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This arrangement of cars on the ferry run does not make a lot of sense to this "tabletop" runner.  I hope our experts can ring in on whether there is logic to have four lightly loaded cars between two very heavy locomotives.  Is string lining not an issue?

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I believe the gons are the cars that carried extra coal for the 611 on it's trip from N. Carolina to Stassburg.  The baggage car is 611's tool car which also carried extra parts.   The 611 originally  arrived at Strassburg nose first with the baggage car and gons in tow behind the 611 locomotive.  As there is no turntable or Y to turn the locomotive at Strassburg the 611 must  run backward ( to her next destination or until she can be trurned forward ... if at all ) with the same order of cars in the consist as which she arrived and the NS diesel leading the consist with 611 trailing in reverse.  

Last edited by trumptrain

The 611 is under steam and is working a light throttle to keep the cylinders lubricated. It is essentially carrying its own weight. There is no “heavy locomotive” back there. As Big Jim said, “No issue what so ever.”

The train was built like that because that’s what makes the most sense for when they arrive wherever they are going. When it’s time for 611 to cut away from the train to go wherever she’s going in the yard in Roanoke, ONE step is required. All the conductor has to do is pull the pin behind the tool car and the 611 is cut away and on her own.

If the 611 consist was behind the diesel, getting her off the train takes several moves and a switch:

  1. Set a hand brake on the gons
  2. Uncouple the diesel
  3. Spot it on another track nearby (the switch)
  4. Cut the 611 consist away from the train
  5. Get the 611 consist in the clear so the diesel can couple back to the gons
  6. Put the diesel back on the train
  7. Pump up the air in the train
  8. Release the hand brakes
  9. Do a brake test
  10. Done.
Last edited by Rich Melvin

Hokie 71, I understand your interest in the string lining issue.

It's true that string lining can occur, however it has to involve degree of curvature and trailing tonnage and drawbar force.  The degree of curvature of the typical wye track is sufficient to induce string lining if the locomotive is pulling hard and there is a lot of tonnage behind empty cars.  Certain types of cars and certain train makeup conditions are a factor also.  Long car-short car coupling configurations can be a factor.  And, as we have learned from subsequent posts that N&W 611 was pulling its own weight and the gondolas were partially loaded.  And you can bet that a high profile, high value load like a steam engine will not be handled without some supervision other than the operating crew.

Whenever you see a string lining derailment, you'll normally see a train of some length with a locomotive on the head end, pulling hard, producing high draught forces through the draw gear.  That can also turn the inside rail of the curve, if tie and spike condition is not good, in which case a car can derail and dig in, since it is no longer on the track, and, if there is an empty car, especially a long car, ahead of it, that car can jump the rail.

Also, the Engineer has some involvement.  The lack of prudent throttle handling, whether through inexperience or through just not being one of the best Engineers, or through just not sensing that conditions are ripe for excessive drawbar pull, is often the root cause.  That would never be allowed on a closely-watched shipment like N&W 611.

So, your question was good.  But more severe conditions are needed before string lining could likely occur.

@hokie71 posted:

This arrangement of cars on the ferry run does not make a lot of sense to this "tabletop" runner.  I hope our experts can ring in on whether there is logic to have four lightly loaded cars

Those gondolas are full of coal.

between two very heavy locomotives.

Remember that #611 is NOT just "dead weight", as it is working steam, and thus is virtually "pulling her own weight" when moving.

Is string lining not an issue?

No, as the train is WAY too short.

How many miles are the 611 excursions in the fall on the Virginia Scenic? It says a few hours. Do they go through Staunton or turn back before Staunton? I see they start in Goshen which is where the Virginia Scenic excursions from Staunton normally turn back. They also have excursions east of Staunton which go through a tunnel. Technically these are steam excursions sharing track with CSX who has trackage rights over Buckingham Branch as well as Amtrak. I wonder why CSX sold part of the ex-C&O to Buckingham Branch? Doesn't it have a lot of freight traffic?

Last edited by Robert K

20 some years ago CSX was intending to abandon the old C&O passenger and westbound mainline between Richmond and Clifton Forge. Traffic patterns shifted with all the railroad mergers and there wasn't enough freight traffic for CSX to justify keeping the line. However Amtrak operated the three day a week Cardinal over part of the line, there were still some freight customers to be served, and CSX was using the line to route westbound coal empty trains from Newport News to West Virginia rather then tie up the more southerly James River freight mainline. Instead CSX entered into an agreement to lease the line to the Buckingham Branch for 20 years to run and maintain. This arrangement has been pretty successful as the BB has expanded and now operates over several ex CSX and NS short lines through the state. They have a nice looking fleet of second hand locos and began operating scenic excursions last year that stay sold out.

Supposedly in 2021 the previous governor of Va had the state purchase the Richmond to Clifton Forge  track from CSX and the BB still operates it. I haven't heard much about this purchase but I assume the state does own the right of way.

Not many details have come out on the 611 excursions yet. They do intend to load passengers at Goshen (a town on a 2 lane road with a population of less than 500). The assumption is it will run east to Staunton and return to Goshen under diesel power. It appears a lot of details have yet to be worked out.


So I guess the 611 can run excursions on non-NS lines that are owned by a tourist railroad or short line or regional freight railroad. And NS is still willing to transport the 611 over its tracks. Goshen isn't too far from Roanoke for people to ride behind the 611. It's a lot longer run than Strasburg or NCTM. The Manassas excursion I rode on June 4, 2016 was a 102 or so mile round trip which took four hours, it started at the Amtrak station but veered off onto a freight only line to Front Royal. That was my first time riding behind the 611 and seeing it in person, the second time was at Strasburg Sept 2019. I live about 60 miles from Strasburg, and 25 miles from Reading and Northern, and 15 or so miles east of the WK&S.

Last edited by Robert K

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