Train lovers can’t help but to gather at their favorite rail crossings to catch the famous Norfolk and Western 611 stream engine on its nostalgic trips through Delaplane, Marshall and The Plains. One such enthusiast is Tom Kee, owner of The Rail Stop Restaurant in The Plains. In fact, so much so that he commissioned veteran artist, Tom Neel to recreate the mighty coal burning locomotive as it passes through the town.  Kee explains, “I love Tom’s style of painting and after seeing a photo he had taken of a famous train coming through The Plains, I thought a painting would connect well with the town and the restaurant.”

First nicknamed the “Spirit of Roanoke” and then after a later restoration, “The Queen of Steam”, the 1950 class “J” 4-8-4 streamliner hits home with the theme of Kee’s Rail Stop Restaurant and its own suspended model railroad featuring a working version of the famous steam engine. Tom Neel says, “I was thrilled to recreate this massive engine. I recall, while taking photographs, the thunder beast passing by me raining bits of coal dust, but what a joy to see, and now paint!”

The Rail Stop restaurant has been a fixture of The Plains for decades, and Kee is starting his 27th year as owner and chef.  He shares, “During Covid business was tough, but we’ve been grateful for our excellent customer base to pull through it. We added a raised deck with an awning this past year which was a great addition. Our customers have really enjoyed the extra outdoor space.” 

As with the model train, which has become a Rail Stop fixture, so too will the 18” X 24” Tom Neel painting titled, “The Queen of Steam”. There’s a plan to make some fun train tee shirts to celebrate the occasion!  

The Rail Stop is located at 6478 Main St. The Plains. For more information please visit –

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