Friday, June 19, 2015

"Friendly Fridays... The Rutland Road."

Childhood BFFs Randy Laframboise and Mike Sparks have been layout collaborators in one way or another for more than 40 years. Their current Rutland Road is their second iteration of the popular Vermont railroad.

Begun in 1999, after the demolition of their first 15-year effort, the new-and-improved multi-deck prototype sits in a 16' x 36' finished space in Randy's basement. It features many of the small towns along the mainline between Rutland and Burlington and is set during late summer in the early 1950s.

Entry to the main layout room is through a nicely finished support space decorated with vintage signs and posters. The room features a well-appointed workshop, generous staging and an attractive helix. The helix adheres to the layout's 36" minimum radius and is graded at 2% yielding a run of 100'. The layout itself provides a satisfying 285' of run through the rolling countryside.

The shallow, muddy Otter Creek is beautifully modeled in this scene at bridge 219, just south of Florence. One can almost hear the rumble and clickety-clack of the northbound local as it rolls by headed to Burlington.

Even cows railfan in Vermont, no doubt excited to see some Western Maryland variety coming 'round the bend into Brandon. Right state, wrong railroad, guys!

The massive Elias-Lyman Coal Company serves as a backdrop to engine facilities at Burlington. The scratch built replication of the now-demolished structure is spot-on.

Mike and Randy enjoy researching and scratch building structures like this creamery at Vergennes. They believe that such rigor is required to successfully depict  any prototype and its surroundings.

Randy is adamant that proto layouts demand just as much creativity as free-lanced ones because specific scenes and structures can be very difficult to re-create in a given space. Some imagination is required to compress and possibly re-orient a key component, while maintaining an accurate representation like the Sheffield Creamery at Florence.

What good are all of those creameries without milk trains to haul product through the rolling fields of the Green Mountain State? Randy is quite proficient with a static grass gun and will offer demonstrations with little prodding.

There is no shortage of  trees, rivers, creeks, bridges and trestles along the mainline that is being modeled. Each scene is painstakingly textured and weathered to depict the prototype.

Code 70 flex-track was used on the upper level while the more forgiving code 83 flex-track was used on the lower one. The rationale was based upon the desire for maximum realism tempered with practicality and viewer proximity.

Mike and Randy forced perspective at the end of the peninsula on the upper deck by scratch building a typical Vermont farm in N scale.

The two decks sit at 40" and 60" respectively above the floor, yielding an overall viewing separation of about 16". To enhance that, the upper deck stays at about 16" deep while the lower one averages about 24" in depth.

The northwestern Vermont natives have beautifully depicted their home state and have achieved an awful lot through the years. Randy knows how fortunate he is to have a wing man like Mike.

"I am lucky to have a buddy like Sparky... The layout would be nowhere near as nice or interesting without having each other to bounce ideas and concepts off of... This is definitely a joint effort and sometimes he gets overlooked because it is at my house," Randy emphasized.

I asked Randy why he and Mike don't promote their work via a blog, website, magazine articles, YouTube, etc. He says that they "prefer to fly under the radar." Well, no problem there. My eight followers won't blow their cover.

UPDATE: March 10, 2016
Check out the 2016 issue of Kalmbach's Model Railroad Planning for a feature on the Rutland. Hearty congrats, fellas.

Does this look familiar? Regular readers of this blog may recall the April 24th post in which the model of this now-defunct Brandon coal business is pictured. Sadly, this is slated for demolition, but at least it will live on in HO scale on the Rutland Road. Check out "Friendly Fridays... Road Trip" to see the crafted version.


  1. Nice coverage, Jim - and of course it's a beautiful layout, Randy and Mike.
    I've seen other pictures, but I think this is the first time I've seen the layout in context in the room - thanks for including those shots.
    - Trevor (Port Rowan in 1:64)

  2. Thanks Trevor... I often wish that layouts featured in magazines would provide the overall perspective, but I'm sure that between space allocation and the desire to emphasize detail, such opportunities are lost... I think it's especially helpful with multi-decks to see the relationship between levels... be well.

  3. I sure love your layout. I will start building my frame work to build an HO scale Rutland layout in my basement an a 15' by 30' space. Would you have any blueprint to model Rutland stations? Marc from Canada.

    1. Marc - Thanks for the feedback, but I suspect you may have focused too much on these photos and not enough on the text... sadly, this is not my layout, but one I had visited and wanted to share with everyone... sounds like you have a nice space to work with and I wish you well... I believe there is a pretty good Rutland Historical Society where you can find a host of valuable historical prototype information... all the best!