Dave Mitchell's Central Vermont, Vienna, VA

April 8th, 2017

Pictures by Bill Mosteller


    I would generally agree with the statement that “Model Railroading is Fun.” After all, why would anyone voluntarily do something for over 65 years that wasn’t? However, there are times when it’s not so much fun; for example, when you have a railroad that’s runs less ideally than it once did because you’ve built it too big to maintain it properly due to problems that didn’t exist when you when you first constructed it, not mentioning any names, of course. And when you have a large space available for your railroad, the tendency is to fill it with a large railroad and the large amount of railroad “stuff” that goes with it because you can, you know, like trains, track trees, buildings etc. again, not mentioning any names. But every so often, a situation occurs where you can’t do those things: a military or government career, for example, where frequent moves to different duty station or locations preclude accumulating a railroad with a large footprint, and with the concomitant large amount of “stuff.” that goes with it. Do these people find that their smaller railroad can be fun too?

    I would venture to say that they not only can, they do, and I had the pleasure of seeing one very recently. Actually, most of us have already seen the pictures of it; it belongs to Dave Mitchell, and was photographed and reviewed by Doug Kirkpatrick (“New England Railroading in a Small Space”) in the March 2017 issue of Model Railroader Magazine. Dave has modeled the Central Vermont, the prototype of which is not particularly large, and tends to lend itself more realistically to what he decided to do. It really is amazing what someone can fit onto a four foot by eight foot plywood board: a two level operating HO scale railroad complete with a realistic reproduction of a small Vermont town in the middle of it, many of whose structures were built by Dave when he was teenager from kits produced by long out of business manufacturers.

Admittedly, there are some limitations; you can’t run 40 car freight trains in a space that size (although admittedly I can’t either; my sidings aren’t long enough). But you can operate realistically typical short CV way freights hauling many of those classic Ambroid One in 5000 car kits built by Dave, again, when he was pursuing his military or government career. Using a GP-7 or a steam switcher each decorated for the CV, the both of them performed very well that day, especially the steam locomotive which had to negotiate a 18 inch radius curve to get from the upper level back to the lower level. A small layout in a small room would not be practical for one of our normal tours when you think about how many people will sometimes show up for them. But Dave has graciously offered to have private showings by invitation, and at the risk of overwhelming his generous hospitality, I would suggest that you take him up on it and see for yourself that it really isn’t necessary to fill every available square inch of space in a room for your model railroad to be fun.

Bob Rosenberg