Early in 2001, a long, blank wall with neither windows nor doors suddenly inspired Vienna Town Council member Bob McCormick as he sat across from it on the bench at the town’s old railway station: here was a canvas waiting to be filled. And so the Vienna Mural Project was born. A number of local business people and artists, empaneled to select an appropriate design from among the considerable number submitted, ultimately decided upon that of Harris Miller, who, with the energetic assistance of the members of the Vienna Arts Society, brought to the wall his celebration of the W&OD Railroad and Trail. Community volunteers, young and old, lent a hand in the project as well. They helped, for example, to direct many of the rivers of paint into the expanses of sky, mountain, and plain.

Balancing the calm and the vibrant, the mural charmingly combines local emblems, past and present, of the W&OD. Here with leisured care a porter leans forward to steer his lightly loaded trolley, there a cyclist speeds along, black cap earnestly reversed, chest pressing down toward his bike’s top tube; here an engineer and a conductor wave greetings from a long, oncoming train, while dogs cavort in the central foreground, they and their owners (who wander, presumably, elsewhere on the wall) flouting the Fairfax County leash laws. Miller has cannily incorporated a pair of the wall’s four rain spouts into his design: from one there darts a bluebird, while another helps to form the chimney of a railway engine — which is, appropriately, the real artistic centerpiece. Set to charge at full throttle, the massive, candy-colored machine propels itself with connecting rods of purple taffy, rolls on great wobbly wheels that look like fruit pies sliced in moments of sleepy distraction. And, this fanciful recollection of the W&OD Railroad harmonizes well with a similarly fantastic Vienna, some of whose familiar buildings and greenery have been transported to a downtown dreamscape opened to blue mountains and extravagant vistas in order to allow Miller to take fine advantage of the long wall that his mural now graces.

Please note: a pictorial history of the project is on display in the meeting room of the Patrick Henry Library (on Maple Avenue, in Vienna)