When you think of "structures" don't just think of buildings and bridges.
Structures are just about anything on the layout that was man made and doesn't fit into one of the other Master Builder categories. These are just some examples of the types of 'structures' that you could build to earn this certificate: buildings (all kinds), factories, bridges (all kinds), signal towers, oil derricks, docks, power line towers, cranes (stationary or mobile), ships, etc.
Of course, there is a certain level of complexity expected to qualify for a merit award. If you take a plank and put it across a drainage ditch and call it a bridge, it is unlikely to score 87-1/2 points no matter how nicely modeled a plank it is!
Contact your Regional AP Manager if you have a question about which category a particular model would fall into.
To qualify for the Master Builder - Structures certificate:
You must construct twelve scale structures:
At least six different types of structures must be represented in the total.
The intent of this requirement is show that you can model a variety of types of structures, not just several variations of the same type. For example: a wood frame station and a brick station would be different types, but a wood frame station from Kansas and wood frame station from California would probably not, unless you could show that there was a substantial difference in the construction. When in doubt, why try and split hairs? Instead, try your hand at building something completely different. You might learn some new modeling skills in the process, and who knows ? You could even have fun doing it!
One of the six types must be a bridge or trestle.
Before you panic with visions of elaborate wooden trestles dancing in your head, stop for a moment and consider just how many different types of bridges and trestles there on or around a railroad. Remember, your bridge doesn't have to span the Grand Canyon; a short span over a creek or dirt road may be enough. The point is to demonstrate that you know how to build a bridge that is appropriate and will support the load that it has to carry. If there is no place on your layout for the tracks to cross a bridge, how about a bridge that carries something else? You could replace a grade crossing with a bridge that carries the road up and over the tracks (as many prototype railroads have been doing in recent years), or build a foot bridge like the ones over many rail yards Finally, remember that you can even build the bridge as a separate model - it doesn't have to go on your layout.
At least six of the models must be scratch built.
The following parts are specifically excluded from the scratch built requirement (although you may scratch build them for additional points):
Light bulbs & electronics
Paint, decals, etc.
Basic shapes of wood, plastic, metal, etc.
The remaining six, if not scratch built, must be super detailed with scratch built or commercial parts (for extra points).
There are all sorts of ways to super detail structures. Look closely at what you are trying to model, and see the little details: signs, ladders, electrical fixtures, window details, roof details, etc. For buildings, including an interior (and a way to see it) is definitely recommended, with as much of it as possible scratch built for extra points. Including some sort of "scene within a scene" is a good way to catch the judges' eye. Adding detail to your structures will not only meet this part of the requirements, but will also add to your score, and to the overall appeal of your model.
One way to save money and increase your scratch building score is to buy only one of a particular detail part, and use it as a model to make the rest yourself. This means build the others yourself from scratch, NOT to use the commercial part as a master to make a mold to cast copies of it.
You must earn a score of at least 87-1/2 points on six of the twelve models in either an NMRA sponsored contest or in AP Merit Award judging.
Note that only six of the twelve must earn 87-1/2 points. The others don't even have to be judged! They do all have to be described on the Statement of Qualification (SOQ).
You must submit a Statement of Qualification (SOQ, see below) which includes the following:
An attachment giving a detailed description of each of the twelve models, including:
Identification of all scratch built features
All commercial components used
Materials used in building the model
A notation that the model is operational, if it is intended to be
If the model is a kit, whose kit is it?
Verification of the Merit Awards (photocopies of the certificates or signed Judging Forms, see below)
Photos of the model are helpful, though not required.
Your twelve structures do not all have to be of the same scale or era, or on the same layout. In fact, in most cases, it's better to build the structure separately, have it judged (either in a contest or in separate Merit Judging), and then install it in its final location. In this way, the judges can get a better look at it.
Note: Many contests require that structures NOT be mounted on any kind of sceniced base, or they will be considered "Displays". However, for separate Merit Judging, they can be part of your layout.
Contact National Achievement Program General Manager, Paul Richardson, MMR email@example.com, or your Region or Division Achievement Program Manager for more information.
Also refer to the articles "Master Builder - Structures", and "The Building Inspector", both in the NMRA Bulletin, August 1991.
Forms available for this category:
SOQ Form: http://nmra.org/sites/default/files/2006-soq-mbs.pdf
Record and Validation form: http://nmra.org/sites/default/files/2006-rv-mbs.pdf
Judging Form: http://nmra.org/sites/default/files/2006-jf-mbs.pdf
This thread is to discuss, show off, and ask advice on your journey towards the Master Builder Structures certificate. If you have any questions for the AP Chairman, please contact him direct on: firstname.lastname@example.org
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