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Creating vignettes on a train layout

I keep seeing listings on eBay in the O gauge model railroading section for something called “Homies,” which the slimy salespeople say are the hottest thing in model railroading.

Yeah, whatever. I found some. I bought some. Here’s what I think of them.

First, they aren’t really 1/43 scale or 1/45 scale or 1/48 scale or 1/64 scale or any of the generally accepted sizes for O scale. They’re probably closer to 1/36 scale. But unlike cars and buildings, the size of people is a subjective thing. Whereas every 2002 Honda Civic is exactly the same size unless it’s been in a disfiguring accident, it’s difficult to find two human beings who are the same size.

So you can get away with using 1/36 figures on a layout. Measured with a rivet-counter’s scale ruler, the people end up about 6’2″ tall in O scale. Not everyone is that tall, but I know people who are.

I first encountered Homies in a vending machine that sells them in plastic bubbles. The first one I got was a surly guy chained to a pole and not looking the least bit happy about it. I wasn’t all that happy about obtaining him, seeing as I had no idea what I would do with a figure like that on a train layout.

I took my chances and put another 50 cents in. Out came a woman dressed more than slightly provocatively. Slightly more useful–you see that everywhere, so she could be a pedestrian, or she could be standing in line waiting to get into a movie, or she could be a waitress at a restaurant.

I put in another 50 cents. I got a cop writing in a notepad.

I stared at the three figures. And then an idea hit me.

The big surly guy sees a woman in a skimpy top walking down the street. He tries to put the moves on her. She responds with some moves he wasn’t exactly expecting. Next thing he knows, he’s chained to a pole. Next thing she knows, a cop shows up wanting to know what’s going on. She has a kind of wanna-be innocent look on her face, which only adds to the scene.

So now we have a sort of a domestic dispute on the sidewalk next to my soda shop. Layouts are all about creating vignettes.

So how do they look, exactly? Well, here’s a picture from a layout using Homies. Most of them have exaggerated features and look more like cartoon characters than real people. The cop would pass on most any O scale layout, but most of the other figures wouldn’t pass on a serious modeler’s layout.

But most serious modelers don’t run Lionel and they certainly don’t run Marx. And the figures are always the weak point on any serious modeler’s layout–do you want figures that look like cartoons, or would you prefer figures that look like department store mannequins?

I’ve got both on my layout. And no, it doesn’t really bother me.

My next purchase was two (I only had 4 quarters), and I got a kid playing basketball and a kid clowning around. Looks like a game of one-on-one in a suburban driveway or in a schoolyard playground to me.

Homies and their companion sets, Palermos and Mijos, are also sold in blister packs at toy stores. I picked up a package of six Palermos over the weekend. At $5, they’re more expensive than coming out of a vending machine, but you know exactly what you’re getting. And I haven’t seen Palermos in a vending machine yet. And considering that “proper” O scale figures can cost $5-$9 apiece, that’s still cheap.

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