Santa Fe, Needles District

Santa Fe, Needles District


The Santa Fe, Needles District layout was first featured in Model Railroader Magazine in September 2002, and again in 102 Realistic Track Plans.

I picked this mid-sized N-Scale layout as a challenge for myself to create a desert themed route from the American west-cost. Most of my route building has been focused on Northeastern US locales and I wanted to see how I would do with something completely different. I've never been out west and I'm not even a big fan of the railroads that operate in that region, combine that with a limited experience in Model Railroad style building and this route proved to to be the challenge I was looking for. 

Admittedly, it's less than perfect in many ways and some omissions and adjustments had to be made, but what I learned in the process is invaluable. 

Errors, Omissions & Shortcomings

Due to many of the constraints within Trainz some omissions from the original track plan had to be made. Combine that with my own lack of knowledge of the region and you'll find a few less than prototypical errors that I would like to address.

The most notable change is the omission of the interchange with the Union Pacific to Salt Lake City just outside of Barstow yard. I had to make this omission because there was simply no way to hide a staging track in the limited space along the peninsula. If I built the route all over again, I would have left room between the backdrop along the center of the peninsula for a portal or iportal. But there was also the issue of creating a decent junction between the UP interchange and the mainline. Space constraints in Trainz and maybe some errors within the track plan itself lead to a very jarring turnout and interchange connection. 

The next most notable change is the omission of Lee Way Trucking Transfer along the peninsula. This was again due to a space constraint and I opted to model the cement plant instead, since there wasn't enough room for both.

A possible error on the layout is due to my own lack of knowledge of the prototype, and that's the grade from Barstow to Needles. The track plan notes a 2% maximum grade but doesn't indicate where the start or end point of that gradient is. As far as I was able to tell it was meant to be 2% out of Barstow up to Desert Cement before leveling off, so that's what I did. I still am not sure if this matches the prototype or not but it works well within the space I used. It didn't seem possible to add a downward gradient back into Needles at any point, so this is what made the most sense to me. As a result of this 'error' or adjustment, Needles is a bit higher than Barstow. Normally this wouldn't be an issue except for the 3% grade it causes in the staging yard. 

Several of the staging tracks are on a 3% grade, which makes it difficult for trains to get started when facing Needles. The good news is that not all of the staging tracks are on a grade. My solution has been to stage all trains starting in Needles on the outermost tracks that are level with Needles, and all trains starting in Barstow on the downward grade. This prevents trains from stalling on the staging grade from Barstow to Needles. So far I haven't had trouble with trains stalling while entering staging at Barstow and continuing on to Needles. This is especially good for any kind of continuous running. 


While this isn't a route designed for switching, it's a great route for operating long trains and managing a double track network. Add a few Amtrak trains and you'll find yourself busy trying to keep the mainline clear! 

My personal favorite way to operate this layout so far is to set up a few AI freight trains to run in loops, through staging, in both directions, with an Amtrak train or two mixed in, while I take a local out of Needles to switch cars at the Shell Oil Refinery or Desert Cement. You can even operate a short local from Needles to Barstow or vise versa.

The bottom line is that this route is designed to run several long haul type freights & passenger trains from staging on one end to staging on the other. Have fun creating sessions and trying different types of operations! 


Needles was initially built entirely in Trainz Model Railroad Edition but has since been ported into Trainz A New Era SP2. The route should work without problems in either game version.


The bulk of the assets used along Needles can be located either on the Download Station or Assets not available at either location can be found at the links below:

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Pennsylvania & Berwind


Pennsylvania & Berwind


"The Pennsylvania & Berwind Railroad is a 34.7 mile short line railroad that serves a coal, steel and general merchandise customer base."

That's the very first sentence in an over 50 page long document created by BillM001, the original creator of the P&B and the very document that got me hooked on this amazing, freelanced route. Bill first created the P&B in Trainz 2004 and released the route, along with over 50 pages of operating rules and schedules, in late 2008. I downloaded the route and was instantly hooked over the

Early morning local through Old Town

detailed operations possible. I was working in Trainz 2006 after all and to have a self-sustaining route at this time was remarkable. Unfortunately, it wasn't long before the route was seriously out of date. With the release of Trainz 2009/2010 and eventually Trainz 12, many of the assets used were now broken.

Around late 2009/10 and with Bill's permission, I set out to fix the route by replacing every broken asset with something more up to date. This proved to be a bigger hastle than I had expected and I soon abandoned the idea in favor of rebuilding the entire route, track for track, with the original P&B and Bill's provided paperwork as my road map. 

Since then, my update has taken many forms and several rebuilds as each iteration of Trainz continued to modernize and break the assets I was using. Eventually, around 2012 I mostly abandoned the idea and Trainz as a whole out of sheer frustration with the game. Over the years since, I'd often peak back into Trainz to take short glimpses of what had been my dream route for Trainz.

Fast forward to 2015 when N3V contacted me about building a route for their planned Trainz Model Railroad Edition. I began work on the Franklin Avenue Industrial and once again the train bug bit me. Hard this time. After completing Franklin Ave, I began to dabble around along the P&B once again and realized how unmotivated I felt without having a deadline or others interested in what I was doing. That's when I started my YouTube channel. Initially it began as a way for me to keep myself motivated while building the P&B, but it's since grown into something else I had never expected (that's all another story).

A pair of P&B GP7's switch out PBS coal in Mill Creek

So once again the P&B is under development and I'm as excited as ever. After speaking with Bill via Skype I learned a lot of the backstory behind the route, its industry and city names and his overall goal when he first built it. He was also astonished at the degree of excitment my P&B videos have been generating in the community. 


To say that my iteration of the Pennsylvania & Berwind is an exact update of the original would be a lie. I'm doing my best to keep the original flavor of a fledgling shortline railroad in the woods all while adding my own building techniques and inspiration. Many of the yards and industries are not built exactly track for track, but more as a distillation of what I loved so much about the original and what inspires me from the world around me. Bill's original paperwork should still be applicable with only slight modifications. 

The railroad still begins in the Town of Grafton and travels around 40-50 miles to Juniata yard where it interchanges with the rest of the world. In between are dozens of miles of branch lines, industrial spurs and abandoned towns with a rich history. What fascinated me the most about the P&B was how much it felt like a real place despite being entirely freelanced (although, I later found out that many of the cities and industries were built after actual prototypes).

Release Plan

Pennsylvania and Berwind GP9 skinned by the talented WearsPrada

My intention is to release this route in several phases, probably spanning the better part of a few years before all is said and done. Phase 1 encompasses Juniata yard, Mill Creek spur, Old Town, Vonny and the Babcock Spur and should provide plenty of operational fun while I build the next phase. My hope is to have it ready for release early this fall.

The Pennsylvania & Berwind route will be freeware with payware add-ons, including loco's and freight cars. 


I always make sure to emphasize that I am not the original visionary of this wonderful route. All of that credit goes directly to BillM001, who spent months building this route from scratch, really for his own enjoyment. Luckily he was willing to share it with us years ago and has been generous enough to not only allow me to rebuild it for the public but he often joins in on my live streams to answer viewer questions.

My background is in film making and I like to use that analogy that if the Pennsylvania and Berwind was a film, Bill is the writer and I'm simply the art director. 


Watch JR live on Twitch!

Want to see what we're working on? How about in real time? Well you're in luck. Starting today look for the LIVE symbol to show up in our menu on the far right hand side. If it's there that means one of us is live streaming directly from a project we're working on. Be sure to check it out!


Jointed Rail welcomes Approach Medium!

The team here at Jointed Rail is pleased to announce our newest member Approach Medium! We're very excited to be working with Joe on some upcoming projects I'm sure you all will enjoy. If you haven't seen his work we suggest you follow him on Twitter as well as subscribe to his YouTube channel. In the next few days you will see an entire section of the website dedicated to Joe's videos and how-to series. With this new partnership will come a ton of new content in both the payware and freeware departments. Stay tuned here for further announcements on projects, releases and general news.


New Releases 4/20/17

Lot's of new items up for grabs today including some new freeware items as well.  The much anticipated Coal Country by Richard Ness (Scratchy) is a wonderful trip through the vast coal communities dotting railroad lines all over Appalachia!  This route is complete with custom scenery items, new freight cars, new locomotives and much more.  This route also includes 4 in depth sessions which will keep you busy for hours.  Grab this latest package today in our store and be sure to check out all of these other great releases while you're there!

New Models, New Railroads

We have tons of new and exciting things happening and that includes new railroads and new models.  While we're rebuilding old models from the ground up we're also adding new railroads to our rosters.  We hope you enjoy the upcoming content and we look forward to offering your favorite railroad very soon!  We're also starting to offer a selection of routes and content packs that cover various industries or themes.  Have you made the switch to TRAINZ: A New Era?  Jointed Rail is now offering routes and content specifically designed to take advantage of the upgrades that TANE offers.  We're currently supporting the latest stable build, however we cannot guarantee BETA versions until they are completed.  Be sure to remain at the last stable version, we don't recommend nor support any BETA versions of TRAINZ.

New freeware almost ready!

It's been a little while since our last freeware release but don't think we've forgotten!  We have a lot more where this came from including new models, new freight cars, buildings and more.  We have enough freeware to last us through the fall on regular releases.  Keep your eye on the site and be sure to check us out on social media too.  Up for grabs this week will be the following items.

This is just a small sample of what we have in store over the next several months.  We hope you enjoy it!

Live train cam returns

Our live train cam has returned!  You can now watch 8 cams for free from the player on our live trains page.  This page is brought to you from our sister company Virtual Railfan.  From coast to coast Virtual Railfan brings the trains to you!  For higher quality feeds, DVR, more cams and other features please consider a membership.

A brand new site

It's been awhile since our last website overhaul.  Several functions weren't working correctly and there were other reported bugs as well.  We decided it was time to overhaul the site from the ground up.  With our new site things should be much faster, searches should lead you to the correct items and the issue with being returned to the home page is now solved.  We welcome your feedback and look forward to returning a rewards program in the near future.  Please look around and check out the site, we hope you enjoy your stay.

New GP38-2’s released

It's been a long time in the making.  We're getting back to where it began, overhauling and rebuilding our GP38's.  This is a ground up replacement of the original model adding the latest technology available for the best graphical results in game.  Included in the new line of EMD's are our brand new cabs.  These cabs are packed with scripted features that will deliver hours of enjoyment.  Several schemes are planned covering many railroads.  Look forward to more overhauls very soon.

Play with the best.