Yesterday while the wife was scooping up cheap groceries at Big Lots (also known as Odd Lots in some parts of the country), I spied some useful stuff in the toy section.
They were cheap playsets, priced at 99 cents and $1.99, sold under the “Mini Wheels” and “Superior” brand names.The 99-cent sets generally consist of two or three plastic vehicles and a couple of figures; the $1.99 sets feature a vehicle, a couple of figures, a building, and a random assortment of plastic scenery items such as signs, gates, and the like.
I picked up a school set, a construction set, and an emergency set. The doctor and the paramedic will look good with the Plasticville Hospital, which was one of the last gifts I gave my Dad before he died. Construction workers are easy to place, and the kids from the school set will look good in conjunction with the K-Line figures from Marx molds that I already have. The school building looks pretty institutional and will probably just be a generic building flat in the back of the layout; I’ll see if I can pick up a used Plasticville or Marx/K-Line school building cheap at some point.
The school set sports a table with an umbrella; I have no idea how that fits into a school setting but it’ll look great sitting outside my O scale soda fountain building. I may have to pick up another school set mostly to get another table.
The actual scale of the items varies a little. These are cheap toys, not scale models. Adult figures scale out to about 6’7 or so in 1:64 (S scale) and a little over 5′ in 1:48 (O scale). The vehicles generally look like they scale out to about 1:72 but some of them, particularly the construction vehicles, would be fine in 1:64 and passable in 1:48. The buildings are about right for 1:64. They’d be fine on any traditional-sized American Flyer or Lionel or Marx layout and even rivet-counter modern hi-railers could find some usable parts inside.
The quality of the paint jobs on the figures themselves varies. I’ll probably end up doing some touch-up. I’m not sure yet what kind of paint will adhere well to the rubbery plastic they used, but I may be able to get by with just spraying some Testors Dullcote on them, touching up the offending areas, and then following up with more Dullcote. You don’t get a lot of quality for 99 cents, but for me, improving cheap toys to give them a home on a train layout is a big part of the fun.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about Big Lots, it’s that not all stores carry the same things at the same time. I have three different stores within reasonable driving distance of me and there isn’t much consistency between them. These sets have also been spotted at other discount stores but I’ve only ever seen them at Big Lots.