Short Staff in 7/8″

Claude is quite comfortable chuffing around the estate in his vintage Decauville.

Late last month I posted about my 7/8″ scale Decauville and noted that I had a suitable engineer en route from the UK. The figure – and a few others – arrived last week and I spent an enjoyable few days painting them up. The lead photo shows Claude in the cab of the Decauville, looking right at home.

Claude is the creation of Chris Johnston, part of the Short Staff range of 7/8″ scale (1:13.7) figures. The resin model (technically a kit since the head is a separate piece) was well cast and required minimal cleanup once separated from its sprue. I prepared Claude with Tamiya Fine Surface Primer in a rattle can.

Then, I used the full-colour photo that came with the figure as a guide and built up layers of paint using Vallejo acrylics and Citadel Contrast Colours from Games Workshop. I finished the model with a protective overspray of Alclad II flat finish.

Claude fits beautifully in the Decauville’s cab. He’s on the left side to keep him clear of my 1:1 fingers as they reach in to adjust the regulator.

Over the past few years, I’ve painted several hundred figures for various 28mm table top war games. These are quite small – an adult human is typically a little over an inch high. Many gamers like to paint more than play and do an exquisite job of finishing these tiny sculptures. They’ll paint the eyeballs, add several skin tone shades, imply light sources, and so on.

That’s not me. I “paint for the table” – which is the figure-painting equivalent of railway modelling’s “three-foot rule”.

A few of the hundreds of figures I’ve painted for table top wargaming.
I have six display cases like this, and many more figures in primer awaiting their turn under the brush.

Still, the work on all of those little figures sure helped me as I tackled Claude. (So did a couple of painting books in my collection, written specifically for gamers.)

Gulliver’s Train Travels. Claude towers over some of my wargaming figures as everyone’s primer cures.

I ordered my Short Staff models from Simon Harris at Model Earth in the UK. Simon’s service was excellent – the figures were well packed, promptly dispatched, and he provided the tracking number. I’m definitely going back to Simon when I want more figures.

Since I really wanted Claude and was paying international postage rates, I threw a few other Short Staff figures into the order. So this week I actually I painted six figures – all sculpted by Chris – including Patrick, Pamela, Flynn, the Station Master, and Eustace.

The Short Staff gang hang out on the bar in my layout room.
The Short Staff gang on the back deck. The animals are farm toys that I tried out for size.

While posing the figures on the back deck this morning, I popped a couple of farm toys into the scene to see how they’d look. The size feels right, but the mass-market plastic toys don’t have the same character and wonderful hand-made quality of the Short Staff figures. I admire what 3D Printing has done for the hobby in terms of bringing new products to market, but in this case it was most enjoyable to work on something that was so obviously hand-sculpted.

Maybe I can convince Chris and Simon to add some animals to the Short Staff range? I’d love to find three or four sheep to help keep the grass neatly trimmed on the estate – and a border collie to keep the flock in line.

Published by Trevor

Lifelong model railway enthusiast and retired amateur shepherd who trained a border collie to work sheep. Professional writer and editor, with some podcasting and Internet TV presenting work thrown in for good measure.

13 thoughts on “Short Staff in 7/8″

  1. Great stuff, fine figure painting and a lovely engine. It was the lovely Decauville that got me into 7/8ths in the first place (see The Rusty Bolt recently reposted on the FB group). I still don’t have one, but yours is super.
    We’ll done indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Walt.
      In N scale, won’t suggestions of colour be sufficient? Details will be so small they’ll be hard to see, so the painting can go pretty quickly.
      I once needed some spacecraft fighter pilots for a wargame and the ships are N scale (1:160) – so I bought some Woodland Scenics train crews and repainted them, then suspended them on piano wires. It worked perfectly.
      You could put extra time/effort into painting a few foreground figures for use in photographs, but that might be 5-6 of the 100 you want to add to the layout.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. That stuff looks addictictive.


    On Sun, Sep 5, 2021 at 6:49 PM The Model Railway Show wrote:

    > Trevor posted: ” Claude is quite comfortable chuffing around the estate in > his vintage Decauville. Late last month I posted about my 7/8″ scale > Decauville and noted that I had a suitable engineer en route from the UK. > The figure – and a few others – arrived last week ” >

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Trevor,

    Chris Johnston here.

    So glad you liked my figures. Congratulations on your painting of them. You have really brought them to life.

    i must say I’m overawed by your output – I wish I could apply myself as diligently to sculpting.

    Regarding the animals, I have to say I am more a people person when it comes to sculpting. When we do a figure we have to look a selling a fair few of them to amortize the cost of the molds.

    I could be wrong but I am not sure there is a great demand for 7/8th scale sheep . However, Si is our expert here in estimating the market.

    Your blog has lots of good stuff, and I’ll enjoy following it.



    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much for the kind words Chris – AND for sculpting the figures! They’re beautiful.
      My request for sheep (and a collie to manage them) is basically free market research: it’s me raising my hand to let you and Si know I’m interested. I hope others will join me on asking for some livestock. If we don’t ask, how will you know?
      But I also respect that you’re the sculptor and must go with your strengths. I look forward to seeing what else you create for 7/8” scale.


    2. Hi again, Chris: also – I loved “Pamela” and would love to see more figures like her. She reminds me of Miss Scarlet from the board game “Clue”.
      Colonel Mustard, Mrs. Peacock, and the others have obviously already arrived at the Estate for a weekend that ends in… murder!


    3. Hi Chris:
      I’m so pleased to see that you have now done sheep, a dog, AND a shepherd! I’m so glad I raised that hand. I’ve emailed Si to place an order.


  4. These are superb.

    Probably the 7/8ths modellers are tired of this comment “I’m trying to get my head around that scale” but I’ll try the line here anyway because it seems, to my smaller scale experience, the possibilities are so completely exciting by comparison. In HO and N I’ve painted figures but that just doesn’t feel like the same experience at all. While reading and contemplating this it seems that figures in this scale are so filled with opportunity. Finishing questions like “should I weather the hands to look oily from work on that engine?” or how to finish different articles of clothing to show the differences in textiles.

    We study, in such fine detail, the construction and finishing of mechanical things but I think not as much when it comes to living things. In this larger scale it would seem to reward to study how people actually look, how we “weather” either in daily life while working in the garden or on a locomotive, and how we age. What a fantastic opportunity to observe the people in the scenes we study and represent what we see in their character that we want to express in our models of them.

    I like the way that light catches features on each figure–again something we just can’t enjoy as much in the smaller scales.

    The sculpting on these is beautiful and they feel organic, as they should as miniatures of living things, which is a nice contrast to the “feel” of a mechanical thing like a locomotive.

    I love the expressions on these figures–Claude seems to be no less experienced in running his engine than he is still quite content to be doing the work. He looks at home and certainly needs a little more place to go with his engine today.

    Thanks for sharing this update. It looks like so much fun.


    Liked by 2 people

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