People of the Wetton valley

There are a bewildering number of model figures available for our large scale railways. Even in the 4 and a bit years that I have been active in the hobby, this number has grown and grown. These little people range from accurately sculptured representations through the whimsical to childrens toys which can be re-painted and converted into a more accurate looking model. Price ranges are suitable for all pockets too, in fact some of the childrens toys can be found in charity shops for a matter of pence. Here are some of the small people who inhabit the environs of the Wetton Gooey Light Railway listed by manufacturer.
Preiser are a German company who have been creating beautifully sculptured figures for many years and for all railway scales from Z to G. Of course, you pay for such quality. This (and current exchange rates) means that Preiser figures can cost as much as 10 to 15 pounds each - especially the top of the range models like Big Jack above.
One of the issues that I have with Preiser is their choice of subjects. Some of their latest releases include the Pope, Vampires and ladys of ...... errrr ........ shall we say .......doubtful virtue. They even make a scene in HO where a woman has been taken hostage and has a gun to her head. Unbelievable! Also, several of their models are sculptured in what may be classed as "action" poses. For me, models of people running etc. don't work as well as one that is less active (such as Big Jack again), after all our model figures are frozen in time and one that is just stood watching the world go by looks much more convincing than one frozen in mid leap.
So, Preiser's sculptors are the masters of the art in my opinion, but do appear to get carried away. Another example - they make a lovely pair of golfers, but they are both in "mid shot". Surely one of them should be leaning on his club while his partner takes her shot? Simply a matter of golfing etiqutte apart from anything else?
Some of Preiser's mouldings have been sold on to other companies, notably Pola. However, these Pola figures are unpainted (Preiser sell both painted and unpainted figures) and cost pretty much the same as the originals. But there are other examples of this outsourcing. Some of the cheap 1/25th plastic model vehicles come with a couple of figures taken from Preiser moulds. These vehicles can be bought for around a tenner and the figures (which come badly painted) re-painted to bring  them back to Preiser standard. These 2 workmen came with such a vehicle marketed by "Dickie".
Bachmann's G scale Scenecraft range only arrived in the shops a couple of years ago. The range includes railway personnel, Police figures, passengers (both standing and seated) and railway workmen. For me these figures represent the best compromise between well sculptured (and painted) models at a reasonable price. Many dealers do special deals at shows when these figures can work out at just £2.50 each.
Admittedly these figures are not always as good as Preiser (although some come very close), but for value for money, they are hard to beat.
The workmen below are investigating a land-slip near Castle Halt.
This range of figures come from the USA. They are beautifully sculptured and come un-painted. They are available in GB from Back2Bay6. Prices are at the top end of the scale (around a tenner each), but once again - you pay for quality. Being American models, some modification may be required for British modellers. For instance, their train engineers are modelled wearing gauntlets (see below)- something rarely seen with British railway men.
George is an independant model maker selling via the internet and the occasional show. His forte is model boats, but his range also includes a number of figures in the garden railway scales. These figures are moulded in resin and come unpainted. The mouldings are often a little "rough" and need cleaning up. One of the issues that I have with George's models is that their legs seem a little short in relation to their bodies to my eyes. However, by positioning models carefully such inaccuracies can be hidden - as with the tram fireman above. One of my favourite model figures.
I would place Modeltown's figures in the whimsical bracket. Their resin figures are well priced, but lack the detail of many other brands. Their sculpting is also a little amateur to my eyes, hardly suprising for a relatively low volume manufacturer. However, when I decided to add an RAF base to my railway, their military figures fitted the bill as with Flying Officer Boot seen here returning from a spot of leave with the old Mems'ahb.
Like several other manufacturers, LGB supply driver figures in many of their locos. They also make a range of seperate figures such as passengers and track workers. These figures have quite a range when it comes to quality, some being up to Preiser's high standards, others looking a little toy like for me. However, one thing that they all tend to have in common is a high price (once again, partly due to current exchange rates). My personal preference is that I will only buy LGB figures if they are heavily discounted, but I'll let you make your own mind up. Just compare these LGB workmen to the Bachmann models above and bear in mind that (at full price) the LGB figures would be almost twice the cost.
Noch are another German manufacturer. Their figures are sold singly and ready painted. I would put their standards of painting and sculpture at being somewhere between Preiser and Bachmann, but (that darned exchange rate again) their prices are at the top end of the market. Many of Noch's figures have a slightly tongue in cheek appearance, like the fighting boys.
I'm always on the look out for suitable figures and vehicles in toy and charity shops. People often ask me how I can be sure if they are the right size. But I'll guarantee that most people walk around with a garden railway people sized gauge in their pockets or wallets - the dreaded credit card. An average G scale figure will scale out at pretty much exactly the same height as a standard credit card stood on it's end (a 16mm figure will be slightly larger), but always bear in mind that people are all sorts of different heights and (within reason) there is some latitude in these measurements. Getting your credit card out in a charity shop will certainly get the staff interested!!
Many toy farm and zoo manufacturers make very nice model people that can be useful in our scales, Schleich and Pappo amongst them. These are also widely available on line.
The young girl with the lamb is a Pappo toy. As a child she would be spot-on for 16mm, for G scale she repersents a tall teenager (they raise healthy, growing girls on the Welsh border).
As with many things in the land of the railway modeller, it is often the case that the exact figure that we want is not available from the manufacturers (unless you REALLY need a Preiser Pope). Some of the smaller manufacturers (such as Rob Bennett) will make commisions, but these (obviously) come at a price. All is not lost though as a little work can often result in a figure which will fit your railway's need. 
Having recently retired, I wanted the WGLR to reflect certain aspects of my working life - namely, an RAF base and a fire station. As mentioned above, the Modeltown range (and Busybodies) offer a range of people in military uniform, but I'm afraid they aren't really to my tastes. So the only answer was to modify figures from my preferred manufacturers, namely Preiser and Bachmann. A little careful knife work, some Miliput filler (for the ties and berets) and a re-paint resulted in these RAF figures. The two airmen started life as a Preiser and a Model Citizen passenger and the RAF Police dog handler is a simple re-paint of a Bachmann civilian Bobby with a Preiser German Shepherd.
When it came to modelling British firemen of the late 1960's, a little more work was involved. The base figures were again from Preiser (80's German Firemen), but much more knife work was involved (verging on surgery) together with some real sculpting to make the difficult shapes of the typically British fire helmets.
However, after a coat of paint, I was quite happy with the outcome............
As a footnote to this - after the recent publication of my article in the Garden Rail magazine, the editor passed an email on to me from a reader who had been scouring the internet looking for the fire engine (also a bash involving 2 seperate kits) and the manufacturer of the firemen which he'd seen in my pictures.
This thread is not a complete run-down of all the manufacturers of model figures either in existence, or represented on the WGLR. It is merely my personal musings on what may be useful to others........ together with my own bias, for which I hope you will forgive me.