Is it just me, or is it difficult to find appropriate and realistic figures in HO? Maybe I’m not looking hard enough, but it seems to me that the companies making scale figures are putting a great deal of energy into what I’d call “novelty” figures, and not paying nearly enough attention to the basics.
Recently, I started to take note of the people in the reference photos I use for modelling. Roster shots and the like almost never have people in them. That’s verboten by the conventions of the genre, but action shots are often populated with humans. Most often, these people show up as crew members sitting in the cab of a locomotive, barely discernable in the shadows. I’ve seen brakemen standing on the platforms of switchers, operators hooping orders to a passing train or giving a visual inspection as it rolls past, head-end crew members walking together toward their train, conductors standing on the platform of a caboose. Many times, I’ve seen a couple of brakemen conferring with each other, either on the ground or on the locomotive, and sometimes talking into a radio.
I decided that it would be nice to populate my models with the occasional person or two. I’m specifically modelling the ’70s, so I thought that having three crew members riding a locomotive might suggest an era when more people crewed a train. To that end, I started searching online and at my not-so-local mega model train store for natural looking miniature people to populate my models. What I found was frustrating.
It seems that I’d be in luck if my miniature crew members wore suits and carried briefcases, or were women either sunbathing or on a stripper pole. What’s up with model railroaders and scale naked people?
I could easily model an entire European circus or a zoo complete with every conceivable animal.
There are plenty of steam locomotive engineers with polka-dot scarves and bright blue shirts, right elbow on the armrest, left harm high in the air on the throttle. That guy is usually sold along with his wing-man: a half-stooped fireman with a shovel, in mid-throw as he stokes the firebox. These two are ubiquitous.
It seems Preiser is the leader in quality and variety of HO figures. They sell all manner of scale railroad employees from Germany, Switzerland, Italy, England, Japan, and the Netherlands, to name just a few. Clearly their market is assuredly NOT North American because the requisite North American casual wear worn by nearly every train crew in photos I’ve seen taken in the ’70s is conspicuously absent. The plain old blue jeans, t-shirts, and running shoes is not to be found among the garb of their puny people. What is common among the Preiser’s scale population is headwear. Apparently the HO scale haberdasheries are thriving in the world of HO scale figures.
It seems there is a much more lucrative market for WWII soldiers (of all ranks) in HO scale than North American train crew figures. One can build entire battle groups consisting of uniquely posed individual soldiers, but good luck trying to find three middle-aged guys wearing dungarees and t-shirts, standing in natural and relaxed poses.
C’mon Preiser! What makes you think that people actually wear yellow flood pants? Maybe that’s what people wear in Europe; I don’t get there often enough to know. All of the manufacturers of miniature figures are guilty of assuming that people should be represented as if frozen the midst of some flailing gesture that suggests they’re being pursued by zombies or killer bees. By the way, if you’re looking for HO scale zombies and beekeepers, my bet is that someone makes them, plus mermaids hanging laundry. I can’t believe there’s a bigger market for HO scale minotaurs than North Americans in casual clothing.