ROANOKE (WSLS10) -Rail tourism continues to be big business in the Star City and across the Roanoke Valley. The Virginia Museum is only days away from hearing the outcome of a donation from the Surface Transportation Board and Norfolk Southern that could bring a new rail excursion to the Star City separate from the 611 locomotive.
In the meantime, the 611 is being prepped for it's second round of passenger rail excursions beginning this spring.
It made its return last June with sold out crowds, and the Virginia Museum of Transportation is expecting the same this year.
In preparation for the spring excursion, the same team that restored the 611 is back in town to do more work for another season of travels.
The man behind the work is Scott Lindsay. Like many rail enthusiasts, the love of trains for Lindsay began at an early age.
"My dad took me on steam trips when I was three years old," Lindsay said.
What started as a hobby turned into a career. He was part of the original restoration of the 611 in 1982, then head of the restoration that made the 2015 passenger excursion possible.
"It's amazing the draw that one locomotive can have," Lindsay said.
He's in town to replace the wheels on the steam queen, prepping her for the next excursion that will take passengers.
"We have new wheels, barrings, axles and housings," Lindsay said.
The 611 has generated a lot of interest from around the world.
"To bring it back to life really enhances that love of trains," Lindsay said.
And train lovers want more.
Currently the Virginia Museum of Transportation is working on securing the donation of the Roanoke Beltline to create another local rail excursion for a new type of passenger experience.
The project is still several years away.
But in the meantime - the 611 continues to get the hype, a major money maker for the museum and the entire valley.
Catherine Fox with the Roanoke Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau says train excursions are boosting tourism revenue.
"Putting it (the 611) back on the rail is going to put Roanoke on the map," Fox said.
Excursions set in 2016 may have even more attendance because of the added trips from Greensboro to Roanoke.
"Greensboro will likely bring up upwards of 800 people on each of their trips," Fox said.
More tourists mean more revenue for local businesses.
Ticket sales for the spring excursions begin on February 10th for donors and February 15th for the general public.