Start small. THINK BIG.

25 Nov 2016


Starting in January, we're embarking on a new layout project building a TOMA layout. With TOMA (The One Module Approach) we're building a home layout in module sections.

The new project layout is based is a proto-freelanced version of the Vermont Railway set in modern day. Eclectic small industries abound up there – in some ways it's like the clock stopped 20-30 years ago.

Scene from the new TOMA project layout modeling the modern day Vermont Railway

That's not the only prototype we looked at either for this project. There's more than a few great modern-day modeling examples out there if you look around. I was blown away at how fun modeling modern day can be with our TOMA layout. Wait until you see what we can do with this layout – and it's all totally contemporary!

We're building industries, weathering freight cars, building quaint scenes – and having a blast modeling modern day. It's the furthest thing from boring.

TOMA project layout design

Along with the video series, there will be a number of construction articles in MRH covering rolling stock, structures, and so on done for the TOMA layout project. So you'll get a taste of what modeling modern is like - and even if you're not into modern, there's plenty of how-to tips that will apply to any modeling era.

One modeler on the MRH forum said this about modeling modern:

To each their own, but I love running trains in any era.

That pretty much sums it up for me. Every era has fun things in it that I enjoy. It's the old glass half full or glass half empty proverb. It's all a matter of how you choose to look at it.

Corner module with rural Vermont river scene under construction on the new TOMA project layout

When I started my Siskiyou Line, I was going to model the early 1970s because I could have a few grungy black widow F units along with shiny new tunnel motors. That was 1991 and some local modelers started bringing (then modern) TEBUs and rebuilt SD9Es, along with very grungy tunnel motors and cars without roof walks to run on my layout – essentially contemporary stuff that I figured was boring.

This got me to rethink my layout era of the early 1970s. As I toyed with moving my layout era to the 1980s, I fell in love with the no roofwalk look and haven't looked back. At the time (the 90s), the 1980s was practically contemporary modeling and even then some guys were complaining that "modern railroading was boring".

After starting on the TMTV TOMA layout modeling the modern day Vermont Railway, we're having a total blast! Suddenly studying modern day railroading details has become engrossing! I've never been so excited about a layout project in a long time with all the new methods available for building a layout now.

Joe Fugate and Miles Hale talk about the new TOMA project layout design

Hmm. Makes me think seriously about starting over – the hobby has come a long way since I started my Siskiyou Line some 25 years ago ...

– Joe Fugate

P.S. The TOMA layout will be on display in the MRH booth at many of the shows we attend in 2017. Come by and see it in person!


Modern vs old, or whatever. Born in 1958, I have never seen a steam locomotive doing actual revenue work. By the time I noticed railroads at all we were already into second generation diesels. By the time I could actually afford to buy models and dabble into building layouts, Dash-9's were being introduced as 3rd generation locomotives became the norm. Modern to me (all relative) is about 2005 to present when unit trains hit the scene. Although unit trains are not much different than steam powered coal roads with their endless string of black hoppers. But even now there are short lines, branch lines and major feeder lines that run all sorts of equipment still. In reading on some forums, the 80's and 90's are considered moderns. Really? That is almost 40 years ago!! Oh how I wish I could hear those multiple units of SD40-2's climbing the escarpment in my back yard again. Now that is old!  Looking forward to this series, even though building a section (or modern module) at a time is nothing new.     



I am looking forward to see how you enroll the building of this Layout. Here in Europe we run a club with 1800+ members. The members all build modular sections that can be assembled to various layouts. What starts small with a few modules can grow very big :-) On the clubs homepage we have a video that shows how large...

The pictures already look promissing. Looking forward to the next episodes...

Best Regards,


P Hanzlik's picture

Looking forward to the Toma series 

excalibur5776's picture

There is one thing you forgot to tell us what scale is this, because TOMA make things in HO scale and N-scale so tell us what scale it is, because we can't guess and it should be listed before you start talking about it, so we will know what to buy or see if what we have will work.


joef's picture

The project layout is HO. I tend to avoid mentioning scale a lot because most methods transcend scale, and I don't want modelers in the other scales to immediately tune it out because it's not their scale. Modelers miss more great ideas by getting too fixated on what scale something is. It is often not that important.

This comes along at the right for me. We down sized and my layout room is a lot smaller now. As well we are in an apartment condo which will bring its own set of problems to solve.

You should find this series helpful, then. We talk about the hypothetical person this layout is for, and we're assuming he's in an apartment and can't attach anything to the walls or floor. We also assume limited tools. Sounds like a pretty good match for you, d.risdill ...