NASG Contests

This is an article contributed by, then, NASG Contest Chair (and now Executive Vice President), Monte Heppe. It is the Model Contest Committee's hope that this article gives you a better understanding of how a model contest works, and suggestions on how you can better present a model for judging.

Models are judged on five criteria; construction, detail, conformity, finish, and scratch material.

Judging Criterion: Construction

This refers to how well the model is put together, the quality of craftsmanship. For example; do the joints have gaps, are there visible glue spots, are wood surfaces fuzzy, are handrails crooked, or are windows smeared with glue? These and other errors will lower the point totals. Points will not be deducted for minor shipping damage. The entrant should notify the judges of any shipping damage. A note on the entry form will suffice.

Judging Criterion: Details

The more appropriate details such as doorknobs, guy wires, turnbuckles, uncoupling levers, etc., the more points will be awarded.

Judging Criterion: Conformity

For a scale entry, conformity measures how accurately the model reproduces the prototype. The Contest Committee increased the points awarded to emphasize the considerable amount of research needed to ensure the faithfulness of the model to the prototype. For freelance models, the question judges must ask is, "If the prototype did exist, would it look like the model?" Points will not be deducted for a model that has hi-rail flanges as long as the model has not been modified to accommodate the flanges.

(an American Flyer Imagineering entry; photo © Peter Vanvliet)

For an American Flyer Imagineering entry, conformity means that the model should look like something that might have been produced by the A.C. Gilbert Company. The company typically reused existing parts in new models to the greatest extent possible to reduce tooling costs. Similar use of American Flyer parts, new or reproductions, will be rewarded. The model can represent either a production item or a final pre-production model, but not a crude mockup. Use of Erector Set parts is acceptable if they are appropriate to the model. A minor modification of a Gilbert product is not eligible in this category.

Judging Criterion: Finish

This is especially important. A sloppy paint job or crooked lettering can spoil the look of a model. Missed spots where spray paint does not reach, paint runs, colors bleeding into one another, weathering applied in unexpected areas, noticeable decal film, brush marks, etc. all can subtract from the point total.

Judging Criterion: Scratch Material

This refers to items a modeler fabricates as opposed to commercial parts. We recently decreased the points total for this item. This reflects a similar change by NMRA. The rationale being that due to the extensive availability of prototypically accurate parts, a prudent modeler would use them where appropriate. Fabricating a part that is unique to the prototype of the model is what is rewarded here.

Providing More Information

Modelers can make judging easier and more accurate by providing additional information beyond that on the entry form. Notes on how you constructed the model will help in the construction criteria. Prototype information, such as, drawings, photos, and notes on unique details can help in all categories. However, the model should conform to the information provided. For freelanced models, an explanation of how you came up with the design to make it a plausible model of a possible prototype will help the judges understand the model.

The Contest Room

(photo © Peter Vanvliet)

The contest room is open to all attendees and the convention contest committee monitors it at all times and advises them not to touch the models.

Some modelers request that no one, including the judges, touch their model. Judges will honor such requests, but it should be understood that judges cannot consider portions of the model they cannot see.

Judging an NASG Contest

As models are checked-in, they are arranged on tables, sometimes in the order entered or by categories. The room is closed to the public when judging begins. The judges take an overall view of the models to get a feel for general quality of models. The amateur class is generally judged first, the craftsman, and finally the master craftsman are next. Models in each class are identified, typically by placing color-coded sticky notes on the table in front of each model. This eliminates the need to physically group the classes. We do our best to minimize the touching of models. If a modeler indicates that no one, including the judges, is to touch a model, his instructions are honored.

Three-person teams do the judging. Occasionally, several teams are used, but each team judges a different class. The three judges together view and discuss each model. This ensures that no judge misses some aspect of the model. The judges carefully examine information provided by the modeler. This information frequently demonstrates that the model is faithful to the prototype when there may be some doubt.

For example one heavily weathered model appeared to have been overdone. A picture of the prototype showed that the weathering was appropriate. In the case of a freelanced model, modeler-provided information can help the judges understand the decisions made to make the model plausible.

Each judge assigns points for each of the judging criteria, construction, detail, conformity, finish, and scratch. If there is a significant variance in the scores, the judges will confer to find out why each judge decided on the points awarded. Judges may decide to change the points awarded. If more than one judging team is involved; the teams will review each other's work. Models with the highest scores will be in contention for best-of-show. Judges review the scores of each model to ensure that the best of the best are in consideration for this award. Judges then compare the highest scoring models until they reach a consensus on the model that will be awarded best-of-show. Much time is involved in judging. A recent contest with about 25 models required about 6 hours to complete. This averaged out to about 15 minutes per model. Judges are selected from experienced modelers. New judges are paired with those who have judging experience. We need more individuals who would be willing to act as judges. We will help those interested learn what is involved in judging a contest.

Why Participate?

(model shown for display only; photo © Peter Vanvliet)

Why would you want to enter a model contest? Certainly an award would be recognition of your modeling skill. However, that is not the only reason. It gives you a chance to compare your modeling skills to those of other members and learn how to improve your skills and possibly learn new techniques. Other entrants are generally willing to explain how they did something. The NASG views the contest as a showcase of our members' modeling. Most members enjoy seeing what others are doing. It is an opportunity to learn and gain ideas for something you could do for your own layout. Even if you would rather not compete, we encourage you to bring a model for display only. Placing a model on display shows your work without the pressure of competition and you can gain recognition as a competent modeler.

Please don't be afraid to enter a model because you feel that it might not be good enough. Everyone has to start somewhere and your model may be better than you think it is. If you don't enter, you will never know. All models are treated fairly and with respect.

Planning to Enter

One should get into the right mindset before starting a contest model. Most of us, including modeling greats, build to "good enough" for most of the models populating our layouts, saving our best efforts for foreground models where the increased level of detail can be seen and appreciated. A contest model should represent your best efforts at modeling. Do not be intimidated by this. The judges know that this is your best effort and will try to be constructive in their comments.

Before starting the construction of a model intended for a contest you need to do some research. If the model is of a particular prototype, you should find pictures, plans, and any other information that will help build a model that is true to the prototype. The more specific you can be, the better your model will score. For example, most prototypes have been modified, often several times after they were built. You should specify that your model represents the prototype "as built" or as per a specific modification.

Entering a Model

(forms supplied with contest model; photo © Peter Vanvliet)

On the contest entry form, the information that you provide must be clear and complete to insure that your model gets the proper consideration. It is advisable to obtain a copy of the detailed version of the NASG Model Contest Rules (click to download). Also obtain the NASG Contest Registration Form (click to download).

The Class under which to enter is determined by Sections 5 and 6 of the Contest Rules. Section 7 will help you determine the category of your model. Please note that American Flyer Imagineering is an open category so you do not need to designate a Class.

On the form, under Description, provide information as to exactly what your model depicts. This is where to explain how your model conforms to the prototype. For freelance models, explain how the model represents something that logically might have been. For American Flyer Imagineering, tell us how the model represents something that A. C. Gilbert might have made.

Under Construction, check all that apply. The information provided here will help the judges in determining the quality of the construction.

For Conformity, check all the boxes that apply and refer back to description and any attachments relevant to conformity.

The Finish section is self-explanatory.

Under Details, list all of the details you have added to the model beyond the basic shell.

For the Commercial Parts section, the judges want to know what parts were purchased rather than scratch built. Be sure to note if you have modified any of the parts as this could earn extra credit.

Next, the judges want you to tell them how you constructed the model, especially any unique methods you may have developed.

Under Scratch Material, beside listing the fabricated parts and assemblies, you should tell them how you fabricated them, if not previously described.

You should add any information that illustrates why the model looks like it does. Information provided should be clear and easily understood. Due to time constraints, judges cannot be expected to look through numerous pages of detail. In general, you want to tell the judges about all the effort you put into your model. Do not assume that the judges will know by looking at the model exactly what you were trying to do.

Impact of New Technologies On Model Contests

(additional contests may be held; photo © Bill Winans)

A significant issue under consideration by both the NASG and the NMRA is how to consider models built through the use of 3D-printers and laser-cutting machines. One view is to consider these machines as tools. As long as the modeler has developed the instructions given to the machine the part or model, the modeler would be given the same credit as someone using more traditional tools. However there are a number of potential problems with this approach.

For example, many prototype cars are constructed in a series with minor changes. A 3D-printer program could be easily modified to produce any or all of the cars in a series, which could then be entered in separately in a contest. A modeler who scratch builds the same series of cars with traditional methods would have a more difficult time in achieving the same results.

We could also add a separate category for models produced using such machines. The committee would greatly appreciate the thoughts of members on this issue.

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