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The JL/ATSF Railway layout was begun on the 5th of September in 1986. Since the layout was destined to be built and operated in Joe and Jo Ann Lesser's living room, it was determined that it would be a finished layout in a reasonable length of time and it would be a showpiece and complementary to the rest of the living room.

Joe worked steadily on building the layout with his pal, Peter Youngblood, his son-in-law, Mike and his father-in-law, Ferrel. The railroad was completed in January 1991.

It measures 26 feet long, in an L shape, measuring 15 feet wide.


The station was a Lionel Rico Station kit modified and painted to resemble a prototype Santa Fe Station that stood in Cucamonga, California in the first half of the 20th century. The Lionel water tower was also repainted in the Santa Fe color scheme to match this historical period roughly from the 1930's to 1950's.

In this photograph, an MTH F-3
Santa Fe Warbonnet is seen pulling into Cucamonga Station.




Another Lionel station kit which was easily identified as a prototypical Santa Fe station from the first twenty years of the 20th century. The town of Molino was eventually swallowed up by the city of Pasadena.

All of the trees on the JL/ATSF with the exception of the palm trees were hand made by Joe and Pete. The Ertl stake trucks were repainted for the Railway Express Agency fleet on the layout. The landscaping in the foreground leads down to Baldwin Lake. There's even a walkway across the tracks with stairs for bathers to get down to the lake.



Downtown Molino is an active little town with a bank, dentist, diner, gas station and Jo Ann's fruit stand. Coming around the bend is a Santa Fe "Mikado" from Williams. The orange trees were handmade with orange beads glued to the branches and falling around the trunks. The grade crossing was detailed using wood planks (balsa wood) and black dots for the spikes holding the crossing in place. Pete made up a whole bunch of prototypical cross bucks for every grade crossing on the layout




Each of the early Williams locomotives were detailed and weathered to resemble as close as possible prototypes of the Santa Fe. We didn't try to modify such parts as the firebox or tenders (coal) but we did add the typical Santa Fe number boards in their proper location on the top of the locomotives.

All of the signals on the layout were made by NJI or Walther's. But, were painted to the proper Santa Fe paint scheme for the period and all are operational either for blocks or turnout indicators. Each turnout also has a lit switch stand.



Although, the JL/ATSF has only three stalls in its roundhouse, there's lots of activity in this area. Presently in the roundhouse is an Atlantic type, a Pacific and a Consolidation. All wonderful running Williams' locomotives from the early 1990's. They are weathered and renumbered with authentic Santa Fe numbering. Additionally a Weaver, RSD-3 and MTH, H10-44 Santa Fe diesels are working in the area.

The turntable was a Bowser kit decorated to resemble the prototype Santa Fe turntable in Bakersfield, California. The turntable and motor are original with a more recent Dallee electronics track line-up system, which works perfectly.



All of the details are discussed in the book that Joe and Pete wrote entitled "Realistic Railroading with Toy Trains."


In the 1980's, the best operating accessories were made by Lionel and we certainly wanted them on the layout, if they seemed logically placed. The lumber mill, control tower and icing platform always entertain the kids and adults and every layout should have some of these accessories just for the fun of it. But, we detailed and decorated the accessories as much as we could to make them more realistic. Only the Lionel control tower was placed on the layout with no modification except for placing a smaller light in it for more realistic illumination.

The diesel is an MTH GP-30, number 2718 moving around "weathered" freight cars making up a train. The dwarf signals in the yard each indicate the position of the turnouts for the oncoming locomotive. They were purchased in the '80's from Walthers.

The Lionel lumber mill is set in a mini-scene with a Lionel lumber shed at each end of the mill. The details included stacks of lumber, 'little people', trucks and a neat Dinky Toy fork lift from Joe's childhood days.

The telephone poles were all modified for a more prototypical look using clear beads for the glass conductors. The rails have all been painted a rust brown which may take some patience to do, but definitely look a lot better than shiny silver sides of the rails reflecting light and standing out unlike their prototype.

The painted backdrop surrounds the entire layout and represents Southern California roughly from San Bernardino to Pasadena in the 1940's. It was painted by Pony Horton.