Workshop‎ > ‎

Shorter Staff - from Roundhouse!

by Chris Bird

This article was written back in February 2020. Today (26th March 2020) Roundhouse have announced them as their new range at £12 each. There are initially four different figures.

The Article

Finding suitable staff for the garden railway has always been a bit of a challenge, but in 2020 there really are a variety of types on offer. These range from 3D printed in your own likeness through to scale models, simple representations and the caricature figures made famous by Rob Bennett as "Busybodies". Now I have always been a huge fan of the caricature types and though I recognise that some modellers are not fans, they always make me smile and I love to use them in my films and Chuffer advertising.

The trouble is that Rob has stopped making and painting most of them and just a limited range are available via the Pendle Valley Workshop. But last week Si Harris of Modelearth Design got in touch to say he had a new figure. This had been sculpted by Chris Johnston in Australia for a 7/8th" scale caricature figure, but through the wonders of resin technology, Si is able to cast it in 16mm scale. Would I like to have a look, he asked - and I said yes!

When will they be available? Watch this space...... (see above!)

The Figure

The figure known as "Andy" duly arrived and I could see straight away that the proportions were less 'caricature' than some and the detail is excellent. He comes in two parts:

The first job was to remove the sprue using a razor saw and a scalpel (a junior hacksaw and craft knife would be fine). The a quick rub down of the cut edges gave a nice clean finish - though hindsight and photography tells me I should have rubbed down the right arm a little.

So now I had the two parts ready for a wash in warm water and detergent to remove any release agent.

I could have just glued the head in place at this stage, but I wanted a bit of movement so I drilled the neck 1/16" and inserted a piece of 1/16" brass wire. This was a nice tight fit, but a spot of superglue would have solved and slack. Then with care, I drilled a hole in the neck cavity to take the rod. This had to be sloped back slightly to give the right angle for the neck.

I trial fitted it and found that I had slight movement to left and right, which was enough.


This is just my way of figure painting - there are many other ways and other paints. And, of course, you can choose any combination of colours. It took me about 45 minutes in all.

Although Modelearth recommend using a spray, white primer, I have never found it necessary with the paints I use. There are Revell "Aqua Color" water based Acrylic for the colours, ordinary household white primer undercoat for white, and exterior water based acrylic matte black for the black. I spent a pound in the Works for a white pallet so that I could mix the colours easily. And it really is very easy!

The only colours I used were:
Fiery red 31
Blue 56
Ochre Brown 88
Leather brown 84.
But as you will be mixing colours, any red, blue, yellow and brown will do.

First of all I put some double sided tape on a block of wood to hold the body, and drilled a hole in another to take the head.

1. First I painted his trousers using a little blue, black and white to give a light grey/blue denim colour.

2. While that was drying I painted his boots black.

3. For the front of his waistcoat I chose a dark grey mixed simply from black and white.

4. I then used a little of this mix over the wet black of his boots to give a slightly dusty look.

5. I mixed a little of that dark grey with the trouser colour and used it to darken the creases and wrinkles in his trousers and between his legs. This overpainting while wet allows me to soften the look with no hard lines.

6. I painted the back of his waistcoat with neat black.

7. His shirt would have been white when he started the day, but it would now be a very light grey - mixed from white and a little black. The sleeves, shirt front and the little below his waistcoat round the back are painted with this. When I make mistakes i just go back and over paint.

8. His skin tone is a little red, a little more ochre and some white until it looks right.

9. Hat a mid grey  and hair/eyebrows a slightly lighter grey streaked with a little white before dry.

10. A little of the flesh colour with grey allows some shading round the eyes and with a little extra red for the mouth and inside the ears.

11. I decided to give him a slightly grubby 5 o'clock shadow with a light grey wash when the face was dry. I also added this to the hands - as a driver's hands are not going to be too clean!

12. A little brown for the braces and there is no belt (I nearly painted one in before I realised. The braces buttons will be trouser colour.

13. I decided that the waistcoat buttons would be brass and so used ochre on a fine brush.

Here is the pallet at the end of the process, showing all the mixed colours and the centre section used for mixing shading:

The Finished Figure

Click on the images to see them larger.

He scales out at just under 6' in his hat and stands very steadily. He was a little tall for my old Locobox Sophie and Bertie - but then these are small engines. He could certainly be modified to fit in the doorway with a little surgery.

He suited my Roundhouse George very well:


As I am a fan of Caricature figures, I can only offer two comparisons with this type:

He is more finely sculpted that most of my Busybodies

And, to my eye, slightly better proportioned than the Modelearth 16mm figures from a few years back.

So to me he is the ideal combination and most important, he makes me smile! I look forward to seeing others on the series.......