Railroading Merit Badge

Boy Scouts can learn about the history of railroading, its place in modern society, careers in railroading, and hobbies related to railroading while earning this badge.


For more information contact the MER BSA Coordinator: Don Jennings


1. Do any 3 of the following:
a. Name 3 types of modern freight trains. Explain why unit trains are more efficient than mixed freight trains.
b. Name 1 class I or regional railroad. Explain what major cities are served by it, what the locations its major terminals are, service facilities and crew change points, and what the major commodities it carries in its system.
c. Identify 10 types of railroad freight or passenger cars using models or pictures and explain the purpose of each type of car.
d. Explain how a modern diesel or electric locomotive develops power. Explain the terms dynamic braking and radial steering trucks.

2. Do the following:
a. Explain the purpose and formation of Amtrak. Explain, by the use of a timetable, a plan for making a trip of at least 500 miles by rail between two cities. Include in those plans the departure and arrival times at your destination(s), the train number(s) and name(s), and the type(s) of service you will use for this trip.
b. List and explain the various forms of rail-based public/mass transit.

3. Do 1 of the following:
a. Name 4 departments of a railroad company and describe the purpose and activities of each department.
b. Describe the opportunities in railroading that interest you most and why.
c. Name 4 rail support industries. Describe the function of each one.
d. With your parent's (or guardian’s) and counselor's approval, interview someone employed in the rail industry. Learn what that person does and how this person became interested in railroading. Learn what education and training are required for this position.

4. Explain the purpose of Operation Lifesaver and its mission.

5. Do any 3 of the following:
a. List 5 safety precautions that help make trains safer for workers and passengers.
b. Explain to your merit badge counselor why railroad rights-of-way are important for safety.
c. List 10 safety tips to remember when you are near a railroad track (either on the ground or on a station platform) or on board a train.
d. Explain to your counselor the guidelines for conduct that should be followed when you are near or on railroad property. Explain the dangers of trespassing on railroad property.
e. Relate what an automobile driver can do to safely operate a car at grade crossings, and list 3 things an automobile driver should never do at a grade crossing.
f. Explain how to report malfunctioning grade crossing warning devices.
g. List the safety precautions for pedestrians at a public crossing.

6. Explain the appearance and meaning of these warning signs and devices: advance warning sign, pavement markings, crossbucks, flashing red lights, crossing gates.

7. Do ALL of the following:
a. Explain how railroad signals operate and demonstrate 2 basic signal types using color or configuration.
b. Explain the meaning of 3 horn signals.
c. Describe a means to signal a train for an emergency stop.
d. Explain the use and function of the EOTD (end-of-train device), or FRED (flashing rear end device), used on the last car of most trains.

8. Select 1 of the following special interest areas and complete the requirements.
a. Model Railroading With your parent's and counselor's approval, do 2 of the following:

1. Draw a layout of your own model railroad or one that could be built in your home. Design a point-to-point track or loop with different routings. Include 1 of the following components: turnaround or terminal or yard or siding.
2. Build 1 model railroad car kit or 1 locomotive kit.
3. Name the scale of 4 popular model railroad gauges and identify the scale of 4 model cars or locomotives.
4. Locate the website of 4 model railroad related manufacturers or magazine publishers. Print information on their products and services, and discuss the information with your counselor.
5. Build 1 railroad structure (from scratch or using a kit), paint and weather the structure, mount it on your layout or diorama, and make the surrounding area on the diorama scenic.
6. Alone or with a group, build a model railroad or modular layout including ballast and scenery. Make electrical connections and operate a train. Describe what you enjoyed most.
7. Participate in a switching contest on a Timesaver layout and record your time.
b. Rail Fanning With your parent's and counselor's approval, do 2 of the following:

1. Visit a railroad museum, historical display, or a prototype railroad sponsored public event. With permission, photograph, videotape, or sketch items of interest. Explain what you saw and describe your photos, sketches, or videotape.
2. Purchase tickets and ride a scenic or historic railroad. Under supervision, photograph the equipment and discuss with your counselor the historic significance of the operation.
3. Locate the website of 4 rail historical groups; thereafter locate information on the history and purpose of these rail preservation operation groups. Talk with a member of 1 of the groups and find out how you might help.
4. Plan a trip by rail between 2 points. Obtain a schedule and explain when the train should arrive at 2 intermediate points. Purchase the tickets and make the trip. Explain to your counselor what you saw.
Suggested Resources
Scouting Literature
Engineering and Model Design and Building merit badge pamphlets

Books (Your Local Public Library is a Great Resource!)

Ambrose, Stephen E. Nothing Like It in the World: The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad 1863-1869.

Simon & Schuster, 2000. Armstrong, John H. The Railroad: What It Is, What It Does, The Introduction to Railroading. 5th ed. Simmons-Boardman Books, 2008.

Blumberg, Rhoda. Full Steam Ahead: The Race to Build a Transcontinental Railroad. National Geographic Society, 1996.

Drury, George H., and Bob Hayden. Guide to Tourist Railroads and Railroad Museums 2002, 37th ed. Kalmbach Publishing Company, 2002.

Frary, Dave. How to Build Realistic Model Railroad Scenery, 3rd ed. Kalmbach Publishing Company, 2005.

Herring, Peter. Ultimate Train. Dorling Kindersley, 2000.

Hubbard, Freeman. Encyclopedia of North American Railroading: 150 Years of Railroading in the United States and Canada. McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1981.

Kelly, Jim, and Michael Emmerich. HO Railroad From Start to Finish (Model Railroad Handbook, No. 36). Kalmbach Publishing Company, 1993.

Miller, Allan W., ed. Model Railroad Resources: A Where-to-Find-It Guide for the Hobbyist. Krause Publications, 2000.

Schleicher, Robert. The HO Model Railroading Handbook: Build an Exciting HO Layout the Easy, Inexpensive Way, 3rd ed. Krause Publications, 1998.

Solomon, Brian. The Heritage of North American Steam Railroads: From the First Days of Steam Power to the Present. Reader's Digest, 2001.

Stover, John F. The Routledge Historical Atlas of the American Railroads. Routledge, 1999. Vantuono, William C. All About Railroading. Simmons-Boardman Books, 2001.

Magazines (Your Local Hobby Shop and NMRA Division are Great Resources!)

Classic Trains Model Railroader Kalmbach Publishing Company Kalmbach Publishing Company P.O. Box 1612 P.O. Box 1612 Waukesha, WI 53187-1612 Waukesha, WI 53187-1612 Toll-free telephone: 800-533-6644 Toll-free telephone: 800-533-6644 Website: http://ctr.trains.com Website: http://www.trains.com/mrr

Railfan & Railroad Railroad Model Craftsman Carstens Publications Carstens Publications 108 Phil Hardin Road 108 Phil Hardin Road P.O. Box 700 P.O. Box 700 Newton, NJ 07860 Newton, NJ 07860 Telephone: 973-383-3355 Telephone: 973-383-3355 Website: http://www.railfan.com Website: http://www.rrmodelcraftsman.com

Railway Age Trains 345 Hudson St. Kalmbach Publishing Company New York, NY 10014 P.O. Box 1612 Website: http://www.railwayage.com Waukesha, WI 53187-1612 Telephone: 262-796-8776
Website: http://trn.trains.com

Suggested Organizations and Web Sites
Amtrak Federal Railroad Administration Toll-free telephone: 800-872-7245 1120 Vermont Ave. NW, Stop 10 Web site: http://www.amtrak.com Washington, DC 20590
Web site: http://www.fra.dot.gov

National Model Railroad Association 4121 Cromwell Road Chattanooga, TN 37421 Telephone: 423-892-2846

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