Model Railroad ethics

arbomambo Feb 26, 2019

  1. arbomambo

    arbomambo TrainBoard Member

    I'd like to pose, what I would consider an 'ethics' questions to members here:
    If this thread belongs in another area, then please move it:

    My question:
    In large modular model railroad set ups, at various regional shows, there will exist modules, now owned by an individual, but built by another.
    The current owner will, if pressed, allow that the module was/is built by another, but has no compunction accepting the awards/prizes/acollades for said module, and will continue to accept the awards/prizes, as the module wins contests at other events.
    Is this 'ethical'? Does anyone else have an issue with this?
    should a module, that has already won awards, remain in contention for further awards, at the same event the following years?

    The example, that has inspired me to pen this post, has another wrinkle: not only is the module NOT built by the current owner, but, when the animation on said module 'breaks' (as it often does) the repairs are not made by the current owner, but by the original builder!

    So, again, my question is, does everyone here think that this is 'unethical', or is everyone ok with this practice?
    to my mind it seems as if one is 'buying' an award.
    BarstowRick likes this.
  2. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

    Personally, I'd never accept an award for something I simply purchased without much of any work on my part. To claim a prize or gain notoriety for something I never did would be dishonest, quite like winning a photography contest using an image I didn't take or a woodworking prize for furniture I had no hand in making. I can't grasp the mindset who'd feel triumph with the win.

    The other issue is perhaps a bit less definite, but witnessing a module gain multiple prizes over time would spawn a dull predictability, defeat interest by other module builders and perhaps even cast a pall over the judging staff.

    Just my $0.02. I've never entered anything in a contest.
    BarstowRick likes this.
  3. John Moore

    John Moore TrainBoard Supporter

    My question:
    In large modular model railroad set ups, at various regional shows, there will exist modules, now owned by an individual, but built by another.
    The current owner will, if pressed, allow that the module was/is built by another, but has no compunction accepting the awards/prizes/acollades for said module, and will continue to accept the awards/prizes, as the module wins contests at other events.
    Is this 'ethical'? Does anyone else have an issue with this?

    I think there should be shared recognition but that is an issue between the owner and the builder.

    It it is on the awards committee to decide. If it wins in a different category it is another story. But it should only win once.[/QUOTE]
    BarstowRick likes this.
  4. tracktoo

    tracktoo TrainBoard Member

    Like so many things, it's in the details for me. Full credit and acknowledgement of the original builder would make this perfectly OK to me. Could even afford extra "bragging" accolades that the original builder (and observers) might find distasteful to pronounce for himself but can be made by a second party. A second party like the new owner. The perception to me, in this scenario, would be the new owner really enjoying the exhibited skills of the builder. As far as his collecting awards? Again, with proper credit, those awards are accepted by the current owner but all know who actually "won" the award when it's fully disclosed. He's just the stand in.

    I also think the new owner might deserve a small amount of credit for caring, exhibiting, and maintaining an outstanding piece of work, sharing it with others rather than letting it be dismantled and lost to the world. Assuming he actually IS doing that and again, with full credit to the builder.
    BarstowRick likes this.
  5. BarstowRick

    BarstowRick TrainBoard Supporter

    Bruce, Good Question.

    I once set in on an ethics committee for a hospital I worked for. Let's see if I learned anything.

    Ethical: relating to moral principles or the branch of knowledge dealing with these.

    From the example given it sounds like the owner is still in, or involved with the module in question. Making repairs to it sounds more like a partnership then a purchase. In which case it's perfectly ethical to put it out for competition and should it win ribbons, metals, merit badges, certificates or whatever... is then shared with the partner.

    I see nothing wrong with that.

    Is it ethical to keep entering a winning module? Of course and why not?

    Is it ethical to purchase something and the new owner then submits it for competition? Perfectly ethical as the item now belongs to the new owner. The item is up for competition and not the owner. Car shows do this all the time, of course with strict standards.

    What bothers me is the negative impact it can have on other competitors. I might suggest, it would be better if it had run offs with other prior winners. An Elite competition or a separate competition for it. Open up the playing field. A best of the best competition. Have categories a person can enter an item for competition. For Example: First time presenters or beginners. Country Scenes, city scenes, automated scenes, lighted scenes, barn yard scenes, station scenes, yard scenes, industrial scenes all with sound affects and don't stop there but give as many awards out as you can. Give your participants a chance to win.

    Recognition is never a bad thing and can be a real motivator.

    Now did I manage to repeat anything that's already been said. Oop's that wasn't intentional.
    Onizukachan and Point353 like this.
  6. DCESharkman

    DCESharkman TrainBoard Member

    Well I can add to this a little. Over the weekend, I ran some custom painted locomotives at a train show, Amtrak Kato E-9's in Phase II scheme, and a lot of folks asked where I got them, since no one had ever released locomotives in this scheme. My response was the same for all inquiries, Jeff Gowers custom painted these for me. Would you like to contact him?

    I am a firm believer in giving credit to the artist who did the work for me.

    I think this is the way it should always be!

    Here is a sample:

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Feb 26, 2019
    pastoolio, rpeck, mtntrainman and 3 others like this.
  7. RBrodzinsky

    RBrodzinsky Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    I am now the “keeper” of MC Fujiwara’s Effet Yard, Loose Caboose/Industry, MT Coffin and Culvert modules; along with my own Silicon Valley Station and San Felipe. I always ALWAYS attribute MC’s work to him, even when the committee at a show wanted to present me with a certificate for Effet. It is the only correct way to handle this situation; I am not the owner, just keeper.

    Now, if I had purchased these from him, on spec, then yes, I would have the right to accept awards, even though I would personally attribute the work to him. Because I would be the owner.

    As to contests, I do think it strange for some models to be entered year after year. But that is as much the rules of the contest versus the ethics of the situation. If the contest is meant to acknowledge recent work, then entries must be so. If they are open ended, then something can be entered as often as one wants. At some point, though, an “emeritus” status should be declared by the runners of the contest.
  8. acptulsa

    acptulsa TrainBoard Member

    In the old car hobby, people tend not to think of either the owner or the restorer as the winner. They award the trophy to the car.
    pastoolio, thenightfly, MP333 and 2 others like this.
  9. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    Well stated. My opinion is the same on both points. (y)
    Hardcoaler likes this.
  10. gjslsffan

    gjslsffan Staff Member

    Mine as well.
    But I say, I was present at a Rocky Mountain NMRA in Denver as well as Grand Junction CO, at an event where a fellow I knew, and had known for many years, as info, this individual has been dead for for 10+ years now. I sat there and watched him take credit for scratch building a locomotive, that he absolutely, had no hand in building, painting, decaling or otherwise. He stood there taking credit for everything, while the fellow that actually built it "an employee" just sat there in dis-belief. I have every merit badge and award needed to get my Master Model Railroader (MRR) certificate.
    But I thought so much of this employee, that it soured me on the whole MRR process, it cheapened it to the point, that I have never submitted another model and will never have any desire to obtain same. This Master Model Railroader would take a loco shell with rattle can of paint in hand and paint over an existing scheme, decal, and sell as a custom paint job by a MRR expert, I know this as I saw it.
    So, yea there is an issue. But it is up to the individual to keep him/herself honest. There are a multitude of fantastic modelers in our hobby, I would stack them up to the very best. But some of the stuff I have seen, kinda cheapens it up.
    My 2 cents.
    rpeck, BarstowRick and Hardcoaler like this.
  11. brokemoto

    brokemoto TrainBoard Member

    Most of the contests that I have seen require a placard on each entry. If I were entering said contest, and, someone else had built the module, I would list on the placard:

    Owner's Name: brokemoto

    Builder's name: Fixemoto

    If there were no place for the bulder's name, I would note it somewhere on the placard. Had I made some alterations to it, I would note those. If it had won any awards at other events or, the same event last year, I would display those. If there were too many, I might restrict the display to awards won at the event in question in previous years,.

    At that point, any award that I might receive is in the hands of the judges or Awards Committee. I have disclosed everything, which is the proper thing to do. I did my job. I would then let the judges or Awards Committee do theirs.

    One thing that I might add is that there should be rules that bar entry into the contest by judges or members of the Awards Committee.
    BarstowRick and Hardcoaler like this.
  12. Maletrain

    Maletrain TrainBoard Member

    Getting back to the OP's question, it is a little vague about what the relationship is between the owner and the builder/fixer. If it is purely a commercial relationship (the buyer pays for the construction and repair services), then I think the owner is being dishonest taking credit for the quality of the work. But, since it is a module, I am wondering if the owner is contributing something in the way of display at the show that the builder is not able or willing to contribute. That sort of leads me to wondering if the relationship could be somewhat of a partnership. And, of course, the relationship might be familial, where the owner and builder are related by blood or marriage plus a joint interest in model railroading. Which brings up the concept of doing your kids homework for them.

    In all cases, the best approach seems to be to give credit where credit really is due. The contest should have rules that require that, which should include disclosing who built it, who owns it, and who is displaying it. They could be 3 different people, potentially with some really unique circumstances in some cases. So, while the award goes to the actual piece of work on display, the credit can go to those responsible for it being there in the condition that it is in.

    The display of award-quality models is a good thing, in my opinion, so it probably should be encouraged by not making the rules so tight that really good work does not make it into the show. Telling others how that work was done is also probably a good thing, but bragging about it probably isn't. Bragging about something that you really did not do yourself is definitely bad for the whole feel of the contest and even the hobby in general. But, there are people who will do that, even if it is in violation of the rules. To discourage that, I think the rules should clearly require disclosure of who actually made what, and blatant violation of those rules probably needs some sort of punishment to discourage it. But, I emphasized "blatant" because we must also contend with the type of people who would try to win with an inferior entry by trying to get a better entry disqualified on the basis of a "technicality" that really isn't material to the issue of who deserves the credit. If fact, we all rely on others in many ways to produce a good model. I don't know of anybody who starts a scratch-building project by cutting down a basswood tree to make scribed siding, or mixes chemicals to make styrene plastic siding, or grinds pigments to make paints for those pieces of siding. So, the rules of what is legitimate and what is not are not likely to be able to draw the line so sharply that disputes are impossible. But, disputes can also damage the hobby.
    BarstowRick likes this.
  13. Flak

    Flak TrainBoard Member

    The core question is one of intent in the awards. If it is for "existing" or showing, then mere ownership is fine. Nicest boat, best Ad, best historical artifact, best dog, etc. It is presumed these things aren't literally created by the owner, just caretakers and show prep or perhaps just financial backing, maybe some customization, etc.

    However, many hobby related awards are centered around demonstrating skillfull handiwork. In that case, entering anything created by someone else, even by commission, is dubious at best and fraudulent at worst. How to police that is a challenge (you're not building it there), but it is one reason repeat entries are not allowed in many such competitions.

    So a simple "best of show" award with no other criteria than being the favorite should go to whoever brings it. If it is instead something like a "best model" award, then no, it should not go to someone just for having purchased a piece.
  14. tehachapifan

    tehachapifan TrainBoard Member

    I agree with everyone but let me play devil's advocate for a minute. Let's say you enter a contest with something you built (let's say a loco) but didn't win, losing to something you know was inferior (at least as far as work put in) and figure the judges just didn't know yours was a heavy kitbash versus a nearly stock model. Can or should you re-enter that model next year?
    BarstowRick likes this.
  15. HOexplorer

    HOexplorer TrainBoard Supporter

    Prizes, awards? How come I never knew this? Where do I join! Have mercy.
    BarstowRick likes this.
  16. Flak

    Flak TrainBoard Member

    If it's a scratch build or conversion contest then it's poorly judged if they have that happen. Obviously subjective decisions have a role. But many small scope contests (layouts are a bit different due to the size and time commitment), at least serious ones, have rules regarding entry. Sometimes it's once ever, other times it's one win. In general though, people who do these types of contests are out to surprise and wow the judges, they are on the cutting edge so next years entry should be more impressive. You generally won't win bringing back a loser just to see if they changed their minds even if you are allowed to, sorry to say.
    tehachapifan likes this.
  17. BarstowRick

    BarstowRick TrainBoard Supporter

    I'll be the devil. :LOL:

    By all means enter it but present pictures of how you kit-bashed it, with you showing up in the pictures. Do be sure you enter it in the kitbash competition and not the cheap custom paint and letter contest. What? What? What did I say?:sick::sneaky::D

    Judges should have categories to work with. It should all be clear prior to the event. If you get my draft uhh...err direction I'm going, drift!:confused:o_O
    tehachapifan likes this.
  18. Point353

    Point353 TrainBoard Member

    Make sure your finger - the one with the scar from an x-acto knife blade - gets in front of part of the camera lens.
  19. Maletrain

    Maletrain TrainBoard Member

    Not sure how I would judge between a pair of entries that are (1) mostly stock with extremely well-done mods, vs (2) mostly scratch, with a slightly inferior result, overall. Is it mainly the final result, or mainly the effort expended, or mainly the skills shown in whatever was actually done by the modeler?

    Hopefully, the people who set-up competitions will provide categories that separate those types of entries, so that this type of apples vs oranges vs pears judgement will not need to be made.
    tehachapifan and BarstowRick like this.
  20. Inkaneer

    Inkaneer TrainBoard Member

    Gee whatever happened to doing something for your own personal satisfaction and not world wide acclaim? It's a hobby folks. Seems to me that we lose something when we attempt to make it a competition.
    jtomstarr, rpeck and MP333 like this.

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