06/06/98 rev 01/12/07


The TSL layout started in 1965 as my wife and I finished construction of our Pocatello ID home. Having constructed a house while holding down a full time job, we'd lost most social contacts, so it was fairly easy to move the house building time into the TSL. The basement was unfinished and there was no money to finish it. I lucked into an estate sale and picked up an assortment of HO rolling stock and a couple hundred feet of nickel silver track on old warped tie strip. No problem- Had some redwood left over from the soffit construction so we ran it through the 10 inch radial arm saw until it was 80% sawdust and 20% ties. I'd already learned to build switches so Malfunction Junction was hand laid on redwood ties. Switch machines were made from 48 volt telephone relays salvaged from a local scrap dealer at 8 cents/pound. The stacks of contacts made power routing easy.

TSL Trackplan

The layout started on a 1 x 4 meter bench that would later be known as Malfunction Junction (MFJ). The first mainline went all the way around the perimeter of the basement, nearly 200 feet of handlaid, code 100 rail on redwood ties. Pretty nice, having such a long run until one day a whole train went to the concrete and I didn't even witness the tragedy. LESSON! A long run is valueless if you can't see or follow the train and enjoy its action. Better to run it into a hidden holding track and let time go by before it emerges.

We laid out our basement finishing plan and allocated a 4 x 4 meter room for the TSL with a 0.3 meter (one foot) right of way around the adjacent 4 x 10 meter family room. The narrow right of way would permit a twice around loop and make a very nice reasonable main line run, with room for a couple of passing sidings, but it did present a political challenge to acquire it. Our son Randy, was only seven, but a very enthusiastic model railroader, as he is today, many years later. Together we impressed upon the Real Estate Manager the importance of granting the new route. The other challenge was the frequently used entrance doorway. A duck-under or lift bridge was not acceptable, so we had to design a doorway that could carry two levels of track and yet be freely used with minimal precautions.

From the beginning, at six years of age our son Randy had a 1 x 4 meter bench on the opposite side of the room from MFJ, for his railroad. It had a connection to the mainline, a handfull of snaptrack, switchs, a power supply and Lego blocks. Until years later, when we merged, this was his area and I never built anything on it. We would work together learning how to build a tree for example, then trash the training material, so it was all his. At first, it was rebuilt weekly with Lego blocks, then monthly and at longer intervals, as he developed skills. We built a hidden balloon track and staging tracks under the mountains in the center of the 4 x 4 meter railroad room. LESSON! Don't build storage or holding tracks in awkward to reach areas- you will regret it.


Up to this time, Malfunction Junction (MFJ) was the center of operations and we rarely turned trains in the balloon. The management saw the opportunity of extending the tracks and making a bridging route with train holding capability at both ends.. The under-mountain holding tracks were a real pain and so after much negotiation, right of way was acquired into the third room, then called the rec' room where the pool table was. The Real Estate Manager agreed as long as the new construction included downstairs toilet facilities for our Thursday night crew. That worked out great- we added CUEball Siding, CUEball Junction and Thunder Mountain loop right around the toilet, with a convenient lift bridge. Best of all, we added a double level staging and holding yard, Trains arrive from either end of the TSL at the upper deck , we call it Offline (OFL) receiving yard. From there, they descend to the the ThunderMountain (TDM) Holding and Staging yard. Trains here can be re-identified, remade or disassembled. The new trains depart TDM to enter the TSL mainline at either the West OR East end.


Here is a schematic of the mainline that makes is a bit easier to understand how the staging and holding yards are integrated. Note that they appear on both ends of the mainline in color. This is a tremendous advantage in train staging. Traffic normally enters one-way way regardless where it came from, so trains get minimal rebuilding by hand. Many extra cars are located nearby, so I can easily vary the consists.

The total run is about 60 meters or 185 feet. We did retain a cutoff track that permits round and round running within the original two rooms. Only one switch remains hidden and it is easily accessable under lift out scenery We still build freight trains at MFJ, but most operations really start and end at OFL.

Early in the developement, more than twenty-five years ago, The railroad had been named the TETON SHORT LINE and the theme established. A three page article in Model Railroader, June 72 " Signalling on the TSL " publicly documented our name. Our good friend Conn Housley, an accomplished artist, painted murals all the way around the railroad room and the adjacent family rooom. In some cases he brought his paintings to match existing scenery and in other cases we would later bring the 3-D scenery to join the paintings. This is the first thing that visitors notice and comment on. It is a treasure. He also prepared the official charter.

TSL Charter

The Termite Timber Line Branch (TTL). When my son Randy was about 13, just before discovering cars and girls he said " Dad, lets build mountains ". He gave up his dedicated area in the railroad room and we built the mountains. The TTL Branch abandoned the unstable landslide prone route and laid tracks in the " new " mountains, finally crossing the canyon on a high trestle to reach the TTL yard at the mountain town of Moosemilk. From MFJ, the TTL branch line climbs at 4 percent grade using switchbacks and bridges, including a scale model of a historic Pegram truss, to Moosmilk to serve the mining and timber markets. At Moosemilk, you find a logging operation complete with real water running in the millpond" The TTL yards at Moosemilk are dual guage. The Narrow guage trackage extends up into the high timber country, seen beyond the historic Pegram truss, TTL Branch track is handlaid, code 70.


Sidebar: Randy at age 8, 1967, pulling the whistle cord on UP Northern #844 (Then known as #8444) at Boise ID. Randy did discover girls and cars- Today, I'm writing this while visiting his family in Denver at Christmas time.. I look up and see his model railroad, which he considers as an extension of the TSL. Thats great and beautiful, but I lost my resident scenery expert!

Ross Mine

The Ross Mine (RRR). Some years back, an elderly fellow joined our Thursday evening group. He has long since left us, but left quite a legacy. Named Reginald R. Ross, he naturally went by the nickname " Railroad " One evening, he presented the TSL with a gorgeous handbuilt minehead structure copied from the cover page of (date???) Model Railroader. We set it in a protected area in the foreground and built a yard to service it.

RRRoss Yard The Ross yard is under catenary, using a small steeple cab to switch it. Ore trains originate here and end up at the West Grand mill.

01/01/01-Ross yard is no more. Major reconstruction to totally elimnate duckunders caused its demise. Someday it will be rebuilt.


The Fall of 78 saw MFJ relaid with code 70 rail, making many improvements. Life was more prosperous by then, so we used commercial ties and a Kadee spiker. The track plan was changed only slightly, but a double slip switch was added to greatly enhance the access from the main and drill tracks to the arrival and departure tracks. LESSON! I know of no store bought slip switchs that are reliable and built properly.

The following Spring '79, The west end of MFJ was devastated when a water line split open by winter frost was turned on. A saturated ceiling tile came down (estimated at 35 pounds wet) and flattened the roundhouse, and warped roadbed. The turntable was not damaged.


East Grand and West Grand required another right of way acquisition. The Real Estate Manager said " the kids are gone, you and your cronies have taken over the family room- go ahead ". We added 0.3 meters (a foot) of depth to the West Wall of the family room and created the twin communities of West Grand and East Grand. West Grand's main industry among others is Coots Mithril & Leverite Ore processors that receives trainloads of ore from Ross Mine. An automated rotary dumper will some day be finished here. The two towns are separated by a deep gorge, so they each have a connection to the TSL mainline and their own local switch engine.

egrand2.jpg Located here are industries named for my children and grandchildern. Example: My daughter, nicknamed " Tiger " is a bio-chem major so we called her industry " Tigers Jurrasic Genetics ". Many of you will recognize John Allen's famous " Timesaver plan " in East Grand. We can put stops on the tracks and set up his famous switching puzzle. Otherwise it is a completely stand-alone operation with a slow diesel switcher and very simple controls. that my grandkids of any age are free to power up and operate at any time. If cars are moved around in East Grand, it has no impact on the Thursday night operations. LESSON! Make some room for the family.

MFJacess.jpg We arrive at 1998. Many lessons have been learned, such as " thou shall not build duckunders that are frequently used " The TSL is certainly mature, but redesign and evolution goes on. The most important lesson is: build for permanance and reliability- Try to design out or minimize anything that needs routine tinkering or maintenance else you'll never have time to build that dream railroad.

And now its 2006. This page is woefully out of date, but then it is mostly historical anyway. A terrible earthquake changed many things. Ross mine lost their Mithril source and relocated far away to again find a new source (I wonder about their secret technology to do that) The old Ross yard under catenary will never (never say never?) arise again. The entire town of Moosmilk was been radically shifted in position and is still struggling to recover. The quake dried up the mill pond and devastated Conn-founded Falls, the entire lumber mill operation, and terminated the narrow guage operations. Most of the nearby mountains collapsed clear down to the benchwork.

The gist of this is that we have quit trying to do-it-all and now are concentrating on an operational standard guage railroad while reducing future maintenance problems. The new mountains are composed of fifteen liftout foam pieces for easy access to hidden trackage. No more getting down under.

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