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January 21, 2018
Getting Started in the Achivement Program

Why participate in the Achievement Program (AP)?

  • The AP program provides a benchmark to track your development of fundamental model railroading skills.  Completing the certificate acknowledges that you have achieved the “gold standard” in that particular area; a level that places you among the masters in that area.
  • Reading about and seeing what others have done provides some incentive to develop skills of your own.  No, it’s not a competition but how many of us have thought or said, “Gee, I wonder how that’s done!”
  • The AP program provides mentors to coach you along your way.  Mentors come in a lot of shapes and guises; from those who have already gotten that AP certificate, to the judges at contests, to fellow model railroaders moving in the same path, to the Master Model Railroaders (MMRs) who have obtained the majority of the AP certificates.  Indeed, MMRs sign a pledge to mentor all other model railroaders in the AP program

There are four categories in the AP program:

  • Railroad Equipment – the backbone of the model railroad, including cars and motive power
  • Railroad Setting – the structures and scenery that determine the purpose and the setting of your model railroad
  • Engineering and Operation – the electrical and mechanical skills to operate a model railroad in a prototypical manner
  • Service to the Hobby – participation in the fellowship of model railroading and communicating your new skills to your associates in the hobby

All of the rules and regulations for each AP certificate are described on the NMRA website:

Master Model Railroader  (MMR)

If you have completed seven AP certificates; at least one in each of the four categories, you can qualify to become a Master Model Railroader.   This is a distinct achievement putting you in a body of some 560 or so MMRs, worldwide.  Ask any MMR how he or she achieved that distinction and there will be a unique story with every one.  You can also read some good advice in a series of articles at the NMRA website:

Did you know that MMR #1 (Douglas S. Smith) was from the Sunshine Region?   Since its inception, in 1961, there have been 20 MMRs awarded in the Sunshine Region.  The AP program and guidance from other model railroaders along the way will help you to be number 21!  You can read a history of the AP program at:  
I have heard people argue that becoming an MMR might lead to some sort of elitism that our hobby cannot tolerate.  I agree.  You should think of every MMR as a willing mentor to help you join that group as well.  Remember that when the MMR program was created in 1961, the requirements to become an MMR were created by a group of model railroaders who thought that these were appropriate goals for all model railroaders to reach, though none of them had, at that time.  Hardly an elitist group!
How do I get involved and started in the Sunshine Region (SSR) Achievement Program?

  • Talk to any current SSR AP Staff member about the program. Go to the NMRA web site at and look over the requirements for each award. Pick one to start. Then START!
  • Volunteer to become a SSR AP Staff member.  You will earn points toward your volunteer certificate.  Or volunteer for another job in the region.  Gilbert Thomas or Dan Cioffi Sunshine Region President and Vice President, respectively, will be happy to help you find a place to volunteer.  There is always a need for volunteers.
  • Discuss the SSR Mentoring program with the SSR Chairman, Jim Gore, MMR. The program is designed to provide experienced modelers and teachers to those modelers who need help.

A goal of Sunshine Region is to make it as easy as possible for you to participate in and earn Achievement Program credit and, ultimately, to become a Master Model Railroader. If you have any ideas that can be used by the region to help everyone, please let us know.

Paperwork for Merit Awards

We have heard that one of the reasons a person does not get involved in the AP is that there is too much paperwork involved.  Yes, there is paperwork but it is not overwhelming if it is done in bite-size chunks.  The biggest problem is that we have a tendency to wait until everything is done then attempt to remember what we did and right it down.  It is far easier to create a log of activities as the work progresses.  Even if you only spent 15 minutes working on a project, jot down what you did [even a few sentences], what parts you used, etc.  Compiling that information at the end becomes much easier when you have a log to draw from.  If you do this, most of your paperwork is finished at the same time your model is ready to be judged. Look at the paperwork as a way for you to complete your project not as something that has to be done after the model is finished. Another advantage is that this will also allow you to use your same notes to write an article for the model press which will count for your Author Certificate.
When your model is not judged in a contest then you can talk the AP judges through how you built the model. This makes the judging more personal, I believe. There have been times I have judged and not paid a lot of attention to the paperwork because the modeler told me all I needed to know about the model. This is the major difference between entering your model in a contest and getting your merit award or having your model judged outside of a contest by AP judges. In contest rooms while the judging is going on the modelers are not allowed to be present. In AP judging, you are present and can explain any questions that may come up and discuss with the judges what can be done to improve your modeling.
Talk with your local AP Staff member in your club or near where you live. If I have not yet appointed a Staff member in your club or near your location please let me know. Find out how much paperwork he needs, and where and when he would like to do the judging. If possible go with him to another person’s judging so you can see how judging is done.
Get involved in the SSR AP Mentioning Program. I do not know of one MMR who did not have a mentor who helped him in the AP program.

All of the forms you will need you can download from the NMRA site:  If you do not have a computer you can normally find one at your local library or ask your local AP Staff member for help.