BRANDON, Vt. — Art Doty spent the last six years of his life crafting the “Otter Valley Rail Road.” Part history lesson, part communal art project, Doty’s family and friends are now looking for people to take up pencils, paint and tools to carry on the work.
Doty, widely known for having founded the BLSG Insect Control District, was heavily involved in the community. He died July 2 at the age of 83, leaving one of his lesser-known projects, the model railroad, unfinished.
Housed at the Compass Music and Arts Center at the north end of town, the model railroad has scale models of the Brandon Inn, Stephen A. Douglas House and Town Hall, among several others.
“Art was building the train for the community,” said Edna Sutton, joint owner of the Compass Center, on Tuesday. “He saw it as a way of creating a gift so that families and children could come and learn the history and see the trains work. Art was amazing. He was helping us build links with the community here.”
Doty’s son, Paul Doty, said Tuesday his father’s favorite building material was wooden boxes used to ship clementines. He would painstakingly draw buildings he wanted to recreate, some of them still standing, others known mainly from photographs, and would spend hours upon hours getting the details right.
“If he wasn’t here, he was taking his clipboard and sitting down in front of these buildings drafting them to scale,” said Donna Doty, at the Compass Center on Tuesday. “Then he’d come back here and put it on. He’d sit by the hour downtown and draw all the windows at the Brandon Inn, he had them all counted out, made sure every building had the right amount of windows.”
He really went out of his way when it came to the Middlebury train station, which is no longer a train station.
“He chipped away a piece of the paint so he could match up the yellow as best he could,” Donna Doty said.
Paul Doty said of all the buildings his father started, only the former BlueSeal Granary is incomplete. He’d like to see a group of volunteers come together and work on the model railroad, possibly having it ready for a ribbon cutting next year.
“I think the end goal was to have people come in here and enjoy it, and see it operate,” Doty said. “The train itself is probably three quarters done at this point, the biggest thing right now is seeking help for the artistic end of the process, the scenery and everything else.”
Virginia Kreighton, a friend of the Dotys, was helping paint the scenery Tuesday.
Doty’s friends and family agree that one person can’t replace Art Doty, it’ll require a group of interested people with many talents to move this project forward.
“The number of different skills that Art had was phenomenal,” Sutton said.” This isn’t work for one person, Art was exceptional. He just had a brain that he could work things out, he could record things, he could do things to scale, he could problem solve. He was a very clever guy.”
Anyone interested in helping should contact Sutton at the Compass Center, the Doty family said. Anyone interested is welcome, be they high school kids or retirees.
“If you could imagine Art standing outside the door looking in, he’d love to see people working on it, talking about the buildings, learning the history, running the trains. It’d be a hive of activity, that’s what we’re trying to create,” Sutton said.