One of the most important aspects of the NMRA Standards & Conformance Dept
is to work with the manufacturers to ensure that models produced follow
NMRA's Standards and Recommended Practices.
The purpose of the Conformance-Inspection (C&I) Committee is to set
up and administer procedures covering the conformance and inspection of
commercially available model railroad products. The scope of Conformance
& Inspections procedures is set forth in NMRA Standards, applicable
NMRA Recommended Practices, and industry quality metrics.•
As charged by the NMRA CHARTER and CONSTITUTION, NMRA STANDARDS provide
the primary basis upon which interchange between equipment and various
North American Scale model railroads is founded. Under this requirement
NMRA Standards include only those factors that are considered vital to
such interchange. For less critical matters see NMRA RECOMMENDED
The RECOMMENDED PRACTICE category was established by the NMRA Board of
Trustees in January 1957, to: a. Promote maximum interchange between and
within units. b. Specify the details of major components to improve design
and function. RECOMMENDED PRACTICES are only less mandatory than STANDARDS
by virtue of their slightly less critical subject matter and/or the fact
that deviation for specific reasons is permissible.
Industry quality metrics are being established to cover areas not
covered by the interchange components of Standards and/or Recommended
Practices. For example no one would want the NMRA to put Conformance and
Inspection Seal on a locomotive that would only function for a few hours
before breaking. These quality metrics will only include objective
measurable items and will be set with industry participation to reflect
the quality norms that modelers expect in a model.
Why Change now?
Under the old program the NMRA provided conformance Warrants if the
model met the NMRA standards only. As the hobby has evolved the quality
that we demand has substantially increased. A fine model from the 60s is
perceived as barely adequate today. The reason for this is that
manufacturing tolerances are much better and the materials available today
allow the manufacturer to produce much finer models.
In addition to quality improvements, Recommended Practices have also
grown in scope. While deviation for specific reasons is permissible, many
key components are now contained within NMRA Recommended Practices. For
example, manufacturers are now producing locomotives with an NMRA 9.1.1 socket.
The C&I committee would test out the socket to ensure it conforms with
the applicable RP. Manufacturers who do not provide the socket would still
be eligible for a Warrant as the socket is not required. What is required
is that if a manufacturer provides a socket similar to that contained within RP-9.1.1,
that it be sized correctly and wired correctly so that it functions in the
By raising the acceptance criteria, we have again made the NMRA
conformance seal a meaningful symbol and will encourage the manufacturers
to excel to meet the requirements of the NMRA members.
The NMRA Conformance and Inspection Program
There are actually two different portions of the NMRA's program
Inspection and Conformance.
In the inspection program, the NMRA procures products for the purpose
of ensuring that products being produced follow our Standards and
applicable Recommended Practices. When problems are identified we work
with the manufacturers to resolve the problems.•
The conformance program is a more formal program where manufacturers
submit their products to the NMRA for testing to our Standards,
Recommended Practices, and Industry accepted quality norms. Products that
pass these rigorous tests are allowed to display the NMRA Conformance
seal. The conformance program is therefore a much more rigorous program
and is driven by the manufacturer's desire to display our conformance
How can I get involved?
Inspecting products takes a lot of time and energy but it is also a lot
of fun. Like to help? Volunteers are needed in all areas.• The Conformance and Inspection Committee has formed an electronic
mailing list to exchange information between volunteers. Send us a note at
firstname.lastname@example.org if you are
interested in assisting in this vital area.