More About Scrounging FiguresThis is a followup to our article on Choosing Figures for your Garden Railroad". Actually, it didn't start out to be an article, just a paragraph in our Newsletter, but I figured it would take up too much room there. Actually writing this article was more of an accident than anything else. I stumbled across two unusual sources for Large Scale figures and figured I needed to report on them SOMEWHERE. So here they are.
Reminds me of the woman who was asked if her teenage son was an "accident." She said, "No, but he WAS a mistake.. . . "
Sorry, here's the content: One very strange source, one very cheap source, and a footnote about a very expensive but nice source.
The first batch of "found figures" come from a company that makes silly things that look like toy sets but aren't really meant for children, so you won't usually see them in a toy store. For example they make zombie office-worker "play sets," William Shakespeare action figures, and so on. I didn't realize they made figures that would pass for "Large Scale" until one of my readers found a use for the the Horror Movie Victims set.
Subsequently I realized that someone on eBay has been buying these sets and piecing them out as "Large Scale figures," usually for $5@ starting bid and $5 shipping. You don't have to pay $10@ to get these, though, if you buy them by the set. They are silly, they are shiny plastic, and they are more toy-like than models, but you might just have a use for them. For example, if you stage a scene of a mob of railfans taking photos of a train, the Paparazzi set below could come in handy.
Three silly, but potentially useful sets I found are shown in the table below. If you click on any of the photos below, you will be redirected to an Amazon page where you can actually buy these sets.
Import Your OwnAnother unusual source is a Hong-Kong-based eBay seller who manufacturers or has access to bulk "sets" of plastic figures in several scales. When I first saw these on eBay and recognized the obvious resemblance to several well-known LGB and Preiser figures, I assumed that someone had bought the name-brand figures, made rubber molds, and was making resin knockoffs of the name-brand figures. Later I heard that a garden railroad club had bought a "wholesale" quantity of their unpainted figures for a project and had cut-up, reglued, and painted enough figures to populate a city. So I thought I might as well investigate for myself.
Few Figures, Many Quantity Choices - When you visit one of these sites, you'll realize in a hurry that they sell a lot of different-sized packages of the same handful of figures. For example, they make ten 1:25 figures, so if you order a 20-piece set, you supposedly get two of each. On the other hand, they only make six 1:30 figures, so if you order a 20-piece set, you'll get three or four of each, and so on. So you have to pay attention.
Painted or Non-Painted - You can order the same sets painted or unpainted. Since there's only about a 15% price difference between the two, I ordered the painted. After all, I reasoned, if the paint jobs suck, it's still easier to touch up a figure someone else had painted than to paint the whole thing from scratch.
What I Ordered - The day I ordered, it was almost $3 cheaper to order the set in "Pounds Sterling" than it was to order it in dollars, so I ordered a set of twenty 1:25 painted figures, which cost me about $14 with shipping all the way from Hong Kong. The set should have included two of each figure shown to the right. That comes to about 70 cents a figure, which would represent a good value even if a couple were unusable. As an example, I wasn't sure I understood the "point" of the skinny girl/woman with the ridiculously short skirt and (if you trust the paint job), no shirt. By the way, I ordered this set from EveryDayGoodz' web page, but they don't offer as big a selection of Large Scale figures as they used to, so you'll need to shop around.
What I Got - My guess that these were direct resin knockoffs of name-brand figures was wrong - these are hard plastic, obviously injection molded, which requires a certain investment in hardware. Also, unlike most name-brand figures, they don't come standing in "plastic puddles," so you'll have to get creative about how you stand them up on your station platforms or whatever.
Unlike the manufacturer's photo, in which the figures are painted carefully in a nice flat finish, most of the paint is shiny, and it's not all applied very carefully. Also, some of the "flash" (extra material left from the molding process) remains on the figures, so if you want to touch them up, you should have an Xacto knife handy, too.
That said, most of them are "close enough" to use anywhere you need a bunch of folks that are several feet away from the viewers. The photo to the right shows the "arms akimbo" woman, obviously inspired by an LGB figure. Note that the painting is rough, and part of her hand is purple. That said, in a setting that is more than five feet away, she would be as useful as most $4@ figures. The fact that I have duplicates isn't a problem, either. I can use one facing the viewer and once facing away from the viewer in another setting, and it's really not that obvious. And if I really wanted to use her or her kindred up close, I can get out the paint brush and touch her up myself.
All of this was what I bargained for, with one exception. Instead of getting two of the standing woman with the camera, I got two extra of the skinny woman with the ridiculously short skirt. Because of the way she is molded, she is even less useful in person than she looks in the photo. One has since been cut in have to go into a coach as a passenger, and the other three have had their legs painted to represent pants. Second in relative uselessness is the girl with the cookies or whatever. I can't see using more than one of these anywhere on my railroad.
Benchwarmers - I was glad to get all of the sitting people that were supposed to come with the set, since I would like to populate some of my coaches. Also, there's no compelling reason not to hack-saw some of the standing people's legs off and use them, too. Or maybe I could order a 100-piece set, keep the benchwarmers, and sell the figures I don't need at the next train show. Ooops, I just gave some of you ideas . . . .
Club Hint - The best use for these might be for club purchases. The cost for figure goes down a little every time you increase the size of the package. So if you buy a pack of 100, you're getting them for about .50 each. It's hard to beat that. . . .
Bulk Order Hint - If you're supporting a huge Large Scale railroad, such as the Entertrainment Junction (north of Cincinnati, Ohio), you wouldn't mind getting whole lot of cheap figures. But having so many "clones" of the same seven or so figures would look funny, too. The garden railway clubs that support Entertrainment Junction have figured out how to overcome the "clone effect" with a fine-bladed Dremel and a lot of glue. Volunteers from the Greater Cincinnati Garden Railway Society and the Miami Valley Garden Railway Society (greater Dayton area) have spent countless hours reconfiguring and painting the little figures.
Painting Hint - The volunteers referred to above have had good luck using acrylic craft paints such as Plaid, Delta, and FolkArt. When daughter Molly offered to paint some figures for me, I brought out a bunch of FolkArt and Plaid that were onhand from other projects. I also tried several of those little blister-pack sets of acrylic paint to see if those would work as well for colors I didn't need a lot of. After buying two sets that were dried out at a local craft store, I bought the set shown in the photo to the left below at WalMart. It was nice and fresh. Before setting these outside, though, I plan to hit them with a coat of clear acrylic UV-resistant indoor-outdoor Krylon spray. This should protect the paint from fading or flaking.
Standing Hints - Unlike LGB, AristoCraft, and Lemax figures, these figures don't come standing in what Mark Horowitz calls "plastic puddles." For permanent installations, you could glue them directly to the sidewalks or whatever using an appropriate waterproof glue. A more typical, semi-permanent installation would including getting a very tiny drill bit, drilling up through one foot, gluing a wire in place, then drilling a tiny hole where you want to set the person.
For an open railroad in 2013, we wanted to be flexible, so I borrowed a page from the old Lifelike 1:32 working figure set. I made "bases" by salvaging a clear PETE (recycle #1) lid from a salad container, cutting it into pieces, sanding the figures' feet to make them stand straighter, and used cyanoacrylate ("super glue) to glue them together. Cyanoacrylate is not a permanent solution for buildings that I'm going to leave out all year long, but I don't usually leave my figures out all year long, so we'll see. The photo shows prepainted figures. I will hit them with clear acrylic before I set them out as well.
Finding the Figures - EveryDayGoodz sells figures in a wide range of sizes. Once you know what sizes they have, the easiest way to find the sizes you need is to go to their web page and enter the size in the search box. That said, here are the links for the most useful sizes they have for bigger-than-HO readers:
Note: I have no business relationship with EveryDayGoodz at all, except that I have bought some of their product. If you order something from them, pay by PayPal, so you have recourse if something doesn't work out. I HAVE asked them to consider adding 1:20 figures to their offerings.http://poe.o-honua.com/orderform.html . Thanks, Kevin
The "short version" is that if you keep your eyes out, you can find alternatives sources for many Large Scale accessories.
If you have anything you'd like to add, or any special "finds" you think our readers would like learning about, please contact us and we'll try to get it in on the next pass.
Best of luck, all,
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