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HO figures for an OO layout



Here's a brief illustrated write-up on my recent experiences with modified and detailed HO figures for Farthing.



My normal source of figures is to backdate OO whitemetal figures from Monty's and other ranges (see this separate blog entry). But this can be time consuming, and for pre-grouping modellers the options are limited. Like others before me I have therefore been attracted to the large German HO ranges, and especially Preiser who have a small series of figures from the Victorian and Edwardian period. Some of these can be seen on the Preiser website. The big issue is size. The photo above shows medium-sized figures from Preiser and two UK ranges. In this case, the height difference is not particularly noticeable. As an aside, the different OO ranges also seem to differ in average size, with Monty's often being slightly larger (and I suspect thereby more correct) than eg Langley.




In other cases, however, the size difference is quite noticeable. As this photo illustrates, it's not just the height difference, but just as often the difference in "bulk" that gives the game away.




So in my view, HO figures often cannot be mixed indiscriminately with OO figures, and often need to be used on their own or in carefully selected places on the layout. One place where I find them particularly suitable is in cramped loco cabs, where their small size is a distinct advantage. There are other examples of that in this earlier blog entry.




The large number of figures and poses in the German ranges means that there is good scope for light modification. Even if a particular type of figure isn't available, there is usually always one that has a similar stance and which can be modified with a little tweaking. This driver was originally a portly civilian frozen in mid-stride.




The Preiser figures are fairly well detailed compared to some of the UK whitemetal ranges, although it does differ from figure to figure. Further detailing doesn't hurt though, and beards are great period markers. Here I've added a beard using plastic putty from Model Color, applied with a wet needle to ensure it goes on without clumping.




Funky Victorians! Victorian beards are a whole study in themselves, it seems. These gentlemen sport different styles of plastic putty beards, based on the illustrations that I found on the internet.




The Preiser figures are rather brightly coloured as they come, so I tone down or repaint them. There are, of course, lots of figure painting techniques available on the internet, but some are a bit out of my league, and some just don't seem to work for 4mm scale. So I usually go for something simple and indicative.




In my view, faces are a particularly criticial area, and a model with a well-sculpted face (such as this one) makes a big difference in terms of realism.Painting eyes etc is particularly tricky in this scale, so if a face is well-moulded, I often simply give it a blackened wash and let it settle in the right places, touching up lightly with skin colour afterwards.




The difference when toned down/repainted is usually very significant!

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Superb photo's and an interesting read, cracking stuff!

Is there a website dedicated to Victorian facial growth and styling?!? ;)





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I love you 'layouts' with your attention to the little details having followed 'The Bay' since the days you ran the GWR Modelling web site and building a GW layout myself set c.1910-12.


On the question of suitable figures I don't know if you are aware of Hubert Carr or Model Railway Developments. He does a range of Edwardian figure including Sherlock Holmes etc (one wonders if a a 'Farthing's' story could come). Anyway I've included the web site for you.





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  • RMweb Gold

Is there a website dedicated to Victorian facial growth and styling?!?

Hi Andy. To my surprise, I couldn't find a site dedicated exclusively to Victorian beards (whatever is the world coming to :D ), but I picked up bits of fragemnted info here and there. Apparently there have been various academic books and articles about "The Victorian Bead Movement", but I didn't go that far!


Apart from the overview linked to in the text above, I rather liked the modern version of beard styles found here: http://bestbeardtrimmer.org/types-of-beards/ . Of course, there is also: http://thebritishbeardclub.org/

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  • RMweb Gold

On the question of suitable figures I don't know if you are aware of Hubert Carr or Model Railway Developments. He does a range of Edwardian figure including Sherlock Holmes etc (one wonders if a a 'Farthing's' story could come). Anyway I've included the web site for you.


Hi Dave, interesting that you bring up the MRD figures. There's been a bit of discussion about them on here previously, but only a few people seem to have actually seen/used them. I hear that they are rather tall. Unfortunately the website does not show the figures very clearly - do you happen to have any experience with them?


Sherlock Holmes certainly sounds interesting. There are one or two suspicious looking characters on the bay platform at Farthing!

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Excellent Mikkel - Terrific detail and the makeovers are incredible - assuming you have 20-20 vision still?

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Hi Mikkel :)


Another fantastic post, they are always so insperational!


I have gone through a similar experience in 2mm. These days there are so many 'cheap' figures you can get from China but as with the presier figures they are not quite to scale so you have to be careful where they are used. I dont know if you go through the same thing as me but when I am 'modifying' figures it really scares me chopping off limbs and the like to change the poses. Once you start working on them they develop a character which makes serious surgery that much harder!


The beard names made me chuckle though.


Missy :)

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  • RMweb Gold

Surely there is some need for various size figures? After all, everyone is not a regulation 6' tall with perfect BMI. :) The two women you posted for example, could be mother and daughter?

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Something to bear in mind when choosing figures is that our ancestors were, on average, shorter than we are today. This means that HO figures, whilst probably too small to be used on a layout depicting the contemporary scene, might be pretty close to the correct size for the VIctorian and Edwardian eras.

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  • RMweb Gold

@ Missy:

So you are modifying 2mm figures? Amazing. Please can we see some photos of those on your blog! (I don’t think you’ve posted any yet?). Yes it does seem a bit strange sometimes, chopping off limbs. I would love one day to put on a straight face and tell my neighbour that I have a box full of heads in my basement!


@ 57xx:

In that case, I know immediately who is the mother and who is the daughter :-). Seriously though, it’s an important point you make, and yet sometimes I feel that the size difference just doesn’t look natural? (eg the very different head sizes of the two women in question?).



That’s a good point, I hadn’t thought of that. Checking Wikipedia just now give these data:


* Average height of English troops born in the mid-nineteenth century: 1.66 m (5 ft 5 1⁄4 in)

* Average height of English men aged 25-34 in 2008: 1.776 m (5 ft 10 in)


No doubt there are all sorts of issues with that comparison, but using it off-hand, that’s about a 13% increase, which is not far from the difference between 1:87 and 1:78...



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Yip, an interesting topic. I bought some Preiser figures for my modern image TMD and I'm afraid they just don't look right. They look small. I am going to change them for true 00 scale figures at some point. Interesting idea about the footplate staff. Think you could perhaps get away with Ho scale here. Perhaps not.

Don't know if as suggested its head size or waist measurement

(I must be jumbo size if that is the measure!!) :rolleyes:


but to me they somehow just don't look correct.


Like all things though, personal opinion.


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  • RMweb Gold

Hi Chris. Interesting to hear about your experiences.


I very much agree that the Preiser figures sometimes look too small. They do seem to vary in height though, from set to set and figure to figure (as does the OO ranges btw). I think the figures shown in the photos look OK on my platform (will post some photos in due course), but I have one other set where they are too much on the small side, as you have experienced.


I think it's necessary to (1) be very selective when choosing them (ie choosing those that look right and have a reasonable height), and then (2) placing them in strategic positions. As mentioned above they often don't look good right next to an OO figure.

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Another late comment/question even though I have read this before ages ago.  How did you reposition the arm?  Did you cut and re-glue, or did you heat it up say in hot water and then just move it? 


I am going to try the heating method myself but if that is the method you have used then I am keen to hear from someone with more experience and expertise.


I actually do love your figures and come back often for thoughts how to make more late Victorian .


I have some MRD figures and I think they vary in size, the sitting down ones I think are ok.  I have the station Master who is quite tall.  I also have some of the new Mike Pett figures and they are rather large.  His Watson I would not like to tackle as he is 6' 6" and quite broad.  Nice detail though.



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  • RMweb Gold

Hi Chris, as far as I remember I cut the arm partially through, tweaked it to position and glued. I also added some filler afterwards.


I haven't tried heating but I can see the point, especially with the plastics in these figures which don't always glue so well. Would be interested to hear of your experiences.


I agree about the size variation with the MRD figures. Can I ask where you got the Mike Pett figures?

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Thank you for your reply.  I tried heating a Preiser figure up in boiling water but for the type of plastic Preiser use it is not hot enough.  I have just Googled some information and one suggestion is to heat it up with a hair dryer.  I am getting some figures that I can afford to do this on and will try it and let you know.


The Mike Pett web site is http://modelrailwayfigures00.co.uk/


As I mentioned some of his figures are very big.  Although he has a web site you have to write and send him a cheque. They are quite a good quality though.  I am disappointed that he has repeated figures from other ranges.


I was speaking to Hubert Carr recently and he said that MRD was going to produce some more figures, the next apparently being a suffragette which might be interesting but a little limited.


All the best,


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  • RMweb Gold

Many thanks for that, Chris. That sounds interesting about the hair dryer! Railway modelling is such a strange but fun hobby :-)


The Station Master from Mike Pett does look rather good, a shame if it is too big. I assume that means the head would also be too big if put on another figure. Sometimes I just use the head of a figure - a bit wasteful but a good head with realistic features is worth its weight in gold (what an odd sentence!).  


I wonder how Hubert Carr will do the suffragette. Ie what makes a suffragette look different from any other woman of the period?

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I tried the hair dryer and the first problem is that you have to anchor the figure in some way as the hair dryer just blows the figures away!  When I did manage to heat them up the figures began to shrink and they were not malleable so it looks like it is back to 'cutting and sticking'.

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Nearly 8 yrs after the initial post, I'm printing off a copy of this post so I have a copy for my "How To" file. !!

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  • RMweb Gold

Glad if it's of use Harry. In case you don't know, some excellent 4mm figures have come on the market since then, i.e. Andrew Stadden's Edwardian figures and the developing range from ModelU.

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