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Footplate crew



I've been on the lookout for 4mm pre-grouping drivers and firemen recently, but so far with limited success. Meanwhile, here's a couple of modified ones from IKB. For me, tiny projects like these are as much fun as the more substantial work.





The IKB fireman seen above is unusual in that, unlike 90% of 4mm firemen, he is not furiously shovelling! Unfortunately the mould lacks a bit of bulk, so I extended his girth using plastic putty. The nose was re-sculpted and the original whiskers were replaced in order to enhance relief and character. The camera has interpreted the trousers as black, while in reality I've given them a blueish tone. (Edit: See discussion on colour of jackets below).






The driver uses the IKB body and the re-sculpted head of a Langley cartage man. The IKB crew actually includes a couple of extra heads, which is a great idea but I had already used these on other figures. The arms have been repositioned to reduce the stick-like appearance.






Here's the crew temporarily mounted in a River Class loco. The loco was built to near-finished condition by the late Dave Perkins from a Peter K kit, and is now allocated to Farthing. There are various issues with the paintjob and boiler fittings that I need to look into (my doing, not Dave's), but she is a very sweet runner.






The IKB crew is nominally "Victorian" by design. However the characteristic buttoning of jackets at the top is also evident on footplate men in some Edwardian photos. Having said that, the pre-grouping uniforms of GWR footplate crew don't seem to be very well described in the literature, and I'm unsure exactly what is correct for Edwardian times.


In fact, a casual scan of photos from that period reveals a bewildering variation in the styles of jackets and caps worn by footplate crew. One pitfall here seems to be that many of the people on the footplate in such photos aren't actually crew, but inspectors etc. I also have a theory that drivers and firemen sometimes put on their private clothes and/or headwear in order to look decent in photos. Finally, given their working conditions I'm guessing that footplate crew resorted to a variety of protective clothing at different times of the day and year. Perhaps not all of this was standard?


While on the subject of figures, I hear that Falcon offer some good 4mm footplate crew, but I am unsure what period they are for, and whether they are obtainable on-line? Oh, and wouldn't it be great if we had something like the 7mm Heroes of the Footplate range in 4mm scale! [Edit April 2022: We do now! See the Andrew Stadden and Model U ranges].



Edited by Mikkel

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  • RMweb Gold

Yes, it's amazing what a difference it makes to a loco when you add the crew, isn't it.


For your own current project you would have quite a choice of Playmobil figures to choose from for the footplate, although I guess making them look realistic would be rather tricky! laugh.gif

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Hi Mikkel, it's good to see what can be done with the IKB figures as I have some, as yet unpainted, waiting to crew my Buffalo and Dean Goods when they finally emerge from the paint shop. I know what you mean about the variety of dress at this time. There was a discussion about the colour of blue overalls last April, but that only addressed more recent times and, when Hayfield asked about the big four era and I asked about pre-grouping, it mysteriously dried up :unsure: As far as I can see, the white fustian jacket was standard, at least for drivers, up to the 1870s, but can still be seen in photos up to the turn of the century. As you say, in the late Victorian and Edwardian periods almost anything is possible. What's not at all clear is when the standard blue colour appeared, but my impression (on virtually no evidence) is that it's probably later. For that reason I wonder about both of your crew having blue jackets...



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  • RMweb Gold

Hi Nick, thanks for picking this up - I was hoping to get some response on this issue at there doesn't seem to be much information available on it.


Actually the colour of the jackets in the photos is grey (which is also how they show up on my screen, but apparently not on yours). I must admit I chose this colour partly because I have seen it used by other modellers of the era - always a dangerous move! - and partly because it seems to tally with what I can make out from photos.


In the Slinn Book ("GW Way") I noticed the mention of white fustian jackets being phased out in the 1870s, and that they probably remained in use for some time after that. But could they really have survived another 30 years into the 1900s? Or are the jackets which appear in photos from Edwardian days perhaps the next generation of footplate jackets, worn on top of the standard uniform in order to provide protection from soot etc?


I painted the trousers and caps dark blue (although they show up black in the photos blink.gif), simply because I have read that this was the colour used on "all grades of staff" at this time, and I had no better evidence to go on...

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  • RMweb Gold

Interesting stuff Nick! I don't have the Vaughan book, so that is great info. As for earlier photos, I trawled through the GWR e-list and found this response by Dave Perkins (the man who built the River class above, quite a coincidence!) to a similar query made way back in 2005:


"Although they may not have been required, photographic evidence tells

us that the white "fustian" jackets were being worn long after 1855

and not just by footplate staff. For some good examples see "Taunton

in the 1880s" published by by the BGS.


As well there are still a few instances of footplate staff wearing

either fustian jackets, or something very light coloured of a similar

cut, in "An Edwardian Album of GWR Pasenger Classes by Roger

Carpenter (Wild Swan 1983) which features photos from ca 1904.

This kind of apparel was fairly commonplace among the workforce

generally being cheap and long lasting. Royal Navy working dress up

until ca 1920 was inexpensive unbleached white duck."


I have the latter book referred to by Dave + a couple of others, and will have a second look at them to see if I can provide a description from these earlier years. Meanwhile, these links to photos of footplate crew from other times and companies made me realize that the practice of buttoning jackets with just the top button seems to have been widespread among footplate men across eras:




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  • RMweb Gold

Well I've now had another look through various volumes covering the period around the turn of the century. This includes "An Edwardian Album of GWR Passenger Classes" (photos c. 1902-1904), "Great Western at the turn of the century" (nominally late 1800s and early 1900s) and "Edwardian Enterprise" (1900-1910). I was not able to identify any definitive major changes over this period (and many photos are not dated), but here's a summary:


* Again, light jackets over waistcoat seems to have been the norm. Trousers often much darker than the jacket (dark blue?) but not always. Caps dark like the trousers. Ties not immediately apparent in most photos, especially earlier period. Drivers sometimes with watch chained to waistcoat.


* Jackets have either four or five buttons (although hard to say in many cases), frequently buttoned at the top only (by both drivers and firemen), but not always. When jackets are fully buttoned they seem to be slightly darker, which might suggest that there were two types of jackets - perhaps the lighter ones were the old white fustian types still going strong? One shot shows two apparently similar jackets with different arrangement of pockets.


* In some of the shots the driver seems to be wearing a different and more formal style than the fireman, with darker clothing and a stiff cap. I get a sense this is especially the case in earlier photos. Looking at Slinn's description, there seems to have been a general changeover towards a slightly less formal attire in GWR uniforms in 1902. This includes introduction of soft caps to most grades (see also: http://www.gwr.org.u...esuniforms.html). Perhaps during this change the drivers lost their more formal attire, and the uniforms of drivers and firemen became the same?


So where does this leave us? Confused at a higher level, I guess smile.gif . It would be good to know how staff obtained their uniforms, and whether they carried the same uniform as long as they remained within a particular grade, or changed it when new styles were introduced. Also, were there regional differences (eg Wolverhampton vs Swindon)?


For my own part I think I'll resort to a temporary cop-out until further info becomes available, ie paint the jackets of my footplate crew a light grey (aged white fustian) with a slightly blue tone (just to be safe biggrin.gif ) and maintain the dark blue trousers and caps. BTW, here's a few examples of how other modellers have addressed the issue, reflecting rather nicely the apparent diversity seen in prototype photos smile.gif :


http://www.leemarshmodelmaker.co.uk/ - see the Stella in the gallery

http://www.gwr.org.uk/galroles1.html - see the River

http://www.gwr.org.u...lmitchell2.html - see the 517


(Warning: Clicking those links is a humbling experience!) biggrin.gif

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  • RMweb Gold

Hi Chris, I can imagine this must be tricky in 2mm. It's interesting really, how we now demand of ourselves that our modelling - including figures - must look real even when enlarged to many times their actual size! smile.gif


I found a website of a shop called Modelpower in NY, which I assume are the ones you mean: http://www.modelpower.com/

They do actually have an HO range of figures that I've not seen befiore, will have a closer look - many thanks.



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  • RMweb Gold

Thanks Chris. And the driver is made for right hand drive I see, as all good drivers should be biggrin.gif

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I've just started (both on here and modelling) and wondered if you would share your sources for 4mm figures. I just completed my first diorama, and struggled to find suppliers of Edwardian figures .(see my novice attempt in the 2010 challenge - it's 'City of Birmingham' 3434)

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  • RMweb Gold

Hi Bob, I saw your cameo with the City and rather liked it.


Good Edwardian figures in 4mm are a bit thin on the ground in my experience.


* The driver and fireman in this particular blog post are modified IKB ones, but there is only the one set as far as I know. I believe it is the "Victorian" crew on this page:



* Many of the other figures seen on Farthing are modified from the excellent Monty's range, which in my view are the best around in 4mm:



- but they are from the 1920s onwards period, so need modification. Examples of modified ones can be seen here:



* There are also figures from Langley, although these require "padding" as they are a bit stick-like



* Aidan Campbell also has some, which are very nice in their own way, if the charicatured style appeals to you:



* Finally, there is this website with a whole range of Edwardian figures. I have not tried or seen these, and it is a little difficult to assess the quality from the website:



* PS: Another route is to use some of the HO ranges from the German manufacturers (eg Preiser). They are notably smaller though, and require careful positioning to avoid this being obvious, especially if close to OO figures. I have recently begun using modified ones for loco crews, eg:


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You are of the same opinion as me then. I bought a mixture of Dart and Langley for that first effort of mine, and found the Dart ones to be much better quality, in terms of detail, than the others. I've just ordered a bunch more from them for my next project, although I won't hold my breath this time, as their attitude to delivery times is akin to that of Spanish builders. I'm also trying some figures from Autocraft this time.


I did buy the 'Edwardian woman with parasol' (not sure she shows on the pictures already posted) from MRD, but Lord knows what scale they're using. Had I not hacksawed off the bottom 1mm or so (luckily she had a long dress), she would have been about 7 feet tall, and she dwarfed the 'Langley' man standing next to her. She was also very 'broad in the beam' across the shoulders and face, so I gave her a quick squeeze in the mini-vice to give her more lady-like proportions.


I've already spent an amiusing time looking through the Preiser catalogue, and I appreciate your 'heads up' about scale. That is my concern with U.S. and continental manufacturuers, because their model railways are a slightly different scale, is that right? I will have to have a look at IKB though, for the sake of some variety.


Thanks agian for the advice!



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  • RMweb Gold

Bob, many thanks for sharing your experiences. You're acturally the first person I have "met" to have tried out the MRD figures. The lady in question does sound rather tall (!), although I actually find the Dart castings people a bit on the short side. I guess modellers are a hard bunch to please :) . Yes the US and continental figures are typically for HO, meaning they are 1:87, while OO of course is 1:76. As for IKB, the range sadly only consists of the two figures in the loco crew set, AFAIK.


I wasn't aware that Autocraft do figures, that sounds interesting. Is there a website for them?

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Yes, Autocraft have a website - but it's pretty poor for navigating - http://www.autocraft.plus.com/index.html


I bought two of their porters with trolleys through Ebay (autocraftmodels they're know as on there), but I'm darned if I can find any reference to them on their website (mind you it is a year out of date!) and I'm sure they are copies of something I've seen elsewhere (perhaps Springside or Dart.) Their photos are sort of BR, but mine are as yet unpainted and will be modified to look more in period.


Like you said, I am wondering if I'm too hard to please as regards detail, but I'm sure I recollect from my childhood, having a set of Airfix 'civilians' that had better detail than the stuff from Langley and MRD.

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Well it's been a while Mikkel, but your beautifully detailed work inspired me to make my own effort. Having had the problems of sourcing Edwardian pieces last time, I plumped for the easier option and created something of a little later than your time period. My "The 'up' goods from Stourbridge" diorama depicts a goods yard somewhere in the SW Midlands circa 1930.




Still learning as I go....

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  • RMweb Gold

Hi Bob, what a great slide show, the scenes are so full of atmosphere. I especially like the look into the goods shed with the open van, and the company vehicle having its wheel changed :-) The colours blend together very nicely, that's often one of the hardest bits, I find.


The Replica/Bachmann panniers are my favourite RTR locos, you make them look really good. Often fancied building a whole layout around a couple of these, eg the Brentford branch, which had several of them working the docks there.


Many thanks for sharing - brightened up the evening of a dreary day!

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Thanks for the praise (never feel I've got it quite right whatever I do).


Sad to hear your day is dreary. Isn't your latest project something to brighten the day?


If you have to use bits & bobs from the bottom of the Ebay bargain bin (which I do), then old Replica (Bachmann China) locos are hands down the best for detail (when you can get them).


If you like atmosphere, you should see it with the yard lights on and no ambient lighting. Just a bit of mist, and you could be there on an Autumn evening....but then my crappy camera wouldn't be able to show you the detail (what do you use, by the way, to get those pin sharp macro shots?)


What do you do with them once they're done though? The fun for me was in the doing; solving problems and such. Now it's finished, I'm at a loss to find something to do with it, not having any space. Donate it to Didcot museum?


A friend has suggested that my next project be a period piece of Wemyss Bay Station, but I fear both my skill and space would be sadly lacking....


I know I'm a novice in the figure painting department, but I have to share with you the small success I've recently been having with modified Dart Castings figures, selling them on Ebay as Doctor Who & Tardis for the OO scale collectors. This was the prototype....


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  • RMweb Gold

Yard lights and mist sounds really good - I can see that is must be hard to photograph though!


The camera I use is an Olympus "mju". Allround, it is definetely nothing special and I would not really recommend it anymore (!) as there are now much better offerings out there. But it happens to have a macro function for close-ups that works well, and it is very small so can be plonked anywhere on the layout.



As for sharpness, I tend to simply take multiple shots until one is actually in focus :-) But the depth of field is not good, as you'll notice. Chris Nevard's photography is fantastic, talk about sharpness!


Sounds like you're a serial layout builder rather than an operator :-) Wemyss Bay station would be quie something as a model. If you like challenges and problem-solving why not go for it? (easier said than done, I think!). Don't know if anyone has done a layout of it before?

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  • RMweb Gold

Bob, that is a fantastic photo! I hope you'll post it in the "Realistic images" album. Many thanks for sharing, there is much inspiration in there.

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