Fifteen Years Ago today

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at
Thu Oct 25 12:42:57 EDT 2007

WOW, has it really been that long? I remember it was on 10/25 because it usually crossed my mind, but didn't realize it had been 15 years. I remember it like it was yesterday. I, too, was lucky enough to be on the portion of the train that went up behind the J. I was on the fireman's side, 3rd car, a fluted stainless car as I remember. My uncle and I had to perfect seat when the engine stalled as it was in a left hand curve.

I was in the cab the last couple of times up the hill. I vividly remember having 12 in the cab the last time up in November '94. That was also the last time that Jack Tayor ran the engine. I sat on the water cooler on the tender on the fireman's side and could look out down the roofline of the cab. Needless to say, the sound was awesome.


NW Mailing List <nw-mailing-list at> wrote:
It's hard to believe it, but today marks 15 years since the day I rode
611's first excursion up Saluda Grade. October 25, 1992 is a day that
I won't ever forget when me and my dad rode the Piedmont Carolinas
Chapter NRHS excursion from Charlotte, NC to Asheville, NC via
Spartanburg, SC (my hometown) and return. It was a LONG day, but well
worth it considering that both the J and Saluda grade are no longer in

I rode in the former Norfolk and Western P3 coach 531 which was the
fifth car of the rear. Having boarded the train I had no idea that at
Melrose, I would be on the first of the last five cars to go up Saluda
grade behind 611. I was sitting in the middle window seat on the left
hand side of the car under the letter "D" in "AND." I was rather young
at the time and so when 611 stalled I was not really concerned,
although I saw my dad seemed to be. Now I realize he understood the
dangers of Saluda grade, but as everyone knows Bob Saxton successfully
restarted the mighty J and conquered the grade.

In Asheville, I went over to the Asheville Chapter NRHS's museum and
got in the cab of ex- Southern Railway 2-8-0 number 722 and rang the
bell during the layover as 611 was being serviced in the yard. Of
course most of the return trip was in the dark and I ended up falling
asleep during the stop in Spartanburg. My dad says though that he
believes 611 was breaking the 40 mile-per-hour speed restriction that
was enforced following the 1986 NS employee special derailment in the
Dismal Swamp.

I also rode the final excursion up Saluda on November 13, 1994 which
also ended up being my final excursion behind the 611. Although
unfortunately as luck would have it 611 would be carrying the auxilary
water tender and tool car up Saluda and the train was broken right
behind the coach I was riding in, which was the Watauga Valley Chapter
NRHS' former FEC coach Clinchfield.

I have seen both the 611 and 531 since. I went to Roanoke to see the
611 and 1218 in October 2003 and enjoyed seeing my old friends. Then
back in May this year I saw the 531 again, although time hasn't been
kind. Hopefully the folks at TVRM will have the car restored and
spruced up again sometime in the future.

Even though the 611 may (likely) never run again, I'm thankful for the
memories and October 25 will be a date I continue to remember dearly.

Steven Ashley
Spartanburg, South Carolina
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