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Every figure can tell a story

By Clark Propst | July 21, 2021

Don’t just place figures on your layout – tell stories with them

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Figures near a model hopper car
Figures near a model hopper car
A trio of workers position a conveyor in preparation for unloading the hopper load of coal that’s just arrived. Clark Propst makes sure the figures on his HO scale model railroad don’t just stand around, but interact with the railroad. Photo by Clark Propst

When it comes to figures, it seems most modelers fall into one of two camps. Some use only figures in static poses, like sitting or standing. The others enjoy making active scenes, like busy station platforms or marching bands.

I don’t remember putting very many figures on my previous layout [featured in Great Model Railroads 2016 – Ed.]. I guess I just never considered them important. But when I was detailing my present layout [Model Railroad Planning 2018 and GMR 2019], I thought I would use figures to help tell the stories of my rail-served industries. I wanted to help the viewer understand what went into loading or unloading the freight cars I spotted there.

I wanted at least one such vignette in each of my three towns. Since I started building the layout at the end of the line and worked toward the beginning of the branch, I did the same with my figure scenes. I started at Story City, placing three little storytelling vignettes there, then made one at Roland and two more at Zearing.

Good looking miniature figures can be expensive. Make thoughtful decisions so their placement will help tell a story that will enlighten viewers.

 

Figure next to model wood barrel Figure next to model wood barrel
Model figures next to grain elevator Model figures next to grain elevator
Model figures next to grain elevator Model figures next to grain elevator
Figures next to model coal conveyor Figures next to model coal conveyor
Model figures next to building and vehicles Model figures next to building and vehicles
Figures next to model coal conveyor Figures next to model coal conveyor
Figure filling model gas truck with gas Figure filling model gas truck with gas
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