Dale Latham’s Piedmont Southern, Waldorf, MD

January 13th, 2018

Pictures by Marshall Abrams

A Visit to Dale Latham’s HO Scale Piedmont Southern Railroad
Brian W. Sheron, MMR

The Potomac Division covers a fairly large area around the greater Washington, DC area. Poolesville, Maryland is in about the farthest northwest corner of the Division, and Waldorf, Maryland is just about in the diagonally opposite corner (but not quite!). Thus, a drive from my house to Dale Latham’s was going to be close to two hours. However, Dale’s layout is nationally known, and since I had heard so much about it but had not seen it, I made arrangements to visit it on Saturday, January 14th.

Rather than drive there alone, I carpooled with three other Potomac Division members (Tom Brodrick, Marshall Abrams, and Ed Rosado). Carpooling with others is enjoyable, and we stopped at an IHOP in Waldorf for lunch before heading on to Dale’s house.

We were greeted at the door by both Dale’s wife and Ed McGill, a Division member that graciously volunteered to be a greeter that afternoon. After we signed in, we headed to the layout room.

Dale’s layout room is about 528 square feet, and the layout goes around the room with a U-shaped island in the middle.

Dale models the Piedmont Southern Railroad set in 1956, which is probably the prime of the transition era, allowing steam and diesel engines to share the same tracks. Dale says that the Piedmont Southern is a fictional railroad running between Richmond, VA., and Connellsville, PA.

Before I had visited Dale’s layout, Bill Roman told me that Dale was a bit of a perfectionist, and as such, he was constantly removing and redoing sections of his layout. Dale said that he actually started working on the layout in 1978 when he moved into his house. However, he said that the layout has undergone numerous changes over the years.

Dale’s railroad was featured in Kalmbach’s “Great Model Railroads” in 2009, and in their “Art of Model railroading calendar. However, Dale told me that the current layout doesn’t resemble the layout featured in the 2009 publication.

Dale uses Digitrax DCC and several his engines have sound decoders in them. What I think makes Dale’s layout so nice is the overall balance of the scenery. As you follow the track plan around the room, Dale has numerous sidings to service different industries. However, the buildings associated with these various industries are not overwhelming or too congested, and convey the feeling of a rural industry. All of his buildings are excellently built and weathered. Turnouts that are close to the front of the layout and within easy reach for the aisle are hand throws from Caboose Industries, whereas turnouts not within easy reach are motorized.

Despite the distance from where many of the Potomac Division members live, 21 visitors made the trip and got the opportunity to see Dale’s magnificent railroad.

If you missed seeing Dale’s layout on January 14th, Dale plans to host another layout tour during the October, 2018 MER convention.