This page will describe awards available from within the hobby of model railways. These awards include those that recognise skill or service. I will include awards given by model enginneering societies.

MEANZ awards

The Model Engineering Society of New Zealand has a collection of awards it presents at its biennial national convention. The list of awards and recipients since 2010 is available here.

NMRA Achievement Program


The NMRA Achievement Program is possibly the best known award program worldwide but is little known in New Zealand. The low profile in New Zealand is hardly surprising given there is fewer than thirty NMRA members in New Zealand. The awards in the NMRA Achievement Program are available to NMRA members only. If you are interested in going for one or more of the awards but you are not an NMRA member, why not join? The current (2017) annual membership fee is just AUS$30 through the Australasian Region of the NMRA.

The NMRA states in its introduction to the achievement program that

In simple terms, the Achievement Program (AP) is a travel guide, to help you on your journey through the world of model railroading. The AP also provides incentive to learn and master the many crafts and skills necessary in the hobby of model railroading. With the completion of each category, you will be issued a certificate acknowledging your achievement.

The AP requirements are a set of standards, but they can also serve as a set of guideposts for those who are new, near-new, and not-so-new to the hobby. Not because they lead to some sort of official pat-on-the-back, but because they are a source of ideas for projects that can help us learn to become better modelers.

Briefly, the AP is a system of requirements for demonstrating a superior level of skill in various aspects of our hobby. It covers not only building various types of models, but also building other things which are important to the hobby, such as scenery, structures, track work, and wiring. It also recognizes service to the hobby and the NMRA, which are important as well. Use the links on the right to explore the different certificates and requirements.

Golden Spike

To quote from the NMRA website

The Golden Spike is the easiest, and for many people, the first AP award that they earn. It is designed to demonstrate familiarity with different areas of the hobby, rarther than expertise in a particular area.

The requirements for the Golden Spike are in three parts. Below is a summary of the requirements. The official statement of them is available on the NMRA website.

  1. Rolling stock (cars and motive power):
    • Display six units of rolling stock. These can be scratchbuilt, or assembed from a craftsman or detailed commercial kit. The six units do not have to meet a minimum standard in judging but you do need to show some skill in construction, such as weathering or adding decals.
  2. Model Railroad Setting (scenery and structures):
    • Construct a minimum of eight square feet of layout. As with rolling stock, the layout does not have to meet a minimum standard in judging but you do need to show some skill.
    • Construct five structures. These can include bridges and trestles. The above statement about a minimum standard and showing some skill applies.
  3. Engineering (civil and electrical)
    • Have three examples of trackage such as turnouts and crossings. The trackage must be properly ballasted and installed on a proper roadbed. You do not have to have three different types of trackage. You could for example have three turnouts.
    • All installed trackage must be properly wired so that two trains can be operated simultaneously.
    • Provide one additional electrical feature such as a powered turnout, signaling, turnout indication, or a lighted building.

    One piece of advice given on the NMRA website for those going for the Golden Spike award - do not read more into the requirements than there is. For instance, the six units of rolling stock just have to be displayed. They can be sitting on your kitchen counter, on the dresser in your bedroom, or on the club table at a train show. You do not have to demonstrate that they run on a layout.


    The achievement program has the 11 certificates listed below. The name of each certificate has a link to the official requirements for the certificate on the NMRA website. The other links provide additional information and advice about the certificate. This is also a Facebook page for the NMRA Achievement Program. This is not an official NMRA Facebook page. 

    Over the years there has been subtle changes in the requirements for some certificates. This means that some of the additional information or advice in the webpages I supply links to is out of date. Hence you should always read the official requirements before deciding exactly what you going to do. If you have questions about the requirements, contact your divisional manager of the achievement program. In New Zealand, that is Kel Sherson. His divisional email address is

    The NMRA arranges these 11 categories into the following four groups

    • Model Railroad Equipment: Cars, motive power
    • Settings: prototypical, scenery, structures
    • Engineering and Operations: civil, dispatcher, electrical
    • Service to the Hobby: author, official, volunteer

    As noted above, the official statement of the certificate requirements is available on the NMRA website. As you might expect, the requirements are not written with the precision of a legal document and this has led to different interpretations of the requirements. For example, part 2 of the civil certificate requires the aspiring civil engineer to include at least six features in the trackwork for part 2. A turntable is listed as a possible feature. One conclusion from a short discussion on the unofficial Facebook page for the NMRA Achievement Program is that the turntable has to be powered.

    MMR (Master Model Railroader)

    To get the designation of MMR, you need to earn seven certificates from the 11 listed above, with at least one from each of the four groups.

    The MMR designation is more difficult to earn in New Zealand than for example the US because the opportunities to get the required number of hours for the official or volunteer certificates are far more limited. In my opinion, anyone living in New Zealand who is seeking the MMR designation should concentrate on the author certificate from the Service to the Hobby group (or move to another country smiley).

    The NMRA gives several general pieces of advice for those working towards their MMR designation

    • do not read more into the requirements than there is - this is the same advice as for the Golden Spike Award
    • use the overlap between certificates to reduce your effort. For example, if you build a layout, you can use it for the civil and electrical certificates, and possibly the dispatchers certificate
    • some items you build have to reach a certain standard in judging. The NMRA recommends that you have your items pre-judged and use the feedback from this to fix any deficiencies
    • document your work as you go along using written notes, photographs, videos. Do not wait until you have completed the work for a certificate

    It also seems, possibly because of the information age that we live in, that people often supply too much documentation to the assessors. 

    GMMR (Grand Master Model Railroader)

    This an an unofficial award. All 11 certificates, a bagatelle.

    Modellers' experience with the Achievement Programme

    The links below are to articles about modellers' experience with the Achievement Programme. These links are in addition to those given above



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