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MMR Thousand Lakes Region AP Chairman John Hotvet, MMR, presents me with my MMR plaque at the 2005 TLR Convention in Mason City, IA.

On January 16, 2005 I became Master Model Railroader #346.  It's one of the proudest accomplishments of my life.

But until I became a Master Model Railroader, I had never really seen all of the modeling and models needed to get an MMR.  What I've done on these pages is to dissect each of the seven certificates I received, and what I did to receive them.

Please understand that I'm not saying that my models and modeling are the greatest.  My intent is just to show what needs to be done to receive an MMR.  Chances are, you're much better than me in many of the areas. Or all of them. Great!


Background of the NMRA's Achievement Program

The NMRA's Achievement Program (AP) was begun in 1961 as a way to help model railroaders excel in their hobby... to help them raise the bar.  Its goal has never really changed.  Rather than being a competition among modelers or a way to honor noteworthy modelers, the title of "Master Model Railroader" is awarded to modelers who complete a very specific set of model railroad "tasks" (for want of a better word).  Most of these tasks are judged qualitatively.

To receive the MMR certification, it's necessary to receive "Certificates of Achievement" in seven out of 11 possible categories.  If you want to see an in-depth explanation of the requirements for each of the 11 certificates, visit the NMRA's website at www.nmra.org, and click on "Achievement Program."

I'll take you through the eight certificates I earned, show you the documentation (including photos) I submitted, and what I did to complete the requirements, and provide you with commentary along the way.

As a side note: I received my MMR in 2005 after completing seven certificates.  But my plan is to continue in the Achievement Program and earn all 11.  Not because I have to, but because I enjoyed the process so much I really want to learn what I have to learn to earn the last four.  The Achievement Program was the most fun I've ever had in this hobby.

To that end, I earned my 8th certificate, "Association Official" in 2010, five full years after I got my MMR.  Once my layout is complete (and it almost is) I'm going to start working on those last certificates. [Note: that was written before the BVIII was dismantled and the BV IV was begun. However, once the BV IV is well underway, I still plan to go for those last certificates. I really believe in this program.]


Here's the most important thing I can tell you: don't get overwhelmed by the amount of "stuff" you need to do for the Achievement Program.  Getting an MMR looks very complicated and complex.  It's really not.

Imagine your neighbor coming down into your basement and looking at your layout.  He'd be overwhelmed by the scenery, the structures, the wiring, the track... "There's no way I could do all this!" he'd say.  But you did it!  And you were able to do it because you took it in little bite-sized chunks.  You laid a little track.  You wired it up.  You built some scenery.  You built a structure.  You took it a little bit at a time.

It's the same with getting an MMR.  If you take it just one step at a time, just a little bit at a time, it's easy to get through.  Build one structure.  Build one car.  Go back and build another structure.  Do a little scenery.  Pretty soon you'll have all the requirements for one certificate.  Then another.  Then another.  And that's because you didn't let the whole program freak you out.

The "forest" is your Master Model Railroader certificate.  The "trees" are each of the requirements needed for one certificate.  Concentrate on the trees.

If you have questions along the way, ask an MMR.  Ask me. Or best, email Frank Koch, the Assistant Director of the Achievement Program.  It's his job to answer any and all questions about any of the certificates, or details of any of the requirements.  His email address is: fjkoch@hotmail.com .  I bugged the living heck out of him when I was working on my MMR.  ("Frank would this count...?" "Frank, what do I have to do about...?")  He's the man with the official answers.  And he's a really good guy.

Certificate 1: Model Railroad Author

Certificate 2: Model Railroad Engineer - Civil

Certificate 3: Model Railroad Engineer - Electrical

Certificate 4: Master Builder - Scenery

Certificate 5: Master Builder - Structures

Certificate 6: Master Builder - Cars

Certificate 7: Association Volunteer

Certificate 8: Association Official


My MMR was announced with my "model railroading biography" in the March 2005 issue of Scale Rails.  If you're interested (frankly, it's kinda boring), you can see that here.

The April 2005 issue of Scale Rails featured a story I wrote about what I learned from becoming an MMR.  It's kind of funny.  You can click here to read that. That story was later rerun in the December 2008 issue of the magazine.

In addition, I was asked to write a "you can do it, too!" article for the Pacific Coast Region's newsletter, the January-March 2005 Branch Line.  That appeared in the January-March 2005 issue.  You can read that by clicking here.  (It's a 2-page article which I scanned and saved as a graphic GIF files, so that page may take longer to load.)


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