TIPS & TECHNIQUES

Where are the engineers and firemen in our model steam locomotives?  It appears that for the most part, the cabs of our model steam locomotives are bare.  Aristo and USA do manage to put one engineer in their diesels, which is often on the wrong side, since they are placed by Chinese factory workers, but none are seen in any of their steam offerings. The other manufacturers (LGB, Bachmann, Accucraft) are also guilty of this omission. So who is running the trains?  I have found that the addition of an engineer and fireman will definitely add color and realism to your model steam locomotives.  I have talked with many other modelers and they agree completely with this, but are struggling to find the right figures for this purpose.
    In 1/29 we have the Aristo and USA seated engineer "clone".  Unfortunately, these all have the same clothing, hat, hair color, and those horrible red painted lips.  I think both companies buy large quantities of this guy just to put something in the cab of their diesels.  He does not even look like a North American locomotive engineer, and you only get one in your diesel and none in your steam locos.
    This clone engineer can be "modified" with paint so that no two will ever look alike again. I use the water based or acrylic craft paints that you find at Wal-Mart or Michaels for my paint source.  If you are really into figure painting, a company named Vallejo makes some excellent acrylics, which are used by many modelers that paint soldiers and do dioramas.  This paint is available on-line for purchase.  I have seen some of the results using this paint, and the finished product is quite spectacular.  Anyway, by re-painting these figures, you can get totally different looking figures, and can dramatically improve upon the original's looks.  You can change the shirt and bandana color, along with the color of the overalls.  You can also make him more modern by painting him to look like he is wearing a solid shirt and jeans instead of the traditional overalls. The hat color can be easily changed.  In fact, in my Mallet, the engineer sports one of those red engineer caps with the white polka dots.  You can also change hair color, and can remove the red lipstick that the Chinese apply to these figures.  If you are really ambitious, you can cut off the arms and reposition them.  Some Squadron putty is all that is needed to fill the gaps that may occur.  If you are really into figure painting, you can add shading and wrinkles to these railroad workers.  I noticed that in my new S-4 Switcher from USA, there are actually two figures in the cab, and they have different colored clothing.  Maybe someone has gotten to Charlie Ro about this, or maybe they just came from two different shipments.
    The steam locomotives are another story, and this is mainly what I am addressing in this article.  Any bare cab can be improved by adding both an engineer and fireman.  I have done this top my Aristo 0-4-0 Switcher, my Pacific, Mikado, and my Mallet.  Each of my engineers and firemen are painted differently, so that the variety in looks and clothing that you find in real life can be transferred to your model locomotives
    The Pacific is the one model that requires you to perform surgery on your figures to make them fit into the cab. For some reason, the cab was made smaller than the others in terms of headroom.  This may sound cruel, but you will have to cut off the feet of both figures to get them seated and into place.  This cutting is not noticeable when they are glued in place, and the figures look right from the cab windows.  The other Aristo locomotives have sufficient room for figures, so no surgery is required.  In all cases, I had to build cab seats for my crews from scrap styrene.  Most real steam locomotives did not have much of a seat for either crew member, and in many cases, the crew stood for a good deal of the trip leaning out of the cab, since these locos were not known for great forward visibility. Many cab seats were bare and of the fold-down variety.  The crews often padded them for comfort themselves.   Basically, you do not have to make any complicated looking seat, since you are only looking for something to glue the crew member to more than prototypical accuracy.  I do glue all my figures in place with Marine Goop, which has been very satisfactory for this use.
    The 0-4-0 Switcher was the one locomotive which has a different look in the cab.  I actually took the standing Fireman figure with the coal shovel, and glued him on the gangway as if he is shoveling coal.  Since the other locomotives had mechanical stokers, this figure would not be appropriate for them unless you cut off the shovel, and had him holding something else.
    There you have it.  A quick note on cab crews.  I will post pictures on my web site so that you can view these figures and see how much they add to the locomotives.  The figures are readily available from Aristo and will fit any 1/29 scale locomotive.  While I have not had the opportunity to work on a USA steam loco, the same installation method  should hold true. Preiser makes some figures in 1:22 scale which can be modified to work in LGB locomotives, and I have seen some figures on the internet which are 1:20 for Bachmann and Accucraft locomotives.  Try this tip, and see if your steam locos don't look more realistic. In fact, after looking at some close-ups of my crew photos, I am going to re-do them to show more detail and shading on the both their skin and clothing.
ENGINEERS AND FIREMEN