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Round the Curve to Altoona
(Reprinted with permission from Susquehanna Division Sidetracks Mar/Apr 2023)
The 2023 MER Convention, Around the Curve to Altoona, will feature both judged and popular vote contests that are part of all MER conventions. There will also be Special Awards including the President's Award and others.
The contest room at the hotel will contain all the contest activities. The room will be open for contest entries on Thursday evening and on Friday:
  • 10:30am to Noon
  • 1:00pm to 5:00pm
  • 7:00pm to 9:00pm
NOTE: For security reasons, those visiting the contest rooms are asked not to bring large purses/bags, shoulder bags, backpacks, camera bags, or things of that nature into the room. Thank you for your cooperation.
Judging will begin at 9 am on Saturday and continue until 4 pm with a break for lunch at noon. The Contest room will close at 4 pm on Saturday. Entry owners are to pick up their entries between 9 pm and 11 pm following the Convention Banquet. Arrangements for entry pick up on Sunday morning can be made with the Contest Chairman on an individual basis, but all entries must be retrieved by 11 am, Sunday, October 22.
Judges will assemble in the GG1 clinic room on Friday at 11AM for Brian Kampschroer's clinic "Contest Judging/Training". They should report to the contest room on Saturday by 8:30 AM to start judging the entered models.
The MER allows NMRA and Region officials who wish to help judge the model contest to do so and still enter models in the contest. Those who judge and enter models must, however, recuse themselves from judging the entire category in which they have entered a model.
Any questions? Please e-mail the Contest Chair or speak with one of our contest staff members. The staff will be available in the Contest Room during the Convention. Any persons wishing to serve as an Apprentice Judge should contact the Contest Chair as early as possible and plan on spending the day judging with several of the judging teams.
  • Steam Locomotives
  • Diesel Locomotives
  • Traction Power
  • Revenue Freight Cars
  • Passenger Cars
  • Non-revenue Equipment
  • On-line Structure
  • Off-line Structure
  • On-line Display/Diorama
  • Off-line Display/Diorama
  • Modules
Freight Car Contest Entry 2021
Freight Car entry submitted at 2021 Convention (photo: J. Lauchle)
Plaques will be awarded for first place in each model category. Second and third place awards will be awarded a certificate. The model winning the Best of Show Award allows other models in that category to move up one place for a 1st place plaque. If your model scores 87.5 points or greater, it will earn a merit award from the Achievement Program. For more information on the AP, contact the MER AP Manager or your Division AP Coordinator.
  • Favorite Train Award
  • Favorite Model Award
The winners in each category will receive a plaque for their modeling efforts.
The contest room will be open during judging on Saturday for convention attendees to pick up their popular vote ballots and make their selections. Please be quiet during these times so as not to disturb the contest judges who will be hard at work. Ballots must be returned to the Contest room by 4 pm on Saturday to be included in the official count.
Members who wish to display models or dioramas that are not entered in any of the contests above may bring them to the Contest Room. They will be displayed depending upon space available. This is a first-come, first-served service. The Contest Chair will make the final determination as to when there is no more space for additional displays. They will be displayed on tables specially set aside for non-contest items.
Our model contest rules are short and to the point! We follow the basic NMRA National Contest Rules. Visit their site for a more detailed explanation of all t hese rules, and to down load the forms needed to enter all the contests; if you need help or forms, contact Alan Mende, MER Contest Chair (contests@mer-nmra.com).
Here is a summary of some of the basic rules:
Entrants must be current members of the NMRA.
Each model must be accompanied by the official NMRA Entry Form #901, filled out and signed by the entrant. In addition, model entries must have a filled out Judges Score Sheet #902. Modules should use NMRA Entry Form #901b. Writeable Entry Forms and Judges Score Sheets are available from the MER website (https://mer-nmra.com/judge.html). Go to the website by clicking on the above links, download the forms, fill them out as a Word document, print, and bring them with you to the Contest Room at the Convention.
You may enter the contest by proxy. Whoever submits an entry for someone else, however, must present the owner-builder's NMRA membership number.
There are no restrictions on the number of models entered by a member.
For those modelers who wish to have their work evaluated for the Achievement Program only, your models will be evaluated when the model contest is judged.
Models that have achieved a Merit Award in regional or national competitions are ineligible for another Merit Award. Models achieving a Merit Award on the local level are eligible for regional and national Merit Awards.
The following special awards are sponsored by the NMRA and various Divisions and private groups and will be made to selected entries in the judged categories:
THE BEST IN SHOW AWARD is given to the model that scores the highest point total in the judged model contest. In addition to the plaque, this award also provides registration to next year's convention!
THE PRESIDENT'S AWARD for 2023 will be chosen by MER President, Scott Unger, and given for any structure or rolling stock related to maintenance of way. This can include former passenger cars turned in to rider cars for track crews, old boxcars used as tool cars, cranes, boom cars, wheel cars, plows and spreaders, ballast hoppers, speeder and tool sheds; the list is almost endless. Let's see lots of entries this year.
THE CLYDE GERALD AWARD is sponsored by the MER and named for the late Clyde Gerald, former MER Business Manager and longtime modeler. It is awarded to the kit-bashed model which scores highest in the judged model contest. Be sure to check the definition of kit-bashed for this award.
Clyde Gerald Award 2022
The Clyde Gerald Award winner 2022 (photo: J. Lauchle)
THE BOB LIBERMAN MEMORIAL AWARD is given for the model freight, passenger, caboose, or MOW car that would, in the opinion of the awarding committee, be the one that Bob Liberman would choose as the best detailed car in the contest. The award includes a plaque and $100.00 Gift Card/Certificate to Hobby Store of choice.
The Philadelphia Division New Modeler Award 2022
Philadelphia Div. New Modeler Award winner 2022 (photo: J. Lauchle)
THE PHILADELPHIA DIVISION NEW MODELER AWARD rewards excellence in model building by first time entrants in the MER judged model contest. The highest score achieved by a new modeler is awarded a plaque and a cash prize of twenty-five dollars.
THE CHUCK HLADIK MEMORIAL AWARD, sponsored by the James River Division (JRD), this year will be awarded for ventilated boxcar that ran on a railroad in the south. All questions regarding eligibility should be directed to JRD's Contest co-chair Shannon Crabtree at stctigers@gmail.com AND copied to the JRD Superintendent at superintendent@jrdnmra.org.
THE RAY BILODEAU NARROW GAUGE AWARD is also privately sponsored by a group of narrow gauge modelers, and encourages building models depicting aspects of narrow gauge railroading.
THE "GREAT DECALS!" AWARD is an award for an excellent model that includes a "Great Decals!" product in its construction and/or finishing achieving the highest judged score in lettering and finish for a model that employs a product demonstrated to be from Great Decals that also receives a Merit Award. This award is worth not only a plaque, but a cash prize of thirty dollars.
THE FAVORITE TRAIN AWARD, sponsored by the Tidewater Division, is a popular vote award and will be included on the Popular Vote ballot. Yes, members who can find their way to the contest room and fill out a ballot get to choose the winner.
THE FAVORITE MODEL AWARD is another popular vote award and will also be included on the Popular Vote ballot. Yes, those same members who can find their way to the contest room and fill out a ballot get to choose their favorite model.