March 10, 2010

Making a 1860's Era Train Crew

efore I get back to track laying, I wanted to finish up some figure painting and modification projects I had going on. This time I wanted to build a head end crew for one of my trains. I planned for an engineer, conductor and brakeman.

The engineer started off as a Woodland Scenics figure. He was seated with his left arm raised. This pose works for a more modern steam engine with a transverse seat and an elevated Johnson Bar. But my locomotives have longitudinal seats and lower Johnson bars.

Dave Schnieder and I corresponded about this. He convinced me that engineers in this period operated their engines while standing. To hang out the window like the engineer is doing in the prototype picture at the left, he had to kneel with at least one knee on the seat.

Armed with that information, I began converting the Woodland Scenics engineer. First I cut him at the waist and drilled holes in torso and hips for a piece of wire. Then I cut his right leg at the knee. I sanded the pieces so that he could be kneeling on this leg.

Next I cut the left leg at the hip and knee. Drilling holes for small bits of wire and pinning the pieces together allowed me to adjust this leg so that the figure could fit in the cab.

The head on the Woodland Scenics figure is not well molded and has a hat that I didn't like, so I cut it off. I also removed the bandana.

I used a bearded head with a square slouch hat from Sash and Saber. I made a sack coat from a piece of Magic Sculpt putty that I rolled out to a thin sheet. I also used the Magic Sculpt to fill in gaps. If you haven't worked with two part molding epoxy, I recommend you try it. It is a bit tricky to learn how to use, but is great for sculpting of figures. This engineer is named Schaefer, in memory of a good friend.

The conductor is a wild west figure from an forgotten UK manufacturer (either HLBS, Rabble or Stadden). I filed his hat to look more like a slouch hat instead of the ten gallon, wide brimmed Stetson he was hearing.

The seated figure is a 1/43rd scale engine crew figure from Trackpass, unmodified.

Here they are working their engine at Falmouth. The engineer is glued into the cab.

I eventually plan to name all the figures on the layout. If you paint a figure, it or another will bear your name. So if you want to be included let me know. The recruitment office tells me that Captain Drye has a company of men ready to join the Army, plus several sutlers, surgeons and other assorted folk.

Here is a video showing the B&O Mason #25, a 4-4-0 being operated. This is the oldest running steam engine in the USA. Note how the engineer stands. Thanks to James for the link to the video.


  1. Very nice job Bernie...The layout is starting to come alive. Naming the figures personalizes it even more and gives the RR character.

  2. Thanks. We need to find a suitable figure for you.

  3. Great job Bernie. I rode in the cab of B&O's 4-4-0 Mason #25 years ago and the engineer operated the loco from the same position. Someone posted a video of their own cab ride on Youtube. here is the link:

  4. James,
    Thanks. I moved that link up to the post so it can be embedded for easier viewing. I think it is the same clip that Dave Schneider referenced in our earlier conversation.

  5. Very nice mini-clinic on how to modify the figs to fit the period. Layout & backdrop looks great!.

  6. Hey Bernie,

    The figures look great and adds life to your layout.
    We'll have to discuss about some figures for me to paint.

  7. Beautiful job on restoring the 4-6-0 Thatcher Perkins. Thanks for the links.

    My research indicates that the USMRR did not run 4-6-0s on the A&F. That's probably a good thing as the tight radii near Falmouth would probably cause them grief on my model version.

  8. Good stuff. One item on my bucket list is to scratch build a model of the Alexandria roundhouse. Although it was big, it was still a manageable size.

  9. I deleted the links posted in the comments as some don't work. The HAER links tend to time out.

  10. Matt GoodmanMay 16, 2010

    Nice information on figure modification. However, seeing the poor guy cut up was vaguely disturbing!