|Written by Hans-Werner Lienau (with a little editing from Paul Race)|
for Big Indoor TrainsTM and Family Garden TrainsTM
Note from Editor: Hans-Werner Lienau is a published author, figure collector, Large Scale model railroader, and diorama builder in Hamburg, Germany. I when Hans-Verner when I helped him track down a set of Large Scale Lionel figures for his collection.
When Hans-Werner's hobby of collecting toy figures from Elastolin and similar brands collided with his purchase of an LGB train, he decided to start using some of his pieces to in settings with his Large Scale trains. When I saw the desert photo in the title, I asked him for more information, and he sent the photos on this page and a brief explanation. I've tried to "fill in the gaps" where I thought it was necessary.
This particular project is best suited to go with Large Scale trains (like LGB and AristoCraft), but the principle of refinishing toys to use for models applies to any scale.
Desert Accessories from Playmobil ProductsBefore describing my project, I'd like to fill in the background about me and my combination of model railroading and Wild West figures.
Plastic Figures and Toy Trains - From my earliest school days, I had an HO model railroad and some books by German Wild West author Karl May. His characters, including the Indian“Winnetou” and his friend “Old Shatterhand” were the heroes of my childhood.
Every day going home after school I had to pass by a small shop that sold the Heinerle-Wundertüten (a surprise bag, literally "Bag of Wonder”). Although you never knew exactly what you were going to get, it always included candy and one 60 mm figure. The themes of the figures varied from Wild West to Farmland or Africa. They were manufactured by Domplast, Manurba or Jean. I have been collecting plastic figures ever since (though these days I mostly collect Elastolin figures made by the German company Hausser).
In those years, my favorite summer activity was playing with my figures outside. My favorite winter activity was model railroading in the basement. As I grew a little older and started spending time with other activites, my figures gradually disappeared. However, the Wild West figures remained in a forgotten bag deep in my mother's cellar.
LGB Reinvigorates Interest in Both Hobbies - Years later, when my little daughter and I saw an LGB layout, both hobbies reawoke at the same time. We hoped to build an outdoor railroad using LGB trains, Pola buildings and figures by Elastolin and Preiser. But there is always a difference between theory and reality - we have only been able to build temporary layouts, and most of them were built indoors.
Planning Dioramas - All along, I have also planned to build dioramas to display pieces from my figure collection - most of them shouldn't stay out on a garden railroad for long anyway. But in my present circumstances, the only time the trains run is at Christmas, so I have been focusing on building dioramas. In the meantime, my collection of Wild West figures has grown to about 1000, and I sometimes repaint inexpensive figures or build my own from "scratch."
The First ConversionsMy desert diorama began to become a reality after a visit to a Flohmarkt (Flea Market), where I picked up some cheap plastic cactus that was made in China. One of them was an outlandish green, so I decided to give them all a new paint job. The "before and after" photos are below:
Playmobil's Cactus Get the Same TreatementI liked the new appearance so much that I started also painting my Playmobil cactus (from set No. 7068). I also started planning a desert diorama to use for photographing my figures.
Other Playmobil Accessories
This was going so well that I starting borrowing pieces from other Playmobil sets.
Of course, no U.S. desert is complete without wildlife, living or dead. So I got out my Playmobil vultures and painted them carefully. Attention to detail counts, such as painting their talons a contrasting color.
Here the upgraded animals and other accessories are posed together on a sand base that uses the same color as the cactus stands.
Remember, this whole project started with a trip to the flea market. Keep an eye out for toys or other things you can use to add interest to your model railroad, display village, diorama, or other display.
Also, if you have a similar project you'd like to share with your fellow readers and hobbyists, we'd love to add it to our site, and we'll be sure to give you full credit for your contribution.
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