Train exhibit at Compass Center looking for team to take over project

The Train Room at the Compass Center is filled with exacting scale replicas of many community landmarks, but is now missing someone to see the project finished.

The goal of the Compass Center in Brandon is to entertain, educate, involve and inspire visitors with exhibits, performances and programs that celebrate music and the creative arts.

Five years ago, the Compass Foundation donated a room to house a creative arts project that was different from most exhibits they usually display. That exhibit was Art Doty’s train room.

“It was a labor of love for him,” Compass Foundation’s director Edna Sutton said of the late community leader who died of complications from cancer last month. “He spent many hours in the train room working on his trains.”

The Granary building is one of the few that is not finished.

The room in the Compass Center houses a N-scale replica model of the Rutland Railroad, including buildings in Middlebury and Brandon, reduced to a 1/160 scale. Doty built the model from the ground up. Designing the tables to hold the tracks, commissioning an artist to paint the backdrop and laying all the tiny tracks by hand.

All of the buildings are replicas that Doty built from scratch, working with pencil and paper to get the scale and all the details correct before constructing each piece out of old clementine boxes.

“He would take his sketchbook around town and sketch out a building and then come back here and build it,” Sutton said. “It was truly remarkable.”

In the midst of the Segment 6 construction, Brandon is vastly different from the town it used to be, something Sutton said Doty was able to capture remarkably.

“Brandon is going through this amazing transformation,” she said. “Here is a capsule of what it was.”

When Art Doty sketched the buildings he made sure to record everything about them to the finest detail, including counting the number of windows.

The sprawling project on a miniature scale was dedicated to the landscape that once made up our community and it was a passion project of a very talented man. A project that sadly, he did not have time to finish.

Doty passed away on July 2, at age 83, after a brief battle with cancer. The work that he dedicated much of his free time to over the past five years has been sitting alone in the room at the Compass Center, gathering dust.

Now, Sutton and Doty’s widow, Donna, are looking for a team to take over the reins of the project and carry it over the finish line.

“We are looking for someone who has a passion for trains who might be interested in taking over the project,” Sutton told The Reporter. “Ideally, we are looking for someone with knowledge of the area, as well. When it came to historical knowledge of the subject, Art was second to none.” 

The buildings are historically accurate and include a moveable switching station at the Rutland train yard. Most of the buildings are complete, but some work still needs to be done, especially on the scenery around the tracks.

“It would be nice if we could get some retirees in here working with a group of school children,” Donna said. “Art loved kids and I think having them help finish it would be something he would enjoy.”

The project is very involved and the two agreed that it would likely take more than one person to get the job done.

“Art was a rare person, in that he was so knowledgeable about so many things,” Sutton said. “I don’t think we could find another Art, but a diverse team of people might be able to do it.”

Sutton hopes that one of the local schools might develop an interest in the project, as it combines several disciplines into one fun project.

“It combines the technological work of powering the trains with math to get the scale right,” Sutton said, “and the art of creating the scenery with the science to put it all together.”

As it is, the project is languishing and both women feel that is a shame.

“It needs energy and vision,” Sutton said. “It has a good layout, but finishing it will be about paying tribute to the man, but also moving the project forward.”

Specifically what the Compass Center needs, added Sutton, are model train aficionados to volunteer their time, a sponsor or two to help cover the costs, and donations of any kind of N-scale train-related items.

What they don’t need are the tools to work on the project, as the train room is stuffed with tools Doty used.

“All the supplies and tools are here,” Donna said. “If Art didn’t have a tool he needed, he would go out and buy it. I don’t know how many tape measures I have laying around now.”

Sutton hopes there will be some momentum in the project soon.

“It would be nice to see it lit up for Christmas,” she said.

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