Norfolk Southern to Use Proceeds from Sale of Painting to Fund Steam Locomotive Rehab

Norfolk Southern recently sold a well-known abstract expressionist painting and will use a portion of the proceeds to fund the restoration of a Class J steam locomotive.

The railroad sold the untitled 1959 Mark Rothko painting through an auction in New York City. Norfolk Southern is directing $1.5 million of the proceeds to “Fire Up 611!,” the capital campaign.

Once refurbished, No. 611, a Norfolk & Western Railway streamliner, will be used for passenger excursion service.

“No. 611 is an American classic, a reflection of a time and a people who put the country on their backs and carried it into to the modern age of railroading,” Norfolk Southern Chairman and CEO Wick Moorman said in a news release. “611 is not an NS, N&W, Virginia, or Roanoke locomotive. It belongs to everyone and every generation. In that spirit, and on behalf of NS employees everywhere, I announce our strong support for bringing back a true national marvel.”

No. 611 rolled out of N&W’s Roanoke shops in 1950. The locomotives and its sister Class A and Y6 locomotives constituted the “Magnificent Three” that pulled passenger and heavy freight trains during the last two decades of steam railroading in the U.S.

Class J locomotives such as 611 could pull 15 cars at 110 mph, and their builders once promoted the advanced engineering by showing how several men, with nothing more than a rope, could pull one on the track. 611 was retired in 1959, restored for excursion service in 1984, and retired again in 1994. Since then, 611 was previously on display at the Virginia Museum of Transportation.

The 611 may be available for service in Norfolk Southern’s 21st Century Steam program in 2014.