)

The Museum’s Class J-611 steamer stole the show. The J-611 entered service sixty years ago on May 29, 1950. Roanoke is home to the only J-611 steamer out of 14 Class J locomotives built. The steam era ended in 1959. In 1984, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers officially recognized the 611 as a National Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark.

By Valerie Garner
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