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."

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.

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