2017-01.3: Start Small, THINK BIG - series intro

20 Jan 2017

Average: 4.9 (34 votes)
27:08- Jan 2017 Act III - Start Small, THINK BIG - Intro (2017)

In this new TrainMasters TV series, Miles Hale and friends build a project layout in the TrainMasters TV studio using the principles of The "One Module" Approach, also known as TOMA.  

In the first instalment, Model Railroad Hobbyist editor Joe Fugate explains the TOMA concept.   Whether we want it to or not, life changes.  And a modern layout plan needs to reflect that.  If you’re not in an ideal space at this point in your life, there’s no need to put off starting the railroad of your dreams.  

We also get an introduction to the inspiration for the project, with a profile of the Vermont Railway System.

Also see:
- Episode 1: Intro (this episode)
- Episode 2: Design - watch now!
- Episode 3: Benchwork - watch now!
- Episode 4: Trackwork - watch now!
- Episode 5: Wiring - watch now!
- Episode 6: Structures - watch now!
- Episode 7: Scenery, pt 1  - watch now!
- Episode 8: Scenery, pt 2 - watch now!
- Episode 9: Adding details - watch now!
- Episode10: Operation - watch now!
- Bonus: Making grass tufts - watch now!

Model Railroad Hobbyist shield logoView / participate in the discussion thread for this video on the MRH website ...

Own a copy of this video for just $3.49

Act IV: Loksound decoder install ...

Go to Act IV


Tbgarland's picture

I am looking forward to this series as I believe it will help a lot of folks get beyond the planning stage and start something small that can eventually turn into their dream layout. I am also looking forward to watching techniques used in this build and hope I can learn something new. It appears you guys have chosen a great prototype so....


Tim G

I'm excited about this series! Really looking forward to the next segment.

Excited to learn more about TOMA, its an execelent idea to have a series for a person like me who is a starter.

Is Barry actually going to be on camera in this series??  :)

Is Barry actually going to be on camera in this series??  :)

Yes ...

This is exciting, looking foward to how this series unfolds. Great choich of rail lines to example with. Looking for ways to transpose to my O scale Chaffee Branch. 


The TOMA idea is hitting me dead center.  i starting my second railroad building project and am not really sure how long I will remain in this current house.  But over the last few months I had decided that I was at least going to start building sections. At some point I may move into another house,or I may incorporate the module where I am.  I had worked briefly for a railroad back in the late 60's and I still have a passion to continue modeling that railroad even though it is a fallen flag.  There are certain scenes or settings of that railroad that are special in my memory and I intend to recreate them in the module or section form.  If perhaps I don't quickly evolve into a comprehensive layout, I while have the joy of working on the settings and equipment that are a part of my fond recollection.  I also intend to make these modules portable and perhaps take one or two at a time to train shows.  Since I am presently starting my project, I am quite anxious to see the next video of the TOMA project.

espeelover's picture

I'm looking at turmoil in the railroad room, life is forcing changes and the future is uncertain. This "system" sounds like it might just be the way to proceede. Can't wait to see what comes of this approach. All the green is pretty to see as well, since my railroad is a south west desert dweller, a tree or two is refreshing. Good stuff!

Prior to building my current railroad I was greatly influenced by N-Scale modules and by David Barrow.  My current layout was built one module or section at a time.  It is a lot easier and much faster to build the module, lay the track, install switch motors, and wiring in a shop or garage with the module on its side than crawling under bench work regardless of how old you are.  Plus I was operating the layout as soon as I put the first module in the layout room.  The initial stub staging yard that serves both east bound and west bound traffic had a number of operational problems, so I was able to remove that module and rebuild it without destroying anything.  I removed a section of track, uncoupled the wiring between modules, unbolted the section and took it to the shop where it was rebuilt in a matter of weeks and reinstalled.  In the meantime, I could still run trains.  I learned a lot from my mistakes, the biggest one was not having a good overall plan when I started.  Then on the other hand, 15 years ago when I started I didn't think I would have the time to build more than a few modules.  The lesson is to make a good plan like Joe and Miles mentioned that can evolve as your situation changes.

Even though my layout is 95% finished, I am looking forward to this series, and I hope it inspires layouts being built using TOMA.


The Norfolk and Western Historical Society started its Free-mo group and alot of the members have now started planning to use their moducles on their home layout.the TOMA concept has really helped boost our numbers. THANKS TRAINMASTERS TV

Well, I don't know. No offense to anyone, but I'm not really seeing how this is anything more than just modules with additional "rules."
I'll watch the first one or two "real" episodes and see how it goes.

 Well, I don't know. No offense to anyone, but I'm not really seeing how this is anything more than just modules with additional "rules."I'll watch the first one or two "real" episodes and see how it goes.

Any time we talk about TOMA there's always some who say, "What's the big deal? Modular methods are not new. It's all just marketing hype to fool the naive."

Actually, we agree modular methods are decades old ... modular clubs have been around since the 80s and dominoes/LDEs were first discussed 20 years ago.

However, building a home layout using modular methods has never been discussed in depth in the hobby press. How do you plan a modular/sectional home layout? What's different about doing modular on a home layout versus modular for a layout that goes on the road? 

Once modular/sectional methods for home layouts are as well understood as L-girder benchwork and is a common option everyone considers when thinking of a home layout, and when everyone understands the pros and cons of the "one module" approach, then we will have achieved our goal. 

We also believe modular for home layouts means there are some construction methods that have not been deeply explored yet. Joe Fugate's new Siskiyou Line 2 will be exploring even more interesting thinking on the TOMA front with his shadow box approach to TOMA modules.

Looking forward to this series as the TOMA principles can be applied pretty well every layout. I like the choice of CV as well - a bit of many different industries to model.

Where in MRH did all the TOMA discussions start?

Where in MRH did all the TOMA discussions start? 

It wasn't called TOMA at first. Look in the May 2013 issue at the Reverse Running to see the commentary on the "One Module" Challenge. In this commentary I did not use the term TOMA but I did outline the concepts.

Next in September 2015 we kicked off our first "One Module" contest built off the concepts from the May 2013 editorial.

In October 2015 is when I first coined the term "TOMA" in my editorial to give this approach to doing a home layout a quick name.

Joe, et al,

I think the TOMA approach is great, and I'll actually be using it on my next layout.  However, I was with you up until two points - you chose to freelance, and you decided to go with a team track, a turntable, a freight house, LCL, etc.  Nothing against freelancing, heck, I do it and promote it.  However, when the prototype offers so many great industries that you described so well in the Vermont Railway segment, why not choose one of them? 

And to the second point, it sounds like you are basically building a starter layout but using the TOMA methodology.  And yet, you don't seem to be leveraging the advantages of TOMA like building multiple modules/sections and relying on staging to provide variety.  Why try to cram so much into this one module?  Am I missing something?


TMTV Station Agent's picture

Am I missing something?

Yes.  You'll need to watch the other nine episodes!   :)        Much of what you mention will be addressed in future segments... even as early as next month.

Miles shows his teaching background well with good structure, thorough preparation and good examples to illustrate a point. Joe gave a great foundation for the remainder of the show with a nicely distilled historical view of layout design and voicing the still-evolving ideas that lead to TOMA.  Between those two points was a very smooth collaborative discussion 

Well done, guys!