Favourite Photos...

Favourite Photos...
Reading Lines GP35 #3647

Middletown, Pa

The design of the JL&T Railroad...

So how did it actually start...

Like most my model railroad start was from an early age, around 9 or 10 my first set was a Tyco & Slot car combo.  You raced the cars around a set track and had to negotiate a level crossing with a Rock Island locomotive and rolling stock barrelling around.

Both my Dad and I always wanted a bigger layout, but like many we never had the opportunity or the space to create our little empire.  Both my father and I have dabbled in model building in some shape or another, Dad was always military type stuff boats, planes, tanks, and even a WWII diorama show casing all of these.

I was more into trucks, prime movers & fire engines.  But there was always the railroad interest, alas I discovered work, cars & girls in my mid to late teens and for a couple of decades it never resurfaced until the birth of our first son Lachlan and the building of our own home.

The catalyst...

My wife told me to get a hobby...  So I did.  And the J&L was born (Jason & Lachlan).  I sort permission to use half of our garage for a small layout, nothing to big maybe around a 4x8 or 6x10.  My first trackplan was based on these sizes.

The design was a generic track plan from the internet with some changes thrown in, and this is where the fun begun.  Why I here you ask, well I found a little web based forum called MRH (Model Railroad Hobbyist) and made my first post.  It was here that I asked my first question "how do I start my own railroad"?

This was when I was reeducated about a few of the finer points of design a model railroad, and also introduced and recommended John Armstrong's "Track planning for realistic operation".  And so I read, learnt, and redesigned the J&L ending 
up coming to the following conclusion.

I needed more room, how do I get, how do I fund it, and how do I convince my wife......?  
I actually managed achieve them with the following.  If I can build a shed I don't have to use 
the garage, if I build a big enough shed I can store most of the stuff stored in the garage in 
the shed, and if I design the layout properly I can use the shed for it and store stuff in it too......

So the idea was accepted, rubber stamped, signed off, and placed into planning...

So the shed was designed and worked into the room available on the rear portion of our block.
The size was settled on 7m x 4m (internally) - 23.3' x 13.3'.  The plans were drawn up, 
builder sort, and work begun on our shed & layout room.

Once the shed was built and I had some actual physical dimensions to finally work with, and
an actual space to visualise, I set about reworking our original plan.  In the past few months 
I had also purchased another book about multideck layout construction, this book by 
Tony Koester - Designing & Building Multi-Deck Model Railroads.  

This opened my ideas upto a multideck layout placed around the walls of the shed, with room 
underneath to store stuff.  It also was the start of using the "Anyrail" computer software to 
design my and alter my trackplans.

And so the design of the layout started to change and evolve...

This was the very first attempt at designing a model railroad.  
Boy I have learnt a lot since this.......

Evolution begins......

About the time of transition from the above trackplan, to the one below which has been the
current version for sometime, we celebrated the birth of our second son Toby Alistair Miller

And so with the birth of Toby, the J&L Railroad was changed and became the JL&T Railroad.

The track plan below has been the major version that I have been working on for sometime now.  It has however changed again with the addition of more layout space, and the the addition and change to a few of the major industries on the layout.

The current version of the trackplan (Sep 14) has now seen the major addition of another 4m (13') added to the east end of the layout.  It has also seen the deletion of the Intermodal Area with the replacement being a Paper Mill.

I have made the decision that the original concept of having three decks is no longer viable. so the top deck will be the only deck to have full scenery, there will be one staging deck under this on the north side and in the new extension which will be modelled on a fully operational classification yard.


  1. Great plan. Lot's of opportunities for action.

  2. Greg it has taken a "few" changes to get to the final plan. But I was always trying to strive for a switching/industry theme on the top deck.

  3. So I take it they'll eventually be a 2nd level to this and the "plan" above is the first level?

  4. Yep that's right Phil there will be another scenic level below the top deck (which is the plan above), and another below the middle that will be staging. So three all up.


  5. Looks great, Jas! I will certainly be following your progress.

    1. Thanks Norman for dropping by, and for the comments!

  6. Greetings Jas, long time follower. I am interested in purchasing a track planner package but have struggled with the auto cad style options. Not particuarily computer smart at this point. I acceept that opinions are conjective but interested in your thoughts of the product you used...Anyrail. Regards. Phil [NZ]

  7. Hi Phil, how is the land of the long white cloud? I've been there twice (both Nth & Sth Islands).

    I've tried a few of the CAD Rail Design Programs and I found them far to intensive to learn all of the functions & shortcuts. One that had the ability to do 3D terrain, and run trains on was good, but it was by far the most intensive to learn.

    AnyRail was a really easy program to learn and become proficient with quickly. It produces good clean trackplans, has a really good parts library, and is quite a good price. If your not that computer davy yet I'd stick with AnyRail, the others could leave you quite frustrated, quickly.


  8. Jas, many thanks for the quick reply. Just returned from visiting the Sydney Train show, my eldest daughter lives there. I note you reside in Melborne, trying to get the kids to move as the wife and I like that part of the world. Having caught the flu from the youngst grand child I am lying in bed endeavouring to finalize several railroad projects. I digress...many thanks for imput. Stay safe and happy modelling. Kind regards. Phil [NZ]

  9. Hi Jas, Just came across your layout page and trackplan. Some great stuff here! Was wondering one thing: why did your trackplan morph from not having 'voids' to one that has several. I really like the staging access, and can see that being helpful on an as-needed basis. Great idea! Just curious on the history of the changes and what drove those decisions. I also see you have the duckunder through the middle of the room - I assume due to the addition. Has it been a negative for you and your crews? Working on track plans for my next expansion, and we have a lot of similar themes and design situations going, so I hope you don't mind my asking. Thanks in advance.

    1. Hi Detlef,

      Welcome & Thanks. I guess the simplest way to explain the changes over time is experience & knowledge. When I started I had no idea about how a real railroad operated or how to design a layout.
      The progression from the original plan to the current is just the visual outcome of myself researching and learning.
      Even now as I'm installing detection & signals the layout is still being tweaked. The biggest change would be the decision to base the layout as "switching layout" this is why the Intermodal Terminal was removed along with any rolling stock over the 70' mark too.

      The duckunders (there are actually two) don't worry me personally a few have hit it, it would be good if they didn't exist but I couldn't get away with not having them. As for being a negative no one has really complained or stop coming, I'm sure everyone would prefer not to have them there.

      No issue with asking at all, happy to help or share information.

      Cheers, Jas...