An Unfairy Tale

This is a fairy tale – or you could say and “Unfairy” tale for your amusement.

Once upon a time there was a model railroader called Mr. Boxcar.  Now Mr. Boxcar was very active in the hobby, known by many modelers, and an official with the International Model Railroad Organization (IMRO).  Now Mr. Boxcar was working on his accreditation as a Model Railroad Master (MRM) by going through the Acquirement Program (AP).

Mr. Boxcar was building a Widget for entry for the upcoming judging and knew that it wouldn’t hurt if some of the local judges friends knew that it was his Widget that they were judging.  The judging is set up where the judges supposibly don’t know who’s entry that they are judging to keep things “fair and objective”.

In any event, Judge Flatcar is a member of Mr. Boxcar’s operating group.  Mr. Boxcar conveniently / accidentally leaves his Widget that’s under construction on his work bench where Judge Flatcar sees it during an ops session. Upon seeing the Widget he asks Mr. Boxcar “Are you going to enter your Widget in the next contest?”.  Mr. Boxcar acts embarrassed and quickly covers the Widget with a rag replying “You weren’t supposed to see that!”.

Later on Mr. Boxcar takes his Widget over to another model railroader’s home where he just happens to know that Judge Tankcar is going to visit.  He is showing it to the homeowner when Judge Tankcar accidentally sees the Widget.  Upon seeing the Widget he asks Mr. Boxcar “Are you going to enter your Widget in the next contest?”.  Mr. Boxcar acts embarrassed and quickly covers the Widget with a rag replying “You weren’t supposed to see that!”.

Now Mr. Boxcar attends the semi-monthly meeting of the Wankle Division of the IMRO, Widget in hand.  He puts it “sort-of out of sight” but Judge Coveredhopper sees the Widget.  Mr. Boxcar explains “I brought this here so Mr. Wellcar could take a look at it. Judge Coveredhopper asks Mr. Boxcar “Are you going to enter your Widget in the next contest?”.  Mr. Boxcar acts embarrassed and quickly covers the Widget with a rag replying “You weren’t supposed to see that!”.

Fast forward to contest time.  The judges are – yes, you guessed it, Judge Flatcar, Judge Tankcar, and Judge Coveredhopper – and one other judge, Judge Coilcar.  They all look at Mr. Boxcar’s entry which is well done, but unexceptional.  In any other region with any other judges that didn’t know that it was Mr. Boxcar’s entry it would probably earn a “C”.  The judges here give there friend an A+ and award Mr. Boxcar an Acquirement award towards his MRM.

And everybody lives happy ever after!

12 Responses to An Unfairy Tale

  1. Possum says:

    Interesting story. There is another story floating about that involves Publisher Siderod’s young son co-0pting the roadname of a famous model railroader and then getting a multi-part series about building a small layout based on that famous model railroaders road name in the Bulletin of the IMRO – which, strangely enough, is published and edited by his father – Publisher Siderod…

  2. Rick says:


    Talk about interesting! I wonder what kind of other stories are out there?


  3. Jeffstr says:

    Interesting indeed.
    Would this series be released starting July 2nd?

  4. DF says:

    I have a friend, a published, excellent modeler, who told me a story about a fellow modeler-a participant in an IMRO – AP type program. I got the feeling it was auto-biographical.
    The fellow participated for a while in that AP type program, and was significantly coached in details that made some excellent models attract the attention of those who happened to be judging models in that geographical area. Result: 1st, best-in-show, stuff like that. But the fellow saw many other peoples’ work that he judged to be better, but different in the details. Plus, he felt his model wasn’t his, it was his plus the “planted” details. After a couple of years, nobody ever saw his models at a contest again.
    Oh, the fellow still does great modeling; just not for the brownie points. But a lot of his friends have been given his subsequent models.

    Seems to me that, if you’re a good modeler, but sensitive about justice in what you participate in, that could be a big deterrent to participation in an organization like that IMRO thing.


    • Rick says:


      I’m sure that there are many that have a similar story to the one you shared. I’m not knocking the process, just trying to forewarn people considering this path as “it ain’t all pretty”.

      Years ago I was into street rods. I had a 1932 Plymouth 4 door with a 340 ci engine. Many other street rodders like me were in it for the just plain fun. Then there were the ones that were in it for the awards and trophies. Although I won some awards and trophies I wasn’t interested in “going to the dark side” as it seemed the trophy hounds were never happy.


  5. DF says:

    I think we should make cats the judges. They’re already on the railroad, know the models inside and out (literally), and are totally objective, in that: they know no mind but their own, and are not influenced by mere humans.

  6. DF says:

    Cats are only influenced by catnip inthat: they will take time out of their busy schedule to wallow in it, then back to the normally scheduled nap. They judge at random times, but always totally objectively.

  7. John says:

    Interesting stuff. I was told before the X-2011 convention (my first, btw) that it might not be the best venue for someone’s first contest entries. After seeing all of the models that were presented, I knew that I should have entered a few of mine. A couple of my ops friends tole me the same thing. There were some wonderful models, and some that were first rate museum quality. I was, however, surprised at the wide range of quality. I’ll definitely enter some at the next opportunity.

    Most of the guys in my ops group have all accumulated enough time in all ops jobs to get the AP chief dispatcher certificate, and we intend to do just that. I’ve also scratch-built rolling stock and turnouts… Point being, I do intend to get some AP certs. But I figured out some time ago, that this, and the pursuit of an MMR cert, is something that you had better be doing for yourself, and not for any other reason.

    I was not aware of the friends-of-the-judges issue, but I guess it’s not all that surprising. Disappointing, but not surprising. Thanks for the heads up!

    • Rick says:

      Thank you for your input. I don’t want to discourage anyone from pursuing the AP certificates and MMR as I believe the program has great value. Like all programs involving us humans some negative things will sneak in so this must be taken into account. If one works hard and stays at it their skills will improve and their goals can be met.


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