Who populates your train town?

Posted by Bob Keller
on Wednesday, January 29, 2020

My memory says the first two figures on the left are from Town & Country. The porter is from a Plasticville station. The fellow with a travel bag was also from a later kit (I’m guessing a station). He had the misfortune of being painted by me. I believe the newspaper lad is from a pre-painted K-Line figiure set, while the unpainted woman with a basket is probably from a building kit. The figures on the snow were a find at a Michaels store (about 20 years ago) amid Christmas village decorations. I thought they were pretty close to scale. Finally, the tubby gray guy may be from a switch tower kit.

One of the best elements for helping to make any layout more “like real,” are people. This is another one of those bits of showmanship that work so long as it fits what YOU want to do.

I’ve seen layouts that had buildings, people, and vehicles plopped anywhere there was open space. I’ve also seen layouts with just a few figures posted at stations, maybe a switch tower, or factory siding. No matter which approach you take, there has never been a better range of O gauge compatible figures for hobbyists to use.

On my own layout I tend to buy what I like. Occasionally I might get a mixed baggie of people at a train show – getting maybe 10 figures for three or four to be used. I’m also prone to the “wow, that’s cool” factor. Further, even if some old school figures come with something like a K-Line or Plasticville building, I’m just as likely to find a good home on the railroad for them as I would people from a high dollar Preiser set. 

A few weeks ago I was rummaging through two shoeboxes of figures I wasn’t using to see what I could rotate out. I was really surprised by the overall variety of people I owned.

First things first, a newcomer to the hobby might be astonished by the variety in sizes O gaugers might use. Unlike HO, many may or may not be anywhere near 1:48 scale. Older figures (think Postwar) are a bit chunkier and far less detailed.

Newer figures may be closer to scale-size, but may scrimp on some details, or may vary in painting. Either way it is possible to use many of them on the same layout, just with a little stagecraft where you place them.For what its worth, since I rotate and re-position people frequently, I never glue them in place.

Here are some of my citizens, but I’m fuzzy on many of their corporation of origin!

So no matter how you populate your train city, there are plenty of options and you have the ability to make one-of-a-kind scenes that will make your layout’s visitors smile or laugh out loud.

Left-to-right are figures from Scenic Express, Ready Made Trains, the bag guy from Plasticville, Town & Country, top hat guy was from Michaels, but maker unknown; the gray trainman is probably Plasticville, the pink trainman from K-Line, and the loving couple from Arttista.

Just a close-up.

I believe the conductor was by Model Power, Town and Country, K-Line figure set, Model Power, Town & Country, and I’m pretty sure the hand truck guy is from a Woodland Scenics set.

These various sizes of figures would probably look crazy, if it were not for size variations for the most of the vehicles readily available the O gauge market.

This illustrates the variety in sizes of vehicles.

This mix of vehicles and figures might not work in some settings. A variety of figures can be used with good effect depending on how you set the scene and some creative stagecraft.

I use Games Workshop Space Marines and Sisters of Battle to protect key points of my railroad. Their foe are the insidious Necrons – living robots with mischief on their hive mind. Shown are three marines and a sister of battle. Two 1:50 Preiser figures document the scene, and the forklift is from a K-Line factory kit.

Games Workshop has upgraded their Space Marines, bringing them more in line with O gauge! These guys should be able to reduce the number of freight car taggers on your line!

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