Master Model Railroader

"An NMRA member qualifies as a Master Model Railroader when he or she has obtained at least seven of the eleven Achievement Certificates provided that he or she has earned at least one Achievement Certificate in each of the four areas of the Regulations. Earning the title of Master Model Railroader is the ultimate goal for many participants in the Achievement Program."

Monday, December 16, 2013

Passenger Car

To meet the requirements for the Master Builder - Cars Certificate I also had to build a passenger car.

I wanted to try a kitbash following the instructions from Steve Sandifer and build a Santa Fe Baggage Railway Express car with the distinct fishbelly sills

The base for my kitbash is an undecorated baggage car from Athearn. Fortunately I had purchased a couple of these before the Blue Box kits forever disappeared in history..

First I sanded the roof smooth and removed all cast on grab irons and curved drip rails. The Santa Fe drip rails over the doors were peaked.

I replaced the grab irons using brass wire bend to shape as well as Detail Associates commercial grabs.

I fabricated the fishbelly sills from .030" plain styrene sheet

I attached the side sills to the underframe of the car, although they should be glued directly to the body. But this would make the removal of the underframe impossible. And as you see in the pictures, this is hardly visible.

I covered the lower part of the baggage doors with .010 plain styrene sheet (mine was clear because I ran out of white). The Santa Fe doors were plain instead of ribbed.

Unfortunately I did not find suitable stirrup steps, so I used 3 rungs of brass ladder stock. I drilled appropriate holes into the body, glued the steps on and bend them to shape.

I mixed Pullman and Coach Green to closely match the Santa Fe color and airbrushed the entire car. After the paint had dried I masked the sides and airbrushed the underside and roof with flat black paint.

I added train and air lines and safety chains from a Branchline Trains Passenger car kit as well as a couple of underbody details, like air reservoirs, steam traps and battery box.

Fortunately I had a set of decals from a vintage Walthers Passenger car kit from the 1960's, to reproduce the correct lettering for this car. The Microscale Decal are missing the word "Baggage". The old decal film was quite intact but nevertheless I could not apply it without the film showing, even after it had dried overnight and with the application of another coat of Micro Set.

This kitbash was a good practice in recreating a typical Santa Fe car. There are a couple of things I will do differently next time, but that's the fun part of it.

Now it's time to fill in my SOQ and send my completed paperwork to my AP manager.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Master Builder Cars - A major effort

After my initial success with the Helium Tankcar back in 2011, I wanted to get this certificate done as fast as possible. I decided to mostly scratchbuild the remaining cars, to be on the safe side, so I had to plan ahead with the BR convention in October 2013 being my goal.

1892 AT&SF Hanrahan Refrigerator Car in HO

My first car in the row is a vintage refrigerator car of the Hanrahan Design built for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway back in 1892. I was fascinated with this double door reefer. Fortunately a wooden kit is manufactured by Labelle, so I ordered one and an extra set of decals, just in case I would mess up one (what I actually did :-S)

I used the instructions and constructed the car from Evergreen styrene strip and sheet instead of wood. The only commercial parts I used were the door latches, brakewheel, trucks, turnbuckles and brake fittings). The prototype did not have the knuckle couplers but link and pin couplers instead, so I installed the only ones I could find, the Gilpin Tram couplers from Grandt Line. In the meantime I also did my own using plastic knuckle couplers that I convert to link and pin couplers (but that's another story)

the score: 99/125

Construction: 27/40
Detail: 15/20
Conformity: 23/25
Finish: 21/25
Scratchbuilding: 13/15

Southern Pacific Narrow Gauge Boxcar #5 in On3

I am also a Narrow Gauge Fan, so my other half of the models were build in On3 gauge.
I had a couple copies of plans for Southern Pacific Narrow Gauge cars that I wanted to build. With most narrow gauge equipment the basic car was the Flatcar, on which everything else was build up.

The score: 101/125

Construction: 30/40
Detail: 17/20
Conformity: 22/25
Finsih: 18/25
Scratchbuilding: 14/15

Southern Pacific Narrow Gauge Low Side Gondola in On3

As I said above, the basis for most cars was the Flatcar, so it was obvious to include one. After I finsihed tha car I found that this was too simple and that I could easily build a gondola by simply adding the sides to the stake pokets. The sides are basically two boards attached to stakes. I installed a total of 176 nut-bolt-washer castings. The sides are inserted into the stake pockets. So I have two cars in one.

The score: 102/125

Construction: 28/40
Detail: 17/20
Coonformity: 24/25
Finish: 19/25
Scratchbuilding: 14/15

Monson Snow Spreader in On2 1/2 (On30)

In a Narrow Gauge Gazette I found an article about this spreader in HOn3. I liked the idea of scratchbuilding the superstructure and especially the spreader blades.
There were only a couple of black and white photos to imagine how the real car looked and what particular details it had. The HOn3 model was a bit to small to recreate all visible details in the photos, but in On3 it could be done. The spreader superstructure was mounted to the flatcar with brakets and U-bolts, so I believe that it could be removed as well. This was a very nice detail to model, as well as the blades that can be swung out and locked in place with small bolts.

The spreader blades are 3 pieces of brass sheet, soldered together following the drawings in the article. I also drilled holes to install some nut-bolt-washer castings.

The flatcar is a superdetailed Bachmann underframe. These are intended to replace the stock underframes from the On30 cars. I installed tension rods, new brake gear, stake pockets and wood planking.

Throughout this was a very rewarding experience and its one of my favorite cars

The score: 96/125

Construction: 27/40
Detail: 18/20
Conformity: 24/25
Finish: 17/25
Scratchbuilding: 10/15

Winch Car in On3

The last car in the row, although my first On3 car that I've built also comes from an article in the Gazette. Lee Vande Visse built it back in the 1980's for a contest. Again its unique design, a common practice with many narrow gauge railroads, inspired me to build it. Based on a D&RGW flatcar it has a "homemade" shack to protect a gasoline winch that was used to tear up used rails for replacement. The A-frame rack and cable guide are the most visible details as well as the reinforcement rails along the deck. Sometimes these rails were also installed to the underframe, but here they are more visible. They are also attached with U-bolts and brackets.

The score: 100/125

Construction: 29/40
Detail: 18/20
Conformity: 23/25
Finish: 17/25
Scratchbuilding: 13/15

I was totally surprised that all of my five cars received a Merit Award, although I only needed three to meet the requirements.

Lessons learned:


Take care to keep everythin level and square.
Don't use excessive glue.
Avoid glue spots.
Sand all wooden parts prior to assembling and painting
Watch for fuzz and sand it away.


You cannot have too much detail
Check your plans and photographs thoroughly and try to add all details that should be there, either through scratchbuilding or commercial castings.


Try to conform to the prototype you model, either real or freelanced
Supply as many drawings, photos (black/white or color), articles etc, as you can. This is a dead on category where you cannot have enough reference material.
You probably noticed that I scored an average of 23.5 out of 25 in this category.


Decide whether you recreate a used or an almost new car. The finish should be appropriate to its "age" or the prototype pictures that you supply.
Watch for a neat paint job, without running colors.
Apply your decals straight.
Seal the decals with dull- or glosscote to hide the decal film
If weathering your car, don't overdo it, but remember: even a new car already shows some weathering, if only on the trucks.


Scratchbuild as many items as possible.
Some basic parts are excluded, like trucks, couplers, light bulbs and wood/plastic strips and sheets
If you scratchbuild hardly visible parts, do mention them in your description so that you get credit for.

Scratchbuilding as many parts as possible is definitely the way to go, although this category only counts for 15 points, but it might be just these points you'll need for the Merit Award.

I might have forgotten to mention a couple of things but before starting I advise you to read, and reread the instructions for every category and if in doubt, call your AP manager.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Master Builder Cars - First success

With the Master Model Railroader Certificate almost within reach, it was time to turn to building rolling stock models to complete my required certificates.

Different types of cars have to be modeled with a total of eight. Four models must reach the minimum of 87.5 points. After having completed six certificates already I was now confident that I could also succeed with cars. I also had the different cars in mind that I wanted to build like a Flatcar, a Boxcar, a Reefer and perhaps a Tankcar.

The car I had in mind was not an ordinary Tankcar like the one everybody knows but a Helium Tankcar. At a swap meet I purchased an old Ambroid kit of exactly this car. This was a wooden craftsman kit with a handfull of stripwood and metal castings. I took the plan and purchased Evergreen styrene strips instead. If you ever tried to make wood look like metal you understand my reason for doing so..

I then built the car following the instructions using styrene basic shapes and a couple of commercial castings (ladders, brakewheel, couplers etc)

From the old decal sheet supplied in the kit I drew new decals on my computer and printed them out on plain decal paper.

I finished the car right on time for the 2011 NMRA convention in Sacramento, Ca. I was very excited about the score it would get. I invested so much time to build this car, so if it would not get the minimum score I didn't know what to do to succeed in this certificate.

After the judging was finished the car earned 90 points out of 125, a Merit Award and a Honorable Mention. I had convinced the National Judges of my skills and now I knew that I was on the right way.

Here's the detailed score:

Construction: 28/40
Detail: 12/20
Conformity: 25/25
Finish: 15/25
Scratchbuilding: 10/15

Cars is probably one of the most challenging certificates because the models you have to build are not static like structures are. When installing the brake riggings, you must take care that the trucks swivel enough to negotiate turnouts and curves, It is nevertheless one of the most rewarding experiences that I've made. To see a piece of rolling stock emerge from a handfull of strips and bits and pieces.

I decided to scratchbuild all of the remaining cars, because the chances are bigger to reach the needed score. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Master Builder Cars - First efforts

The first certificate that I started to build models for was Master Builder Cars back in 1999. That was the time I was persuaded that this would be the easiest certificate of all (!!). Ha!

I modified an Athearn Santa Fe cupola caboose or waycar to stay with Santa Fe lingo. I installed brake gear, new ladders, window screens, marker lights etc and was very proud of the outcome, because I followed a construction article from Andy Sperandeo from Model Railroader Magazine

I submitted my model at the NMRA concention in Minneapolis/St. Paul in 1999.
Although the judges certified me a throughout good job, it nevertheless earned only 64 points out of 125.

Construction: 18/40
Detail: 9/20
Conformity: 21/25
Finish: 14/25
Scratchbuilding: 2/15
This judgement made me aware of the fact that I probably had not the required knowledge yet to succeed in this certificate.

I then put cars on the backseat and continued with structures instead.

In the meantime I tried my hand on scratchbuilding a simple flatcar and entered for merit award judging in 2003 or 2004 at the British Region convention.

I probably did not do enough research and although it was almost completely scratchbuild except for the trucks and couplers it only earned 68 points.

Construction: 20/40
Detail: 12/20
Conformity: 13/25
Finish: 10/25
Scratchbuilding: 13/15

That's when I laid cars completely aside for a couple of years and it would only be my last certifcate that I completed before MMR.

More on this in another post.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

My 7th certificate!

Last weekend I attended the British Region convention in Meriden near Birmingham.

After the saturday night dinner I received the Author Certificate from the hands of British Region AP chair Steve Park. This is my 7th certificate toward MMR, but the right one has still to be earned, which is Master Builder - Cars to fulfill the requirements of having at least one certificate from the 4 categories.

I also entered 6 models to be judged and the outcome of the contest judging exceeded my expectations so that from the 6 models I entered, 5 won a Merit Award with reasonably high scores. I'll post this in a separate post.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Golden Spike Award

The best and easiest way to start in the Achievement Programm in my eyes, is to begin with the Golden Spike Award. Many modellers own a home or show layout without knowing that they already have done a big part in achieving this award.

Here is what’s to to. If not sure, ask your local AP chair.

Golden Spike Award

The Golden Spike is the easiest, and for many people, the first AP award that they earn. It is designed to demonstrate familiarity with different areas of the hobby, rather than expertise in a particular area. So take a look at the requirements - you may find that you have met most, or all of them already.
Here's the Golden Spike Award Application Form . Use it as a checklist, you may surprise yourself.
  1. Rolling Stock (Motive Power & Cars)
    • Display six (6) units of rolling stock (Scratchbuilt, craftsman, or detailed commercial kits).
Notice that the requirement is to "display" them. Nowhere does it say that they must earn a minimum number of points in judging - just that they must be displayed. ( In the monthly contests at your division meetings, for example. Even having them set out on your layout, or a table in your basement counts as "display").
These models need to show a little more effort than a "shake the box" kit. For example, by itself a freight car kit straight out of the box, is not enough to qualify. However, by painting and decaling it, adding a little detailing, perhaps some weathering, etc., you'll have a qualifying model in no time!
  1. Model Railroad Setting (Structures & Scenery)
    • Construct a minimum of eight (8) square feet of layout.
Again, there is no requirement about how good or how elaborate your layout must be - just that you must "construct" it. On the other hand, you may have trouble convincing someone that a loop of track nailed to a piece of green painted wood constitutes a "layout" . . . How much is 8 square feet of layout? Well, a typical module is 4 feet by 2 feet, and would easily satisfy this requirement.
    • Construct five (5) structures (scratchbuilt, craftsman, or detailed and commercial kits). These structures may be separate, or one or more of them may be part of a single scene.
The same comments apply here about the type of kits. The idea is to show that you can do more than glue a simple plastic kit together. Painting or weathering are good things to consider. Remember that "structures" aren't just buildings. Things like bridges and trestles also fall into this category.
  1. Engineering (Civil & Electrical)
    • Three (3) types of trackage are required (turnout, crossing, etc.). All must be properly ballasted and installed on proper roadbed. Commercial trackage may be used.
This requirement sounds a lot harder than it is. First, notice that last sentence about commercial trackage; you don't have to hand-lay anything - you can just install a store bought turnout. "Types of trackage" can be just about anything: turnouts, crossings, and grade elevation (a change in elevation of the track) are all examples of "types of trackage". Also, note that the three types DO NOT have to be different. For example, just having three simple turnouts will qualify. The "proper roadbed" requirement can be met by laying the track on a raised roadbed, ( such as cork ) and ballasting it. The purpose of this requirement is to show that you understand roadbed profile, drainage, etc.
    • All installed trackage must be properly wired so that two trains can be operated simultaneously (Double-track main, single-track main with sidings, block or command control, etc.).
This requirement can also be easier than it sounds. Notice the option for a single track main with sidings. This means that as long as you can cut power to the sidings individually, you can run one train, park it on a siding while you run another, then park it and run the first again. This meets the requirement.
    • Provide one additional electrical feature such as powered turnouts, signaling, turnout indication, lighted buildings, etc.
Don't read more into this than is there. A powered turnout can be something as simple as an Atlas turnout with a switch machine. Think in terms of anything that runs off the 'Accessories' terminals of a power pack and you 're half way there.
One other thing to remember: Not all of these requirements need to be met on the same layout (or piece of layout). They don't even need to be met in the same scale! If you want to build G scale rolling stock, an N scale Model Railroad setting, and an HO scale layout for trackage and wiring, go ahead.
Also, the Golden Spike, as well as the other parts of the AP have a certain amount of flexibility. For example, suppose you and your (friend / spouse / child) work together on all your projects, but do twice the required amount (12+ units of rolling stock, 16+ square feet of layout, 10+ structures, etc.). You can both be considered, as long as you can show that you have each demonstrated the required skills.

Master Builder - Cars (Requirements)

Master Builder - Cars

A "Car" is just about anything that runs on rails and is NOT self-propelled (if it's self-propelled, it's Motive Power). This includes freight cars, passenger cars, maintenance of way cars (including equipment such as cranes), cabooses, cable cars, unpowered (dummy) locomotives, etc. Actually, if you have a model which is self propelled, but is a model of something that was designed to carry something (besides itself), such as a rail car, it can be used as one of the qualifying models for either Motive Power or Cars, BUT NOT BOTH.
Contact your Regional AP Manager if you have a question about which category a particular model would fall into.

To qualify for the Master Builder - Cars certificate:

  1. You must build eight operable scale models of railroad cars:
"Operable" means that they must be able to roll on the track, negotiate a curve, be pulled by something, etc. It doesn 't mean that every door, valve, or other moving feature of the car must work as the prototype does. (However, any operating features that you can include in your car are likely to increase your score.)
1.      There must be at least four different types of cars represented in the total of eight. One of these must be a passenger car.
"Passenger cars" include anything that would normally be found in a regular scheduled passenger train including baggage cars, express reefers, business cars, or other passenger carrying cars like drover's cabooses.
2.      Each of the eight models must be super detailed with either commercial parts or scratch built parts (for extra points).
3.      In addition to being super detailed, at least four of the eight models must be scratch built. The term "scratch built" implies that the modeler has done all of the necessary layout and fabrication that produce the final dimensions, appearance, and operating qualities of the model.
The following parts are specifically excluded from the scratch built requirement:
      • Wheels
      • Couplers
      • Light bulbs & electronics.
      • Trucks.
      • Brake fittings.
      • Marker lights & drumheads.
      • Paint, decals, etc.
      • Basic shapes of wood, plastic, metal, etc.
("Basic shapes" are things that the builders of the prototype would have used as raw materials. For example, an "I" beam would be a basic shape; a commercial door or window casting would not.)
2.      You must earn a score of at least 87-1/2 points on four of the eight models in either an NMRA sponsored contest or in AP Merit Award judging.
Note that only four of the eight must earn 87-1/2 points. The others don't even have to be judged! They do all have to be described on the Statement of Qualification (see below).
3.      You must submit a Statement of Qualification.

Achievement Programm Categories

Achievement Categories

In order to acknowledge exceptional achievement in the many phases of scale model railroading, the following achievement categories have been established to encompass both the technical and service phases of the model railroad hobby. 

Earn a minimum of seven AP certificates (out of the eleven available) then submit a Statement of Qualification.

Of these seven certificates, you must have at least one from each of the following four areas:

Model Railroad Equipment:
Engineering and Operation:
Service to the Hobby:

Friday, September 20, 2013

Master Model Railroader (MMR)

Master Model Railroader #526

The title of Master Model Railroader is not an easy one to achieve. In case you are wondering how many modelers have attained the title, take a look at the Master Model Railroaders list. Along the way to earning the title of Master Model Railroader, you will have a lot of fun with your modeling, and learn many new skills to boot.

To qualify as a Master Model Railroader you must:

Earn a minimum of seven AP certificates (out of the eleven available) then submit a Statement of Qualification.   awarded January 31, 2014
Of these seven certificates, you must have at least one from each of the following four areas:

Association Volunteer (Requirements)


To qualify for the Association Volunteer certificate, you must:

  1. Have served actively on one or more NMRA committees (National, Regional, or Division) long enough to accumulate sixty (60) certified time units (TUs). The TUs you receive for various types of service are listed below:
    1. Active satisfactory service as a General Manager of a National committee: 4 TUs per month.
    2. Active satisfactory service as a National committee Manager: 3 TUs per month.
    3. Active satisfactory service as a Region committee Manager, or on a National committee: 2 TUs per month.
    4. Active satisfactory service as a Region committee member, a Division Officer or committee Manager: 1 TU per month.
    5. Active satisfactory service as a Division committee or board member: 1/2 TU per month.
    6. Editors of an NMRA publication shall receive credit at the rate appropriate for committee Chairmen at the same level.
    7. Service as a Division officer or director (other than at the Regional level): 1 TU per month.
    8. Newsletter Editors of 100% NMRA clubs having 10 or more members, may earn one time unit per issue of the club newsletter, providing it is four pages or more. All newsletters must have four issues on file in the NMRA's Kalmbach Memorial Library, edited by the person applying, before the time units will be considered for credit.
    9. Official judges at NMRA sponsored model contests (including non-rail) shall be given time units for such service at the contest only (not monthly), as a one-time service credit per contest as follows:
      1. National Contest Judge 3 Time Units
      2. Regional Contest Judge 2 Time Units
      3. Division Contest Judge 1 Time Unit
    10. Individuals (and their crews) who open their home or club layout for layout tours in conjunction with NMRA conventions or other NMRA sponsored events earn credit as follows for each day that the layout is open for viewing.
      1. National Event 3 Time Units / day (12 TUs maximum per event)
      2. Regional Event 3 Time Units / day (6 TUs maximum per event)
      3. Divisional Event 3 Time Units / day (3 TUs maximum per event)
    11. Individuals who participate in modular layouts in conjunction with NMRA Divisions, or at NMRA sponsored events, earn credit as follows for each day the layout is open for viewing at the event.
      1. National Event 3 Time Units / day (12 TUs maximum per event)
      2. Regional Event 3 Time Units / day (6 TUs maximum per event)
      3. Divisional Event 3 Time Units / day (3 TUs maximum per event)
NOTE: There is generally a maximum of 48 time units credited for any one National convention, 24 time units credited for any one Regional convention, and 6 time units credited for any one Division event.
    1. Boy Scout Railroading Merit Badge Counselors who are NMRA members can earn: 1 TU (time unit) per month and 1 TU per Scout that qualifies. This credit is retroactive with no time limit for those who have served as counselors in the past provided that they were also NMRA members during the time of service.
    2. A live clinic that is presented more than once earns Association Volunteer credits for each additional (the first presentation is credited toward Author) presentation at the following schedule:
      1. National Clinic - 3 Time Units
      2. Regional Clinic - 2 Time Units
      3. Divisional Clinic - 1 Time Unit
    3. Certification of accomplishment shall be by the Committee Manager (in the case of committee members), or by the appointing officer (in the case of Committee Chairmen). The Region (or National) President or Secretary may certify when the appointing officer is not available or when many positions will require several signatures.

I have accumulated the necessary Time Units (TU) during various conventions and exhibitions around Europe, as well as British Region conventions.

Contest Judge (8 TU's) British Region Convention
Clinician (18 TU's) on major exhibitions and conventions in Germany
Layout Operator (84 TU's) conventions in Rodgau/Germany and Adliswil(Switzerland
Layout Operator (12 TU's) British Region conventions in Kegworth, Swindon, Copdock


Chief Dispatcher (Requirements)


To qualify for the Chief Dispatcher certificate you must:

A.    Have participated in the operation of a model railroad, either home or club, for not less than fifty hours. A minimum of ten hours each must have been served in three of the five categories listed below, one of which must be #5, Dispatcher:
    1. Engineer (mainline freight, passenger, or wayfreight)
    2. Yardmaster (or station master)
    3. Hostler (or power desk)
    4. Towerman (or traffic manager, or road master)
    5. Dispatcher
This experience shall be accumulated on one or more model railroads having at least two mainline trains plus yard switching in simultaneous operation. Some system of freight and passenger car movements, including road switching, shall be used for controlling train activity.
The following descriptions are not designed to list ALL of the things that a particular job must involve - they list things that are typically involved in each job. Naturally, jobs, duties, and overall operating complexity will vary from one model railroad to another.
    1. Engineer:
a. Mainline Passenger or Freight Engineer:
Shall run their train in a manner that simulates the prototype, following the rules of the model railroad being used, and operating according to the signal system (if present) or by direct instruction of the Dispatcher.
b. Wayfreight Engineer:
Will meet the requirements of Mainline Engineer. In addition, he or she shall perform all required switching with approval from the Dispatcher in a manner not to adversely affect the overall railroad schedule or operations.
Operating in a prototype manner includes no 'jack-rabbit' starts or sudden stops during normal operations.
    1. Yardmaster:
a. Yardmaster:
Runs the freight yard. He or she makes up trains with the appropriate cars in the desired numbers to have trains ready when the timetable or Dispatcher requires them. Generally, the Yardmaster operates the switch engine, but in a large yard could direct other yard engineers.
b. Station master:
Is in charge of the passenger station and all passenger switching. He or she makes up trains with the appropriate consists so that the trains are ready when the timetable or Dispatcher requires them. Terminating trains are broken down appropriately and the cars are serviced and stored as needed. Through train switching is accomplished.
    1. Hostler:
a. Hostler:
Shall run the engine facilities. He or she shall have each locomotive facing the correct direction, double-headed or lashed up, ready for the Engineer to easily leave the engine area. Service to locomotives shall be simulated. Returning locomotives are placed in their appropriate stalls or tracks. On layouts with advanced control systems, the Hostler can handle assignment of locomotives to the appropriate engineer' s throttle.
b. Power Desk:
Decides what is the correct motive power for each train. Assigns throttle control to the motive power. When assignment is finished, he or she returns control of that motive power to the Hostler, or to off.
    1. Towerman:
a. Towerman:
Operates one or more towers (control panels) on a layout. He or she sets up appropriate routes at the correct time under direction of the timetable or the Dispatcher. Reports train passings to dispatcher if required.
b. Traffic Manager:
Determines which cars come and go from each industry, and the amount and location of traffic, and specifies the route. May create a computer program to do this automatically.
c. Road Master:
The operating trouble-shooter and repair person. He or she keeps things moving smoothly. Can take track in or out of service.
    1. Dispatcher:
Coordinates all train movements, either by sequence, timetable and fast clock, or other operating system.
  1. Documentation
The applicant shall also do the following: (please note that the use of a computer to accomplish these requirements is acceptable)
1.      Prepare a schematic drawing of a model railroad layout meeting the operating conditions described in (A), and indicating all pertinent simulated distances.
Normally, this would be a diagram of one of the layouts you put in your qualifying time on - but there is no requirement that it must be. The drawing must be neat and readable, but it does not have to be in ink.
2.      Develop a timetable appropriate to this model railroad, simulating prototype time, covering a period of eight hours or more, during which at least three scheduled mainline trains move in each direction.
3.      Develop an operating train chart (graph) which interprets the above schedule for timetable operation of the model railroad. Indicate at least one train meet on the schematic drawing required in (B-1) above. Show the position of the trains involved and describe the action, giving pertinent time and movement data to effect the meet.
4.      Develop or adapt a system of operation for the layout in (A), including all the necessary forms and explanations for their use for controlling car movements, train makeup, and operation in a prototypical manner.
Members of the same club or home layout operating group who are applying for the Chief Dispatcher certificate can use copies of the same paperwork for requirements 1 and 4, but each must develop and submit their own timetable and train chart (even if they are all copies of the same one). Another possibility would be to have all the members who qualified submit their application at the same time. and just use one set of the paperwork for #'s 1 & 4. 

From 1995 until 2009 I had regularly participated in operating sessions at various FREMO modular layout meetings and served in the different categories:

Engineer - Mainline Freight: 21 hours (1997-2009)
Engineer - Passenger: 15 hours (1999-2009)
Engineer - Wayfreight: 31 hours (1995-2009)
Yardmaster: 36 hours (1996-2009)
Dispatcher: 18 hours (2000-2009)

Most of these jobs were served under the auspices of Wolfgang Dudler MMR

 Following is a typical timetable and train chart for one of the FREMO meets where I accomplished the above tasks.
The following charts and timetable are from my home layout

To complete all the requirements for this certificate it is important to document all the jobs you did on a layout, be it club or own and to get it certified by a qualified NMRA member. This may take several years to collect all the time units necessary. If you operate on your home layout, take care that someone on your operating crew is qualified to sign off your accumulated time units and the different jobs. It took me some headscratching to backdate some of my time units but fortunately I operated always on FREMO meetings, so at least this was retraceable more or less.    

Model Railroad Engineer - Civil (Requirements)


The requirements for Model Railroad Engineer - Civil may look long and complicated, but they really are not. The reason that they are so long is to offer you more options for meeting the requirements.
Remember - don't read more into the requirements than is there.

To qualify for the Model Railroad Engineer - Civil certificate:

1.      Prepare one original scale drawing of a model railroad track plan, identifying overall size, scale, track elevations, curve radii, and turnout sizes.
You should also consider the requirements for Model Railroad Engineer - Electrical, and Chief Dispatcher when planning your layout - it is much easier to include the requirements in the planning stage than to go back and add them later.
This plan must include:
1.      Adequate terminal facilities for handling freight and/or passenger cars
2.      Adequate terminal facilities for storage and service of motive power
3.      A minimum of one mainline passing siding
4.      Four switching locations, not counting yards, interchanges, wyes, and reversing loops
5.      Provision for turning motive power (except for switchbacks, trolley lines, etc.)
6.      Provision for simultaneous operation of at least two mainline trains in either direction. 

Here you may use the same plan as in Model Railroad Engineer - Electrical
2.      Construct and demonstrate, the satisfactory operation of a completed section of the model railroad and track work described in #1. Containing at least 25 linear feet in Z, N, or TT scale, or 50 linear feet in HO or S scale, or seventy five linear feet in O scale, or 100 linear feet in G or #1 scale, or other scales in proportional relationship to HO scale, with appropriate ballast, drainage facilities, and roadbed profile, which may contain spurs, yards, etc.
The track work must have examples of six of the following features:
    • Passing Siding
    • Spur
    • Crossover
    • Reversing Loop
    • Wye
    • Simple Ladder
    • Compound Ladder
    • Turntable
    • Transfer Table
    • Super Elevation
    • Simple Overhead Wire - A single overhead wire (such as on a trolley system)
    • Compound Overhead Wire (catenary)
    • Scale Track
    • Cog Railway Track
    • Coal Dump Track
    • Ash Pit
    • Service Pit Track
    • Grade Elevation
    • Other __________________                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          This has been witnessed on my home layout
3.      Construct for Merit Judging, scratch built scale models of any three of the following, and demonstrate their satisfactory operation:
    • Turnout (this is probably the easiest to build, lots of information in magazines etc.)
    • Crossover
    • Double Crossover
    • Single Slip Switch
    • Double Slip Switch
    • Crossing (probably the toughest to build. Lots of soldering to hold everything together)
    • Gauntlet Track (I always wanted to build one)
    • Gauntlet Turnout
    • Dual Gauge Turnout
    • Gauge Separation Turnout
    • Double Junction Turnout
    • Three-Way Turnout
    • Spring Switch
    • Operating Switch in Overhead Wire
    • Other ___________
Commercial frogs are not permitted to be used in any of these items. These models may be built and demonstrated as part of the layout or separately.   

I had a bag of switch ties left, so I needed to shorten the ties with my NWSL chopper.

Previously I had built a jig to space the ties correctly

Then I pressed a strip of scotch tape on the ties and lifted them out of the jig. I pressed the strip ties into a bed of white glue applied on a piece of plywood.

Before laying track I ballasted the ties. This leaves no loose ballast on top of the ties.

I started with the outside rails until they touched at the frog.

NMRA standards gauge and some Micro Engineering track gauges come in very handy to build and check handlaid track.

The finished turnout


Same procedure for the crossing


The diamond is the trickiest part. To avoid shorts, I had to cut many gaps. The best way is to solder the guard rails to the outside rails and then cut the caps. Spikes alone cannot hold everything together reliably.

This is the centerpiece of my gauntlet track.

The jig for spacing the ties.

The ties for the turnout.

I used a slide switch connected to throw the turnout. The elctrical contacts power the frog

I used a DPDT switch to power either route of the crossing

4.      You must win a Merit Award (at least 87.5 points) with the items in section 3 above.
5.      You must submit a Statement of Qualification (SOQ - available from the Regional AP Manager) which includes the following:
0.      Attachment to the SOQ showing the track plan required in Section 1 above. The attachment should include:
      • Identification of all scratch built features
      • All commercial components used
      • Materials used in building the model                                                                                                                                                               
1.      Description of the track work features, methods of construction and identification of commercial components used in Section 3.
2.      Verification of the Merit Awards
3.      Witness Certification showing that each of the above models meets all applicable NMRA standards. 

 Here is my description of the 3 track work features:


Track Work models for Merit Award Judging

I’ve chosen to scratch build the following models of railroad track work:

-          turnout (point)
-          crossing (90°)
-          gauntlet track


To start I constructed a tie spacing jig to lay out the ties in an even spacing. Then I’ve cut the ties to their appropriate length using a NWSL Chopper.
I placed the ties in the template. Then I glued a strip of Scotch Tape on top of the ties to lift the whole length out of the template.
On a small piece of plywood I spread a layer of white glue and set the ties into the glue. Then I pressed the ties down until the glue had hardened. Then I pulled the tape off. I used a mix of stained and unstained ties. (see template and pictures)

When the glue had set I ballasted the ties using a mix of Woodland Scenics Grey Blend Ballast. When the ballast was evenly spread between the ties I soaked the roadbed with a mix of distilled water and 70% isopropyl alcohol. Then I applied a 7:1 mix of matte medium and distilled water and also added a few drops of isopropyl alcohol.

When the roadbed had completely dried overnight I started to lay the rails following a construction article from Tony Koester published in Model Railroader and in the Kalmbach book “Trackside and Line side Details”.                                      

I nailed every piece of rail down with track spikes on both sides on every tie.


I used individual rails from PECO and nailed the rails to every tie from both sides. I did the same for the guard rails.


The turnouts and crossings are built following prototype practices from the construction article.  


I ballasted the ties prior to nailing the rails. By this way there is no ballast on the ties or stuck to the sides of the rails. Every piece of rail is nailed on both sides and on every tie. Nothing is glued. I soldered the switch rod to the points of the closure rails and the point of the frog. The guard and wing rails were also soldered to the rails to give them more strength.

The different pieces of track work have to be wired differently.
The turnout was wired at the point of the switch. The frog was polarized with one wire and connected to an SPDT switch to feed it with the correct polarity.

The gauntlet track was wired according to the following drawing,with the 2 rails between the frogs connected to an SPDT switch to route the correct polarity. Gauntlet tracks can only be travelled by one train at a time, while the other train is waiting in a siding. The 2 tracks between the frogs may be positive or negative depending on which track will be used.

The crossing was isolated by cutting the four tracks in the diamond and connecting it to a DPDT switch to route the correct polarities as per the following drawing.

Finally I weathered the rails using Floquil weathering sticks.


I’ve scratch built all the track work, using individual rail length, stained and unstained ties and spikes. The frogs are soldered and the switch rod is soldered to a PC-board tie. I also used commercial rail joiners and insulating joiners.

Parts List

PECO                                     IL-3                Individual Rail code 75
                                               SL-110            Rail Joiners
                                               SL-111            Insulating Rail Joiners

KAPPLER                             KP060            Switch Ties

MICRO ENGINEERING    36-101            Regular Length HO Scale Ties
                                                                       Track gages

XURON                                82839              Spike Insertion Pliers
                                               84365              Rail Cutting Pliers

WOODLAND SCENICS                            Ballast Grey Blend

NMRA                                                          HO Gauge

                                                                       Needle Files
                                                                       Soldering Iron, Solder and flux
                                                                       PC-Board tie