The One Module Approach comes to CenterTrak

If you have been following discussions and posts since the Sioux Falls Train Show just before Thanksgiving, you may have come across the discussions of building and maintaining modules. You may also have seen the new Free-mo Concerns group created on Facebook to address such issues. This subject hits close to home for me as I begin to complete and repair the 12 modules currently in my fleet, and possibly start one or two more.

In a conversation on the Missouri Valley Free-mo group on Facebook, Rick Simpson brought up a concept called TOMA, or The One Module Approach. There is a great article in the October Model Railroad Hobbyist magazine by Joe Fugate on this concept. There is one line in the article that has made me reconsider my Free-mo particpation. “You build layout until you want to quit and then you have an operational layout … that you don’t need to apologize for.” Yeah, that’s what I want. A layout that I don’t have to apologize for!



The photo above is what Decatur used to look like. It isn’t my work, but it is the type of quality I want to strive for. So, starting after the OKC show this coming weekend, I will adopt the TOMA approach. I will work on one module at a time until I feel it is complete and ready to display. I am starting with FCA Packaging as it is small enough to complete quickly. I will then work through other modules.

What does this mean to you?

As of next Monday you can consider all of my modules, all 12 of them, as out of service until further notice. Why? Because not one of them is up to the quality I know I am capable of. Not one of them is ready to be displayed without some apology. Not one of them is ready for the next railfan photo shoot.

I am not going to display my work, or the modules I have acquired from others, until I am proud of them. I cannot say for sure that I will fix all my modules before starting another, but no new or old module will be displayed until they have gone through my new process which will follow the TOMA approach. I will work on one module at a time until it is complete, then fix or start another.

Why new modules now?

Although I have 12 modules right now, I am missing some key modules that are needed for the smaller setups that I participate in. CenterTrak at this time has only 4 curve modules and no transition (2-to-1) modules. The one junction module I have is damaged, and Decatur is very large. I want to make sure that our small group can participate in the small setups we are invited to and still build a functioning layout.

I do plan to complete FCA Packaging and Birdsong Peanuts first. This will provide me with two very nice modules, both based on prototype locations, to display while I continue the process. My four corners will likely be next. This will provide 32 feet of single track mainline with a full 180 degree of curves. With Bob’s Nowhere, MT and my loop, that can create a viable small layout for now.

The problem is that the remainder of my modules that need to go through the update process are all double track. I have no transition modules. So it’s possible that work on two transition modules will commence and complete before progress is made on other modules. In fact, since the loop is double track, I need to have one of these quickly to make a usable out-and-back layout.

Or maybe I just need to scout some new members for the group and have them build those.

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