Northern Virginia Model Railroaders - One of the Largest Model Railway Layouts in the United States

Published on October 6, 2022
Northern Virginia Model Railroaders - One of the Largest Model Railway Layouts in the United States

There are many model trains on the stunning model railway layout built by the Northern Virginia Model Railroaders (NVMR). Therefore, in this video we discover as many scenes, buildings, bridges and trains as possible. The video includes three slide shows, numerous cab ride videos, special footage with passing steam locomotives, and offers many views of this impressive HO scale layout.

NVMR is a club of model railroading enthusiasts headquartered in the historic train depot in downtown Vienna, Virginia. The club built and maintains a large and permanent model railroad layout and opens its doors twelve times each year to the public. Visitors depict an actual railroad that existed in North Carolina in the 1950's. That railroad was called the “Western North Carolina Railroad” and every hill, town, building, locomotive, rail car and industry on the model rail layout is modeled after those places and things as they looked in that era. The real-life “Western North Carolina Railroad” was a regional railroad that ran 138 miles from Salisbury to Asheville, passing through Statesville and a handful of other North Carolina towns. Each of these towns are represented on the NVMR's layout.

Digital Command Control (DCC) is used on the model train layout. DCC technology permits independent operation of multiple locomotives. Using DCC, club members can walk around following their respective model trains using a hand-held remote to control their operation. As a result, a high degree of realism can be attained in railroad operations on the model layout. Thanks to DCC, visitors can observe realistic train movements as small switcher engines move cars around Spencer Yard to assemble trains. Each train is then connected to a larger locomotive that then rolls down the mainline track to other rail centers in distant towns, finally arriving in Asheville at the end of the day. At each town, trains will drop off and pick up cars using procedures and following train orders just like the real-life “Western North Carolina Railroad” did back in the 1950's.

Railroad operations on the model train layout are organized to follow a typical day in August 1957 on the “Western North Carolina Railroad”. The rail ops begin in Spencer Yard near Salisbury. The day's operation begins with a crew preparing two diesel locomotives or a steam locomotive to pull a passenger train or freight train 138 miles to Asheville. Along the way, passengers will see railroad operations and a variety of industries supported by the “Western North Carolina Railroad” in the towns of Majolica, Statesville, Clinchcross, Old Fort, Ridgecrest and Swannanoa. The day will end in Asheville, where the crew will spend the night before starting tomorrow's run back to Salisbury.

Many structures and details were kitbashed or scratch built by members. Much of the track is hand-laid, with an estimated 250,000 ties placed and spiked. While the model train layout is permanent, maintenance and improvement is an ongoing effort. Thus, recent layout updates include a new computerized turnout control system and 3D printed structures. The NVMR layout's track plan is designed to start railway operations at Salisbury's Spencer Yard. Model trains will wind back and forth on many miles of track, through mountains and tunnels, passing towns with their rail yards and industries, until the trains finally pull into Asheville's yard.

Track Plan

Track Plan Northern Virginia Model Railroaders

Diary of Model Railroad Operations

At the Spencer Yard, the engine crew climbs aboard a pair of E6 diesels which have been serviced and fueled for the day trip across North Carolina. Although a single engine E6 unit would adequately handle all but the steepest grade found west of Old Fort, most railroads used multiple units as a safety backup, eliminating the need to add and remove helper service on the hills and mountains. The E6s roll out of the engine yard to pick up the passenger train at the depot. The dual-diesel units will pull the Asheville Special from Salisbury to Asheville. In the background, a local switcher is emerging from under the coal dock where its tender was just filled with enough coal to get it through today's yard operations.

The engineer is given clearance from the Southern Railway dispatcher to slowly back down on the dual mainline for a short distance where five passenger cars are waiting at the Salisbury station. With all safety checks made, the conductor gives the nod for the engineer to release the brakes, open the throttle and give two short toots on the horn. The train eases down the mainline track and branches into the track that takes off from the north-south Southern Railway's mainline from Washington, DC to Atlanta and heads almost due west onto Western North Carolina Railroad's mainline. With a clear signal, he cracks the throttle and heads towards Majolica, the first town up the line.

As the train stops at the small Majolica station, passengers ask the conductor what the unusual smell is that permeates the air. He points to a large plant where thousands of railroad ties are being manufactured. After Majolica station, the railway line continues on a single track. Passing tracks are installed in most towns and on the climb up Black Mountain to allow for both east and westbound traffic.

Finally, the train enters Statesville where a scheduled meet of an eastbound freight will occur. The town crew has aligned the tracks so that the passenger train will be next to the station avoiding having passengers cross the track with an expected freight train arriving. The train sits and waits for the overdue eastbound freight to arrive and pass before it proceeds west on the single mainline track. As soon as the freight slips onto the siding and the signal clears, the passenger train will try to make up for lost time.

The passenger train makes it way past Clinchcross where the Southern Railway interchanges cars with the Clinchfield Railroad. Stops at the small Clinchcross station only occur if the station attendant flags down the train or a passenger on board needs to get off. Just west of Clinchcross the trains will pass a large rock quarry which provides a source of ballast for the railroad. A little later, as the train pulls into the Old Fort station, passengers check their watches to see if the train has made up the lost time since it is about halfway to their final destination.

As the Asheville Special leaves Old Fort, the crew is glad to have a second locomotive pulling the train since the climb up Black Mountain requires attacking a four percent grade. Some of the longer and heavier freight trains need even more locomotives to make it up this grade. As the grade levels out, the train pulls into Ridgecrest, the highest elevation along the mainline. Afterwards the train glides across the long Lloyd Munro Bridge and pulls into the passenger station in Swannanoa. This is the last stop before rolling down the final leg to Asheville. Although it still gets some use, that water tank will soon be a memory to residents and railroaders alike as the use of steam locomotives fades into history.

After exchanging the baggage and mail, a few passengers board for the short trip to Asheville. Then, the train pulls out for its final destination, passing a switcher and freight cars on sidings. Once in Asheville, the passenger train rolls through the yard on its way to today's final station stop. After the passengers get off, the crew will pull the train onto the siding, cut loose the E6 engines, and take them down the track to the shops. The crew will remain overnight in Asheville and make the return trip to Spencer in the morning.

Picture Gallery

Northern Virginia Model Railroaders - One of the Largest Model Railway Layouts in the United States

Northern Virginia Model Railroaders - One of the Largest Model Railway Layouts in the United States

Northern Virginia Model Railroaders - One of the Largest Model Railway Layouts in the United States

Northern Virginia Model Railroaders - One of the Largest Model Railway Layouts in the United States

Northern Virginia Model Railroaders - One of the Largest Model Railway Layouts in the United States

Northern Virginia Model Railroaders - One of the Largest Model Railway Layouts in the United States

Northern Virginia Model Railroaders - One of the Largest Model Railway Layouts in the United States

Northern Virginia Model Railroaders - One of the Largest Model Railway Layouts in the United States

Northern Virginia Model Railroaders - One of the Largest Model Railway Layouts in the United States

Northern Virginia Model Railroaders - One of the Largest Model Railway Layouts in the United States

Northern Virginia Model Railroaders - One of the Largest Model Railway Layouts in the United States

Northern Virginia Model Railroaders - One of the Largest Model Railway Layouts in the United States

Northern Virginia Model Railroaders - One of the Largest Model Railway Layouts in the United States

Northern Virginia Model Railroaders - One of the Largest Model Railway Layouts in the United States

YouTube Video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1fwdwr_VC04


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