Why Plan Ahead

Why Plan Ahead

Why Plan Ahead
(the Achievement Program)

While you are building this nifty layout consider planning ahead. Fairly soon you will be looking at what to do next and in what order. Consider setting some goals and also think about how to achieve them. The NMRA has established a structured program to help you learn how to do every thing concerning model railroading and we have established specific goals for you to strive for.

The concept is called the Achievement Program. If you want to actively participate, you must first join the NMRA and I would suggest you do it for 2 years so as to really get your feet wet in the fellowship and enjoyment of the organization. As an example of the cooperation and fellowship that exists within the NMRA, the several men and women who are writing this beginners course live quite far apart, but have been drawn together with the challenge of writing what you are reading.

The AP has seven Categories that you can work in all at once or in just a few (or one) at a time. By going to the AP site and looking at the regulations (goals) shown you can see how to begin planning ahead. The categories that directly apply to this layout are:

  • Master Builder Structures
  • Master Builder Scenery
  • Model Railroad Engineer-Civil
  • Electrical Engineer


You can earn partial points of accomplishment in each of these categories. They are called Merit Awards.

Also on the AP web page are illustrated examples of each category to give you ideas and instructions on how to build them. These pages are taken from a series that ran in the NMRA Bulletin and is called The "Masters Series" where each category is explained. As time goes by and as you increase your skills more goals can be achieved and more points accumulated. [Ed. Additional information is being published in the 2008 Scale Rails as part of the Year of the MMR]

You can actually do all of the categories of the AP alone in your own railroad room if you wish except for Volunteer and Official or you can look around you at the NMRA activities where you live and begin to participate. Where there are divisions, attend the one day division meets and just be an interested observer. Take in the clinics and visit the layouts as they open for tours. Look around and ask questions until you are ready to jump in and become a doer. Doing does require some of your free time but the rewards in satisfaction and accomplishment are well worth the effort.

A very big part of the NMRA is fellowship and talking to people in the unique language of model railroading like track, scale, code, turnout, grade, clearance, signals, blocks, consist, etc. Sure you will feel strange in the beginning. We all did. Learning the language helps a lot and learning to work with your hands or acquiring new skills and improving your current skills will become a great source of personal satisfaction. A well-built model or layout looks simple when you've done it properly. Only your model railroad friends know the amount of time you put into being skillful. So come out and join us.

Rick Shoup

Rick Shoup is MMR #234 and has received certificates in the following AP categories: Motive Power, Scenery, Civil Engineer, Chief Dispatcher, Association Official, Association Volunteer and Author.

To learn more about the NMRA Achievement Program, Click Here.

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Page last updated April 2, 2008