October 24, 1990, the JLS Railroad
was born. I was 9 at the time. The layout started as a big, single
loop, which went around the perimeter of the basement. It was
about 40' by 42' in dimension with one transformer, one line,
no switches, blocks of powered accessories or buildings. Previously
to this, I had a large Lionel layout, 10' by 15' on a board ion
the left back corner of the basement. Due to Lionel's shoddy quality
and construction, I was looking for something more; LGB was the
ticket. I started out with 2 engines, the
green Crocodile and the little blue Steeple Cab, both LGB electric
locomotives and about 12 cars. I wasn't satisfied; you never really
are with a layout. The very next week, we went back to TrainLand
and purchased the needed LGB track and equipment for the SecondLine.
It was to be smaller and inside the MainLine. The one different
thing though, which at the time was totally new to me, it was
to be independently controlled. Since I did any and ALL the work
on the layout, I had to research the idea of independent control.
Now I had 2 transformers, and 2 separate loops, connected at a
2 switch interchange and no idea how to wire it up. Since all
LGB's instruction manuals are written in German, I had nothing
to go on except pictures, which was perfect. Remember that I was
only 9, so, pictures worked out perfectly. It was wired up with
no problems. Over the next year, the layout expanded slowly. A
small siding was added in front of the control circle. It was
just a dead siding; so, anything being pulled onto it had to be
moved by hand.
Sometime in early 1992, after
the purchase of about 10 more cars, siding space was gone. Something
needed to be done. The W yard was planned at this time. It started
out with all manual switched and 3 dead sidings. Over the next
4 months, I added a siding a month, culminating with 7 sidings,
all dead with manual switches. Whenever switching was to be done,
you needed to get up and run over to that side of the basement
and switch turnouts. Now, most other model railroaders and I and
lazy, that is why we have electrically operated switches. That
was the next revolutionary thing to hit the layout, electric turnouts.
I bought all the motors that summer as well as their 5175 orange
control boxes. Now, at that point, I was more confident with electrical
components and had a better understanding of how things worked.
They went together very quickly and worked perfectly. No longer
did I have to get up to hit the turnouts, but, I still had to
get up to push engines and cars onto the sidings! The next thing
was an electrified block system in the yard, 7 blocks. I used
LGB's yellow 5180 control boxes and their 1015U insulated tracks.
Now the layout was moving along. The Christmas of 1992 saw the
arrival of the Alco DL535E White Pass and Yukon road engine: a
third engine. Over the next year, I used the excuse; "I have
enough siding space now but not enough cars! I need to fill that
yard!" It worked; I purchased about 30 cars that year and
4 more engines. By this time, the last Saturday of EVERY month
was deemed TrainLand day. I was Kenny Bianco's (the owner of TrainLand)
Now there is something know as
The Cycle. It is basically what happens to any layout over time.
As you add more sidings and have more space, you need more cars
and engines to fill them. As you acquire more cars and engines,
you need more sidings to accommodate them. Then, with more siding
space, you buy more cars, then add siding space, then more cars
.. This cycle continues forever, well,
at least the life of the layout. I was experiencing just that
cycle. Over the next 2 years, up until 1995, the layout grew according
to The Cycle. Buildings were added: Waldou, Oberdorf, the farm
complex and a 2 stall engine shed in the W yard. Track was added:
the E yard (the major staging yard on the floor under the Lionel
table), sidings on the SecondLine and the farm siding. A lot more
cars, 30 or so, and about 10 more engines. Now we had another
problem, we need another line to accommodate the engine bloom!
The ThirdLine was envisioned.
It was to be about twice the size of the SecondLine, but, still
fit inside the MainLine. At this time, I was VERY confident in
my electrical skills. This loop, with all it's switches and interchanges
with both the SecondLine and the MainLine, went up very fast.
All the switches electric and the blocks all wired up. It was
very nice. At that point, there wasn't mush more that could fit
in the basement. Every bit of floor space had track in it. But,
the cars and engines rolled in, and, The Cycle continued. The
P yard, B yard, F yard and numerous industrial sidings added.
Buildings spread like the plague. It continued like this until
the beginning of 1997. I met Joe Barcia, the Vice President of
the JLS Railroad January of 1997 in 10th grade. He started coming
around, more and more frequently, until the point when he was
over 5 times a week! We did nothing but run. At first, just to
have fun, but then we quickly realized that with two people operating
at the same time, we had bottle necks, accidents at interchanges
and confusing switching problems to overcome. We kept adding as
well an addition here, another their, more scenery there, more
wiring over here. It just kept growing. I couldn't believe how
fast everything was going, it was unbelievable. April of 1997
saw the first TrainShow ever down on the lines. About 15 people
showed, all friends or family. It was good, very unprofessional
though. Something needed to be done to rectify the operating problems.
The next series of events created the Railroad that exists today.
The first thing we did was write
an operating manual. It was long, but, all operating problems
were worked out. Things really started to come together now. Signaling
systems went up, the most complicating wiring EVER done down on
the lines. Blocks were reworked and more added. Building and industries
run prototypically. More and more cars and engines added. Slowly
but surly, over the next 8 months, the layout turned from a toy
into a prototypical railroad. We invented a scheduling system,
timetables and classification systems for the trains on the lines.
At that point, there were no more "fun" operating sessions.
Everything was well scheduled, operated prototypically and in
strict accordance with the operating manual. Now, it was even
MORE FUN!! We kept adding and working. At this point, October
of 1997, one person could no longer run the railroad. You NEEDED
two to operate it. The fall TrainShow was characterized by a well
defined, professional showing of the operations of the Railroad.
Everything ran beautifully, all according to a planned schedule.
About 35 people showed up at that TrainShow. November 15, 1997
was a day that will go down in history. We went to TrainLand,
like every month, but this time came home with LGB# 21881, the
big Uintah Mallet. I had wanted Uintah for the longest time, and
now, finally had him. He was the biggest single item purchase
ever made down on the lines, $1000. Towards the end of 1997, we
had about 40 POLA buildings and industries, 28 LGB engines and
about 125 LGB cars, passenger and freight. We faced the most serious
problem ever downstairs: NO ROOM. Something desperately needed
to be done. This problem was foreseen about a year prior. I knew
it was coming. At this point, though, did we really realize how
serious it was. The first time it happened, we knew we needed
to move. We had to take some cars off the track to operate properly!
The Helix was first envisioned
late 1996. Initial drawings (which are now framed) were made early
1997, just as the space problem was beginning to become obvious.
Now, you might think, "just stop buying cars!" Well,
I have a problem, I am addicted to trains, and I CAN'T stop buying
them! So, that was out of the question. No more room was available
on the floor, so, the only place to go was up. But where? Ahhh,
the Lionel board. At this point, it was just a big dust bowl.
I never used them. But, the Helix project wasn't just an ordinary
project, like a siding extension or new block, it was BIG. We'd
have to design and build a helix of proper grade to get the trains
from the floor to a height of 39" (the top of the table).
Then, build a yard atop the table. It had to be done, but we didn't
By the beginning of 1998, we
were in dire straights, we needed to get moving on the extension.
The Christmas TrainShow of 1997 was seen as a success to the 50
somewhat people who came. But Joe and me knew it was bad, we needed
space to run. Before construction began, we wanted to tie up all
loose ends, we knew the layout would be out of commission for
a long time. We drew up a club charted and the JLS Railroad Club
came into existence with me, Jonathan Landon as the President
and Joe Barcia as the Vice President. Al Rapp wrapped up the membership
list. We were small, but all clubs start out small. We also initialized
the JLS Railroad Update at that time, the weekly newsletter, going
out every Wednesday. The last run occurred March 20th, 1998. It
was a somber run, we knew it wouldn't happen again for quite some
time. All we could think about was all the work ahead of us. The
next day, after a visit to TrainLand, the Helix was initiated.
Finalized drawings and plans were made the two previous months,
January and February of 1998. They totaled about 50 pages! A project
schedule was also created. Originally, the project was called,
ambiguously, Project Up and Over, later changed to The Helix.
It was suppose to take about 6 to 8 months, we wanted to have
it done in time for the fall 1998 TrainShow. We estimated about
$5000 in total cost.
On March 21st, 1998, the most
revolutionary project to hit the layout began. After close to
2 years of planning, the first grade was laid. He initial grade
was 3.8% and went from the MainLine to passing height. Throughout
that summer, work continued with the help of Al Rapp, a member
of the JLS Railroad. The helix construction was completed the
end of September. It turned out to be 3 tiers, 104 feet long in
total, max grade of 4.1% minimum grade of .4%. It came out beautifully,
I am forever indebted to Al Rapp for his help. Next work on the
yard began. A 12 track staging yard 10 feet wide by 15 feet long
was constructed, a 10 stall POLA RoundHouse was built. Let me
tell you, it is so big, before the roof went up, you were able
to sit 2 adults in it, comfortably! It is 9 feet across, and 5
feet deep, almost a full half circle. The yard went up before
Christmas. January 1, 1999 saw the first train up the helix. The
helix went under it's own power shortly after noon, 3PM saw the
electrification of the yard, 5PM the reverse loop atop the table
which wraps around the back of the RoundHouse, and the first train
went up shortly after. At this point in the construction, no blocks
were wired up, no switches, lights or ANYTHING else. Over the
next 3 months, electrical equipment went up, day by day the yard
was powered up. Then, April 26, 1999, 1 year and 1 month after
the initialization of the project, the electrical work was done.
FINALLY! Everything was done, including the custom control panel
for signal control and the 20+ Infrared Detectors up all over
the yard and in every stall of the 10 stall RoundHouse and 2 stall
engine shed. Scenery work started with the construction of foam
mountains and elevated banks. Hydrocal 30 was used in my own homemade
latex rock molds. A Sanding Depot was scratch built and the rockwork
commenced. That is our present position. At this point, we are
just hoping to finish the project before the summer. Originally
it was planned to take about 6 months, well, 1 year and 6 months
later, we are still buried with work. We blew through the original
project cost in the first 4 months, haha. At this point, believe
it or not, we are up to a little over $16,000. It is ending, but
slowly. Check out the
future plans / projects / purchases page to see the chore list
left in the helix construction along with other projects that
still must get done.
At this point, the JLS Railroad
is a mess. We are still undergoing serious construction. The Helix
blew all our expectations, we ran on it a handful of times, basically
just as research into the new operating manual. It is phenomenal.
The grade is perfect, you can pull 10 to 12 cars trains up with
no problems with the bigger engines and 5 to 7 cars on the smaller
ones. It is great. In the intervening time, we added 5 new members,
3 active and 2 non-active, to the club to bring the total up to
8. We have filed with the NMRA (National Model Railroad Association)
for club status, and received it. We have appeared on Television
once so far, a 20 minute segment on the 30 minute, monthly local
television show "Model Railroading". This show repeats
itself 8 times during the month (twice a week, since it is monthly,
it is the same show), so, we were on television a total of 160
minutes, but who's counting? Haha We are also in the process of
creating a membership fee of $5 per year. This fee will go to
a "club car" voted on by all the members. Still, the
cars and engines role in. We are up to 157 LGB cars, 34 LGB engines
and 1 USA Trains engine (the NW2). About 60 buildings and industries,
all POLA or scratch built with Plastruct parts, and about 20 cows
on the farm. We are still moving forward