A Visit to The New River Valley Railway

November 20, 2016

Today we had the pleasure of visiting Tom Brennison’s New River Valley Railway. It was on the last day of this year’s Piedmont Pilgrimage and a friend told me that Tom’s railroad needed to be seen, so we loaded up the family and headed south to Fayetteville.

The New River Valley Railway is modeled after southwest Virginia, where Tom grew up. It’s a wonderfully sprawling HO railroad, with small towns and industries joined by green river valleys, hills, and mountains. There’s an abundance of elegant and intricate trackwork, enough that I was surprised to learn that the overall track plan is a single-track main with two passing sidings.

A lone Virginian train was making its way along the mainline while we were there. I’ll admit that I was initially disappointed by this, but let me tell you that there was no shortage of interest: there is so much to see on Tom’s layout that in retrospect I think it was better to have less action. It allowed us to focus on the details – and there are many – rather than being distracted by the train action.

A few notes on the details:

  • I was impressed by how varied the landscape was. Some layouts have very discrete levels on which the track runs, but I felt like Tom had done an excellent job of making the terrain and its transitions feel very natural (something which I would like to emulate on my own layout).
  • The areas entering a tunnel portal tended to be very nicely done. The range of bridge styles represented was also fun.
  • Two other favorite scenes were great examples of modeling abandoned trackage - one of them can be seen below.
  • We should have gotten a babysitter and brought the “good” camera.

Hopefully the New River Valley will be on the Pilgrimage in coming years – a repeat visit would be well worth the drive, and obviously I’d strongly recommend you visit as well. Until then, you can see a bit more of the layout in this NMRA YouTube video.

Tom was an outstanding host, making himself available for questions, generously explaining how his signalling system worked (and even showing the circuitry), and volunteering interesting details. Thank you, Tom!