Education is central to the NMRA’s mission and an essential component of our continued classification as 501(c)(3) Charitable Organization under the Internal Revenue Code. The various educational activities provided by the NMRA are overseen by the Education Department. These include such activities as maintaining the Beginners Guide section of the NMRA’s website, the Achievement Program, the Contest Program,the EduTRAIN® program, the Modeling with the Masters® Program, the Boy Scouts of America Program, and SIG (Special Interest Group) Program. Each of these programs is run by its own Chairperson within the Education Department.
But the educational role of the NMRA, its Regions, and Divisions also includes a multitude of other initiatives. The educational articles that appear in either print or in digital format in our Division/Region/National Publications; the educational booths that we man at Conventions and Train Meets; grassroots outreach efforts to youth groups, senior citizen groups, or beginning modelers; and our Division/Region/National websites are all further examples of our educational focus.
The Beginners Guide on the NMRA’s website is designed to take novice model railroaders and help them develop the skills necessary to build a model railroad and enjoy the hobby. With the new website unfolding in July 2014, this Guide will begin a revision process that takes it from its old ‘print’ version to one that is more visually pleasing in digital format. This process will take some time, so stop back often to check our progress.
The AP Program is designed to help build the various skills that are called into play in the hobby of model railroading. Those skills range from model building to scenery, track work, and wiring. It also focuses on service to both the hobby and the NMRA. The requirements in each of these areas can be found on the NMRA website. Upon completion of the requirements in each category, a certificate is awarded to the members. The accumulation of these certificates can lead to earning the title of Master Model Railroader®. As is the case with many NMRA programs, participation begins at the Division and/or Region level, so check your Division or Region websites to see how to get involved.
The NMRA Contest Program is governed by rules that can be found on the Contest section of the NMRA website. The forms and guidelines are available for successful participation in the Contest Program. Contests are held at the National Conventions as well as at Regional Conventions and at many Divisional Meets. The judging of the Model Contest is conducted by teams of experienced judges using a point scoring system providing a grade between zero and 125 pts. Five areas are judged on each entry, including construction, conformity, detail, appearance and scratchbuilding. Points are earned in each of these five areas and the final point score is the basis for award ranking. Attaining a point score of 87.5 pts. (which equates to 70% of the possible highest score of 125pts.) entitles the entrant to a Merit Award which can count towards Master Builder Awards in the NMRA Achievement Program.
The EduTRAIN® Program is the newest initiative within the Education Department. In simplest terms, the Program will provide Regions and Divisions with a wide array of turnkey Clinics which will be housed on the NMRA Website for download and use. Although there are many great clinics out there that focus on such topics as “The History of the XYZ Railroad” or “How to Increase Attendance at Meetings”, etc., the focus of the EduTRAIN® Program will be on skill development. To be useful to members, there must be a clear learning outcome, and the clinic should lead directly to that outcome. Finally, the documentation that accompanies the clinic must be detailed enough to allow a person who did not originally develop the clinic to use and/or present the clinic.
The MWTM® Program features hands-on clinics presented by modelers who have earned the title Master Model Railroader® (MMR®) through their successful participation in the NMRA’s Achievement Program as detailed above. These clinics are offered at NMRA National Conventions and at select Regional Conventions throughout the year. More information about the MWTM® Program can be found on these convention websites. Regions wishing to investigate the possibility of having a MWTM® Program at their Regional Convention should contact the Program Coordinator Clark Kooning (MMR®) at mwtm [at] nmra.org. To protect the quality and integrity of these programs, please note that Modeling with the Masters® is a registered trademark of NMRA that may be used by Regions and Divisions only after advance approval by NMRA in connection with programs conducted by MMR® awardees according to program guidelines provided by NMRA.
The Merit Badge program is an educational initiative of the Boy Scouts of America, and education is also a prime mission of the NMRA. So, if the interests of the BSA and the NMRA overlap, mutual cooperation makes sense. That overlap occurs with the BSA’s Railroading Merit Badge.
The NMRA’s initiative in this area is to encourage Regions and Divisions to get a number of members qualified to serve as Merit Badge Counselors; and then to encourage Scouts to earn this Merit Badge by reaching out to local BSA Troops, offering our help. Many NMRA Regions and Divisions have already appointed BSA Merit Badge Coordinators, so if you are interested in getting involved, that is a good place to start. At the National level, the NMRA’s Coordinator of this program is Mr. John Stevens, the current Secretary of the NMRA. John can be contacted through the e-mail contact page on this website.
For more information, you can obtain a copy of the BSA Railroading Merit Badge booklet at your local BSA District Council Headquarters or online at scoutstuff.org.
Additionally, the Southeastern Region’s website has quite a bit of valuable information on the NMRA’s Boy Scout Merit Badge Program at http://www.ser-nmra.org/programs.
The final area that falls under the Education Department is that of the Special Interest Groups, or SIGs. Within the hobby of Model Railroading, a Special Interest Group (SIG) is a group organized to provide a forum for the exchange and collection of prototype and/or model railroad information about specific topics. As members’ interests change, the list of active SIGs also changes. See a list of current SIGs affiliated with the NMRA. You can also find information at that link on how to contact the SIG Program Coordinator and how you might organize a new SIG.