People: Without Them Who Will Ride Your Trains?
There are several things that should be considered as you think about selecting people to live and work on your railroad. These considerations are the setting of your railroad, the timeframe you are trying to replicate, the scenes you want to create and the effects you want to achieve. In addition, you will want to determine if you want your people ready-to-go or in need of finishing.
The setting of the railroad will determine the style of person needed. If the railroad is a narrow-gauge western road, it will probably need a few small town inhabitants, some miners, cowhands and other rural folk. The train crews and maintenance workers will be dressed in regular work clothes of the day. Conductors are probably the only people who will have distinctive clothing. Passengers on these trains usually wore their everyday clothing with a few exceptions, such as gamblers and salesmen. Most people were dusty, disheveled and dressed plainly.
If the road is a standard gauge line, it will require some city dwellers, small town people and rural people. Standard gauge roads usually were crewed with people who wore distinctive clothing for many of the jobs they did. The people who road these lines were usually well dressed and reflected the styles of the day. Railroad employees were some of the best-paid people around. Business people, professionals and ordinary people used these roads for almost all travel outside their hometowns. These people dressed up to ride the trains.
For those who model in a specific timeframe, the clothing worn by the people on and around the railroad should reflect the styles of the day. There are several books and websites available to help visualize what the styles looked like for a particular era. There are hundreds of websites that can be found by simply typing in "1920 clothing styles" or "1950 clothing styles". These sites show you the kind of clothing and accessories worn for a time period. They also show the hairstyles, makeup and shoes worn by men, women and children for that era. Old magazines can also be a great help. The Saturday Evening Post, Life, Trains and Look all contain many pictures of people. All of these can help in the selection of the proper figures or can help in modifying a figure for an era.
A consideration for selecting figures is realism. There are many figures available to the Large Scaler that are created to realistically resemble the actual people who live and work on a railroad and who live in the towns or countryside modeled. If realism is important, then those figures that appear as real people should be chosen. The true test of a realistic figure is the molding and painting of the face and hair. Eyes, facial hair and lips are difficult to create and paint. There are few painted figures on the market for Large Scale trains that are realistic. There are many figures available that only are caricatures of real people. If accuracy is not something desired, then the caricatures offer less expensive alternatives for figures.
The scenes featured on the railroad also determine the kind of figures selected. Scenes are important because they draw the attention of visitors to certain areas on Large Scale railroads. In creating scenes, people play a major role. One scene that can be created might be an engineer, fireman, conductor and brakeman gathered beside a locomotive waiting to leave a station. These figures might also be found on the locomotive, caboose and other cars of a train in motion. In a town, a variety of people could be assembled at the station waiting for a passenger train, sitting at an outside café or looking for fruits and vegetables at a roadside stand. A newsboy could be selling papers along the street where pedestrians are walking, and a butcher might stand outside his shop. Any of these scenes will capture the imagination of anyone looking at the railroad.