2014 NMRA Convention - Cleveland logo
national train show

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 PRACTICES.

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 way intended. 

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 seal. 

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 tech-candi@nmra.org if you are interested in assisting in this vital area.