Norfolk & Western J-611, 1992

Although not a recording of John Prophet's, the sounds of the Norfolk & Western J-611 locomotive have become a part of history by their own right. I was very fortunate on two different occasions to get close to this spectacular steam train and make both sound recordings and video. The sad part to all of this is that the Norfolk Southern Corporation no longer runs this or any of their other steam engines. They have all been returned to museum status since their continued operation was something that NS didn't want to fund any longer.

In July of 1992, having been given permission by NS to enter their property with camera and DAT recorder in hand, I set up at various locations on the their main line to capture the 611 as it lead the way for the National Railroad Historical Society's annual excursion. My partners and I chased the train all the down to Erie, PA and back and made some spectacular recordings.

The best recording is the one you are about to listen to. It was made in the late afternoon in Dunkirk, New York. The 611 has stopped at Dunkirk Station is let passengers off. It will then depart for Buffalo and the end of the trip.

We had the perfect location; at the foot of Bucknor Street. In front of us were the double-track main line of the old Nickel Plate Road. It was very quiet since Bucknor Street ends at a peaceful field and we had the entire area to ourselves. only the occasional dog and child playing can be heard in the recording.

The recording begins with the 611 sounding it's "fog-horn sounding" whistle as it announces it imminent departure from Dunkirk. Then as the engine pulls out of the station and gathers speed, you will hear the bells of the many crossing gates go down. This is why this location was spectacular. The 611 has to whistle for about 5 grade crossings! By the time the train reaches our vantage point it's doing about 40 miles per hour.

The 611

It was truly a memorable moment and the culmination of over 226 miles of travel and 13 hours of work.


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The Recordings

The Buffalo History Works