J611 On The Saluda Grade
The Saluda Grade was the steepest standard-gauge railway in the United States!
Located south of Asheville, North Carolina, the Saluda Grade gains 606 feet in less than 6 miles. It was once part of Spartanburg and Asheville Railroad and built back in 1878. The grade is so steep (average 4.24%) that the line had two runaway train spurs that were manned 24 hours a day back in the day.
Norfolk Southern sold a portion of the line south of Asheville to Watco Companies, LLC., which operates it as a short line Class III operator. It is called the Blue Ridge Southern Railroad.
You can witness a little wheel slip on the grade by J611 before cresting the hill.
J611 was originally built for $251,000 in 1950 by N & W employees, with restoration costs running upwards of $3,500,000 when finished.
Some quick facts about Norfolk and Western’s J-Class #611
- Manufacturer: Norfolk and Western Roanoke Shops
- build date: 1950
- Wheel alignment: 4-8-4
- Drivers: 70 inches
- Locomotive and tender weight combined: 872,600 lbs
- Maximum speed: 110 MPH
Let us know if you have ever seen this magnificent machine rolling down the tracks. We would love to hear your comments!