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Cheap buildings for a train layout

I’ve read about The New Pretty Village, published in book form by Dover Publications in 1980, as a source of buildings for a train layout, particularly a layout featuring tin litho Marx or prewar trains. Now I’ve got one in my hot little hands. I found some pictures of a reproduction online, and Marx expert Walt Hiteshew’s layout has used them as well.

The McLoughlin Pretty Village’s vintage look complements vintage tin trains well.

Dover’s version consists of 18 buildings, if you consider a tent a building. Like many toy villages that came before and after, they’re a bit simplified compared to real buildings. If one measures the doors to the buildings, they’re probably best suited for a 1:64 scale (S or O27) layout. If one measures the adult humans portrayed, then they’re about right for O scale (1:48). So they look fine with any Marx trains, and pretty much anything O gauge made by Lionel, Ives, and American Flyer, not to mention lesser-known makers like Dorfan and Bing.

The size is a good match for postwar S scale American Flyer as well, so the set could represent an older part of town on a Flyer layout, or the main part of town with a Flyer Casey Jones set.

Since the originals were drawn in 1897, the earlier the trains are, the better the match. They’d look great with a Bing or Ives windup cast-iron train pulling lithographed tin cars. They look good with Marx. The brighter colors on Marx’s postwar tin overwhelms the more subdued colors McLoughlin Bros. used in 1897, but then again, Marx’s own midcentury paper buildings had subdued color too.

The originals were intended to take up about a 4’x2′ space. Since the smallest possible O27 layout is around 9 square feet, one book does a nice job of filling it. If you want more buildings, you can get another set.

Here’s what you get: eight houses, a log cabin, a blacksmith shop, a firehouse, a school, a church, a florist, a photography studio, a boathouse, a hotel, and a tent. You probably won’t want to use all of the buildings in multiple sets (just how many blacksmith shops do you need?) but you can match up sets pretty effectively.

Used copies sell for about $5 plus shipping (about $3.99). Check the condition of the used listings, of course. That works out to about 50 cents a building. You wouldn’t be able to make color photocopies of the buildings for that price.

I like the set, and I’ll be using it on my layout.

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