The Model Railroad of Aubrey Wiley:

Portraying the Virginian, C&O and N&W railroads in August 1954

A 6800 horsepower Virginian electric locomotive at speed. When this class of locomotive was built in 1948, each locomotive cost the railroad a million dollars and weighed a million pounds!


I built my model railroad to watch trains run through as realistic scenes as my skills would allow.  Most of the time when I run it, I am alone and therefore it is pretty much a one peson operation.  I don't have wait for an audience to have fun!  It is fully seceniced and has PFM steam sound and Modeltronics diesel sound. The signals work, usually.  Although I run some electric locomotives, you have to imagine the overhead wires. They haven't been installed yet.


We hope you will come soon for a visit!

My interest in model railroading started at Christmas in 1949 when, at six years old, I received my first Lionel train set. That Lionel set still sees operation every Christmas.  I am pictured here about 11 years old.  Construction was started on the present HO layout in 1970 and since then, the layout has grown to its present arrangement of two sections in separate rooms.


Photographs and articles have appeared in nearly every model railroad publication, some by the dozens, earning me the “Master Author Citation” from NMRA.  I have also received the NMRA’s “Master Scenery Builder” citation for the fully sceniced layout.  


My model railroad layout features Virginian, Chesapeake & Ohio and Norfolk & Western operations in August 1954. There is a hint of New York Central by virtue of the connection with Virginian at Deepwater. Another Virginian connection was with the Ritter Lumber Company at Maben, WV which hauled lumber, along with a little locally mined coal, using Shay locomotives. The layout is in two sections, one being 14 by 18 feet and the otehr being 5 by 12 feet. It is not large!


Although specific areas are not modeled precisely, many scenes represent locations on the three railroads with emphasis being on the coal areas common to them. The models may not be exactly correct. Close examination may reveal some hopper panels having too many or too few rivets, for example. A locomotive’s coal bunker may be a scale half foot off. But the desire of the modeling work is to present the spirit, the charm and the character of the railroads and scenes depicted.  PFM sound is installed in all steam locomotives. The downside of the layout is that the visitor space is limited. And it was built lower than most layouts built today because when built, my children were interested in it but they were short. Today, to enable viewing at a lower level for adults, stools are available for you to sit upon.


I started building this layout more than thirty years ago for operation by one person and for watching the trains run. Multi-person operation was far in the future of the hobby then. As space became available, the layout grew. My layout is not in tune with the popular trend today of multi-person operation. I like to watch reasonably correct trains run through realistic scenes. It is my goal for visitors to allow their imagination to function and to feel as though they are back in the mid 1950's and in an area where the Virginian, N&W and C&O railroads co-existed. I hope visitors will understand my philosophy.


Another area of interest is the collecting of railroad artifacts.  It starts in the front yard with the Norfolk & Western whistle post from the Durham line of the N&W.  It is crowned by a classification light from Virginian MC class locomotive number 468. There is a small gallery of vintage advertising and safety posters and favorite rail pictures by O. Winston Link and myself. One basement room where Charlotte and I enjoy our hobbies is called the “Waiting Room” because it is patterned and decorated much as a small station’s waiting room would be furnished. Most of the collection of builder’s plates, number plates, etc. is in this room. Another room is a representation of the work area for an agent-telegrapher, furnished with original, vintage equipment.  The model railroad is in two rooms, one being called their “Chessie Room” because of it being decorated with vintage Chessie pictures.  Leaving the model railroad in the basement and exiting by the outside stairwell, you will first see a right-of-way post that is marked "C&O Ry." It came from the railroad's branch line that ran from Balcony Falls on the James River sub-division to Lexington, Va.  The line was destroyed by Hurricane Camille in August 1969.  Next you will see our newest treasure, the Virginian Railway milepost 141!  It is unique in that it was never modified form its original appearance; no black band was painted on it nor was a "V" added when N&W took over. It came from a section of the mainline abandoned by the N&W in the mid 1970's and is located between Victoria and Abilene.  Milepost 141 is the site of the terrible wreck of Buffalo Bill's  show train in 1916 as his outfit was enroute to Portsmouth for shows.  Afterward he gathered up his remaining animals and acts and gave his show at Portsmouth!  Continuing into the back yard  you will find a C&O phone box and a C&O “watchman’s  shanty” of World War II vintage. It came from Abert on the James River sub-division of the C&O, just west of Lynchburg, and the interior is furnished as it would have appeared while in use. Beside Abert is an N&W grade crossing light from the Shenandoah Division.  Attached to the garage, and having nothing at all to do with railroads, is a replica of circa 1960 country store/Texaco gas station.


A Virginian 2-8-8-2 class USB number 724 spots empty hoppers at Lillybrook Coal Mine, which is also served by C&O.

Virginian electric number 125, class EL-2b rumbles over a trestle with train 63.

At milepost 125, a Virginian Fairbanks Morse diesel works westbound, passing the Nutbush passenger flag stop shelter.


Mullens, West Virginia is the primary service location for the   road's electric locomotives.

A 1925 product from Alco-Westinghouse, number 110, class         EL-3a  waits its call beside the  Mullens Motor Barn.


Gilbert, West Virginia is the sole location where all three railroads, the Virginian, N&W and C&O, connected!  Close examination will show that a pair of NYC diesels has wandered over from Dickinson Yard by way of Elmore. The yard is very crowded!

A C&O GP-7 brings a local past a small coal dealer at Oak Hill.

Scratch built N&W Z-1a 1335 eases from engine servicing area.

Steam locomotives of the three railroads modeled are shown (l-r): C&O J-3a at the coal dock, N&W E-2a with a local passenger train, a VGN SB switcher waits for a clear signal to return to work.


The sawmill complex of Ritter Lumber Company is located near the Virginian's main line at Maben. Loaded box cars are to the left of the large building.  A Ritter 3 truck Shay switches cars.

A VGN class PA brings its passenger train to a stop beside the Maben station which is situated within a wye.

 Engines of the big three are shown together again at the shared engine service area. We seeVirginian and N&W steam first, but also C&O diesels in the background. Notice that the N&W passenger engine is a class K-2a!


In February 2006, several  members of "Takin' Twenty,"retired Virginian men from Roanoke, Va., visited Aubrey's layout. Pictured below from top down are: 

Virginian engineer Raymond East watches Squarehead Electrics over a grade crossing.

Retired freight conductor and trainmaster "Slick" Inge and retired operator Harry Bundy at the operator's desk recreation.

Modeler and VGN fan Charlie Long (right) describes Lillybrook Mine to group.

Former VGN operator and retired NS Chief Dispatcher "Speedy" Gregory at operator's desk.

 All good gatherings conclude around a meal table!

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What could three men be doing, talking into tin cans? They are (l-r) Bobby Dudley, Aubrey Wiley and Landon Gregory and we were making an audio tape of typical sounds as a VGN dispatcher would issue train orders in 1954. Landon knew what we was doing; he had been a VGN operator and later an NS dispatcher.


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MER- NMRA -  In Octobrer 2007, the Mid East Region of NMRA held their annual convention in Lynchburg. Over 18 months prior, I was ased to have our home open and to be part of the home layout tour. We agreed.  As the day approached, a great amount of time was devoted to  perfecting the finer details of the layout and display areas, both in and out the house. Four good friends volunteered to assist the visitors; Ed Burnett, Bobby Dudley, Ernie Hubble and Charlie Long, while we ran trains and answered question.  Over 70 people stopped in for the four hours we were open and they seemed to enjoy the modeling, the collections, the refreshments and the conversations.  The joyful spirit did not carry over when we attempted to visit the convention HQ.  We couldn't participate!  Seems they wanted $45 each to just walk through the exhibit hall! Maybe we should have charged admission to our home!  Boy do I feel USED!

And another issue that concerns me is that the organization gives the impression of the hobby being for the wealthy, beyond the reach of a youngster  or  modeler of average means to enjoy as per the walk in fee of $45 and being held at the swankest hotel in the area!


Pictures I made during light  times of MER visitors to our layout Oct. 19, 2007 follow

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Compare the two pictures below.  The top picture was made by H. Reid at Altavista, Va.

 The picture below is from Aubrey's layout of  models of the same engine and cars.

 A C&O GP-7 passes a small coal dealer's yard near Oak Hill, WV.

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Below is the C&O "Watch Box" from Abert,Va. which is now in Aubrey's back yard. It is pictured when in use along the C&O James River sub division. 

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This picture shows Abert as it is today, well preserved. 

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The bell of B&O class E-24, number 2314 is shown. The  2-8-0 locomotive  was built by Pittsburgh Locomotive Works in 1903 and retired in Grafton, WV in 1956. 

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 Having nothing to do with railroads, the Wiley replica of a  circa 1960 country store/Texaco gas station is attached to the family garage.


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