Since rolling out of the Roanoke East End Shops on May 29,1950, the famous Class ‘J’ No. 611 locomotive has traveled millions of miles. After years of travel, 611 was returned to her hometown of Roanoke, Virginia to serve as a static display at The Virginia Museum of Transportation, waiting for the day she could steam again. The museum announced an initiative in 2013 that determined 611 was in excellent condition to serve as an excursion engine, thus began the restoration of the “Queen of Steam.”
Following an intensive restoration, 611 needed protection during its winter storage. During the cold season, the water is drained from the boiler and heaters are placed in the firebox to ensure that any remaining water does not freeze and damage the locomotive. These heaters are essential to maintain the condition of the Class ‘J’ passenger locomotive. The 611 Maintenance Team recognized that they needed something to ensure the heaters were not only always on but keeping everything at the proper temperature.
After making a large investment in the restoration of the “Queen of Steam,” The Virginia Museum of Transportation knew it was important to properly monitor a few things to avoid any damage. Status Solutions formed a relationship with the museum through a partner of ours, Gavin Miller of Acomplis Technology. Gavin is a member of the 611 Mechanical Crew and presented the needs of the locomotive to Status Solutions. After identifying those needs, we recommended installing SARA (Situational Awareness and Response Assistant) and integrating temperature monitors and power loss monitors. The temperature monitors were placed in the firebox and combustion chamber, so when the temperatures fall outside of normal limits alerts via text and email will be sent to the 611 Mechanical Team in real-time. The power loss monitors were put in place to ensure the heaters located in the engine’s cab have power, preventing the water in the boiler from freezing.
Flexibility of Wireless Sensors
While multiple environmental controls may be in place within a given facility, these systems usually operate independent of one another. But through the locomotive’s new easy to maintain wireless infrastructure, all sensors have been integrated with SARA to generate real-time alerts when the heater power fails, temperature drops or a sudden change occurs. These alerts are sent straight to the 611 Mechanical Team via multiple devices (mobile and desktop) simultaneously for redundancy.
To ensure the remaining water in the boiler does not freeze and damage the locomotive, it’s imperative that the 611 Maintenance Team is aware of temperatures in the locomotive’s firebox and combustion chamber. An enhanced line of temperature sensors works in tandem with SARA to log temperature and humidity based on data that is updated at regular intervals. This data can be viewed by staff via the SARA user interface or through reports. With that being said, the Maintenance Team has access to reports giving them detailed information about the temperature readings.
About Class ‘J’ No. 611No. 611 was one of fourteen Class ‘J’ passenger locomotives built for the Norfolk & Western Railway between 1941 and 1950 and the only one in existence today.The class averaged 15,000 miles per month and some of the locomotives traveled nearly 3 million miles before retirement. Simple lines, a bullet nose, and a Tuscan red stripe made the class stand out as one of the most beautiful streamlined steam locomotives ever designed. The Js were the pride of the Norfolk & Western Railway’s crack fleet