Information about the Miniatures
Material Properties and Suitable Adhesives and Fillers
Our miniatures are cast in a rigid, and fairly robust polyurethane, which is non-toxic (once cured) and can be safely: cut, drilled, sanded, and filed, and which is resistant to high and low temperatures, and most solvents.
Once fully cured, the polyurethane will soften slightly at temperatures approaching 100 deg.C and above, which can be used to gently 'deform' limbs etc... by placing the miniature in boiling water and then gently bending it to shape and holding it in the desired position until it cools, but it will not burn until it reaches temperatures in excess of 300 deg.C and does not melt.
Although actually rather impact resistant and tough, the miniatures are still prone to brittle fracture if dropped from a height onto a hard surface, trodden on, or otherwise subjected to a sudden, sharp impact. If they are accidentally broken, they can usually be repaired easily enough using suitable adhesives.
The best adhesives to achieve a permanent bond with this material are good quality cyanoacrylates ('super glue'), or two part epoxies (e.g. 'Araldite'). Gaps can be filled, details added, and modifications made using various epoxy resins, or fillers. A couple of readily available brands which are well suited to this are: 'Milliput' and 'Green Stuff', both of which are two part epoxies.
Most of the miniatures we sell come in two, or more parts and require some assembly.
It is important to ensure the parts fit together well prior to gluing, and this may require some careful shaping with a craft knife and/or needle file. Unfortunately, during casting the moulds are often deformed to some degree, and this can result in differences in dimensions, so it is impossible to produce parts which will always match perfectly by these means. If possible, it is usually preferable to remove material from the cavity, rather than from the insert, as it is less visible.
A gel type adhesive is usually preferable to fill any small gaps, and slightly roughened surfaces with maximum contact area will achieve a stronger bond. Some may also wish to drill and pin joints for added strength, using a short steel, or brass pin. It is best to support the two parts whilst the adhesive cures, crumpled up aluminium foil making an excellent, and reshapable support for this purpose. Any gaps are best filled after the glue has fully hardened.
The particular forms of polyurethane, and casting methods we use result in a slightly porous surface, which accepts a wide range of paints. Undercoating is not essential, but still recommended, and water based paints are suitable for the purpose, as well as solvent based products.
We use water based acrylics to paint our miniatures, the best for the purpose being 'model' paints which are produced by various manufacturers, particularly for 'wargaming' miniatures, an excellent (and inexpensive) brand is 'Cote D'Arms', but there are many similar brands of 'model acrylics' out there.
One disadvantage of acrylic paints is that they are not entirely resistant to the elements, so if you leave a miniature painted in them out in all weathers, year round, sooner, or later the paint will wash off. The best way to protect a painted miniature from this is to varnish them, and we supply our painted miniatures with two coats of matt spray varnish, however this is only protection against rain showers and day to day handling, it is still not recommended to leave painted miniatures outdoors overwinter, or in extreme weather.
Alternatively, a number of solvent based paints are also suitable, and have the advantage of being more resistant to the elements, however at the cost of being less easy to handle (and clean up!).
Painting miniatures is a big subject and covered in more detail in our free guide.
Scales and Proportions
The miniatures in the Railway People range are sculpted to a nominal 16mm to a foot scale, and are intended to be 'realistic', rather than 'caricatures', although both terms are quite subjective when it comes to miniatures.
Although it might seem counter intuitive, an exact scaling down of the human form does not usually result in an 'ideal' miniature for most purposes, and to make a practical, useful, and (hopefully) attractive miniature it is usually necessary to play certain 'tricks' with the scaling, posing, and proportions of the figure.
Apart from anything else, the properties of materials, and limits of low cost casting techniques often restrict just how fine details such as limbs and fingers can be reliably replicated, and if a miniature is intended to stand on its own feet, they also often have to be somewhat enlarged, for the sake of stability.
The smaller a miniature gets, the greater these 'distortions of reality' tend to become, out of necessity, and out of a desire to create something with recognisably human character (especially facial features). Thus, it would be inaccurate to describe even the most 'realistic' sculpted miniatures as totally accurate renditions of the human form, simply scaled down.
Fitting Miniatures in Vehicles and On Seats
There is another, associated issue with miniatures intended to fit inside model vehicles, locomotives, coaches etc... Whilst the makers of models of this type are often extremely careful to render the visible, outside dimensions and details as accurate as possible, limitations on materials, and the need to occupy most of the internal space with various components, often mean that internal cabs and spaces are very cramped, or even largely non-existent.
To make miniatures fit in these spaces, the miniatures either need to be massively distorted, or otherwise cut down in some way. The first is not, in our opinion, the best solution with regards to realism, which leaves the option of removing part, or parts of a miniature to make it fit. We produce some miniatures of this type to fit around commonly encountered problems, but given the sheer diversity of models which are available, or people may build themselves, it is often necessary to resort to 'plastic surgery' on a miniature to achieve a good fit.
Seats, chairs, benches, stools etc... come in a huge range of shapes and sizes, not just in real life (where there are actually some 'standard dimensions', intended as guidance), but even more so in models. That makes it impossible to provide a seated miniature which will reliably fit in them all. The standard height and depth, for most seating is 450mm/18", which scales to approximately 24mm, a standard we attempt to recreate in our miniatures, but fitting miniatures to particular seats may require a degree of improvisation, filing, filling, or possibly more drastic plastic surgery.
At the end of the day, it is not so much important that a miniature is completely accurate in its representation of a person, as in the illusion it presents of a human being. 'Ghost trains' and empty carriages and station platforms always seem to lack that certain 'something' which miniatures provide.