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In praise of 1/32
(and thereabouts)

1/32, for many of us, instantly brings Britains or Airfix to mind. It is, as described in Up and Down the Scales, one of a number of similar scales used for military figure and vehicle models.

Where this example 'retreat in normandy'came from is now lost in the mists of my memory, but I still like it

A few figures described as 54mm are a little bigger than 1/32 and several manufacturers use 1/35th as their scale. But if you model in imperial measures 1/32 is a logical scale. If you model in metric it makes little sense; though the improbable ( and commercially unknown) 1/33.3 scale equates to a more practical 3mm to 10cm.

Anyway, the question is whether 1/32 works as a scale for model buildings outsde the context of military dioramas. Not surprisingly my answer to this is yes; in the right context. That context is generally as a scale for children to play with. But it is also a satisfying scale for display pieces.

Culham station in 1/32

It is also relevant in ralway modelling. Though only at the margins of the hobby. This model of a railway station (based on Culham Station in Oxfordshire) by Kirtley Model Buildings of Melton Mowbray is in 1/32nd. Which is not a scale commonly associated with model railways. However (again as discussed in Up and Down the Scales) 'G-gauge' or 'Number 1 gauge' track is 45mm which in 1:32 it measures out to 4 ft 8.5inches - standard gauge railway track as used in most of the world. We only associate G gauge with 1/24 or 1/22.5 scale because, many years ago, model manufacturer LGB selected Number 1 gauge track for their "narrow gauge" Garden Trains.

One of the difficulties (joys?) of researching and writing pieces like this is getting constantly sidetracked. The last paragraph took me off down at least three little byways. Come with me for a moment.

According to Wikipedia,standard gauge for railway lines is defined as being 1,435mm inner distance between the two rails. Except in the USA, where it is defined as 4ft 8.5in. The difference between these two standards is apparently 0.1mm !!! Call me sad, but it amuses me to think of railway tracklaying gangs working to a tolerance of just under 0.007% .

Peter Smith, the creative force behind Kirtley Model Buildings, seems to do most of his work in 7mm (O gauge scale; 1/43) For work of that size (which is twice that of most modellers working in OO or HO) and even for 1/32 he recommends the use of brick paper. Which is probably not conventional wisdom but seems borne out by these illustrations. I will return to this in another article.


Brick paper used in 1/32 scale and in 7mm scale

The picture earlier in this article is of Culham station. I had never heard of this small GWR station in Oxfordshire but it is clearly noteworthy and has been reproduced in miniature on multiple occassions. Built in the Tudor Revival architecture style of Isambard Kingdom Brunel it is a Grade II* listed building. The Culham Ticket Office website includes a dedicated page just about models of the station.

Anyway, where was I?

Britains' own dual purpose farm building. Now the only building in their range.

If you are building a toy farm then the Britains influence and legacy makes it almost a given. Britains themselves were, and still are to a degree, known for figures, animals, tractors and other equiment. From 2005 ownership of the farm range separated from the military figures operation.The history of this ground-breaking company is well set out in Britains own site. They are now part of the TOMY group. over the years they have produced a number of buildings, though not very many. The main focus has been on tractors and other vehicles.

Britains' own dual purpose farm building. Now the only building in their range.

There are these days some other more serious producers of farm buildings. In particular Brushwood and HS Model Farms of Ireland, both of whom hold to the 1/32 scale.

Brushwood present themelves as Brushwood Toys but this is serious stuff. Their catalogue, as I write this on New Year's day 2020, contains

At the other domestic end of the hobby, this is one built by my late father for one of my sisters. As renovated a generation later by me for one of my daughters and now heading back to the worktable to make it fit for one of my grandchilden.

The use of 1/32 scale for farm models produces buildings of a manageable size. A two storey farmhouse with an overall height of, say, 30 feet is just under a foot tall. (9 metres reduces to 28cm). With a small farmyard, a stable and a pig pen the layout can sit comfortably on a tabletop or on the living room floor. There ae these days some more serious producers of farm buildings: Brushwood and HS Model Farms of Ireland

For wikipedia (then known as Racing Champions International Ltd). At this time, production of toy soldiers was moved to China. In 2005, the W. Britains brand (but not the farm range) was acquired by First Gear, an American maker of die-cast collectibles. This firm produces and sells mostly contemporary matte-style figures to the collectors market under the W. Britain brand. Kenneth A. Osen was the master sculptor for W. Britain until June, 2013 when he was appointed General Manager & Creative Director. Sculpting continues to be done by Ken Osen, Alan Ball and Graham Scollick. All figures are sculpted by hand, to scale, before duplication. On January 30, 2012 Bachmann Europe Plc became the sole distributor of all W. Britain figures in the U.K and Continental Europe (Britain 2013–2015). The farm range stayed in the ERTL/RC2 stable and was put into a separate subsidiary

If you are building scenery to show off your serious military models then of course you need to build in or around 1/32nd. Your buildings will need to be good. 54mm figures are the definitive scale for quality model figures with masses of intricate uniform detail. You have two choices I guess. Either you produce very simple stylised backdrops to make sure admirers focus on your figure painting. Or you model the buildings to the same high standards. Each 9" brick will be over a quarter of an inch long. A 1" window glazing bar is 1/32" which is a fraction less than 1mm. Every hinge, every step on the roof tiles, every moulding, every plank on the window shutters is going to be clearly visible.

Dutch corner house ´Oosterbeek´ by DioDump in 1:35

I have not seen any of their work in the flesh (it is a bit expensive to order just for a peek) but I am very impressed with pictures of the models from (new? to me at least) manufacturer DioDump of Herten in the Netherlands. Designed, as the name suggests, for military dioramas there is in 1/35th scale a range of bases, walls and buildings. They offer ultra realism using a variety of materials. The focus is clearly WW2, both in northern Europe and the Middle East but they are also suitable for peiods before and after. The Dutch buildings, not surprisingly, seem to be perfectly captured. Although they don't really count as Miniature Buildings, the brick and cobbled street bases also deserve a highly commended mention.

Dutch corner house ´Oosterbeek´ by DioDump in 1:35

Simple, with scale sacrifices

Not all military figures are model masterpieces. If you are building a castle or fort or pillbox bunker with toy soldiers for a child to play with then you are not going for the same level of detail. The problem you face is that doors and gateways and battlements need to be scaled properly, but wall lengths (and probably heights and thicknesses)are going to have to be reduced.

Simple, with scale sacrifices

A regular house doorway is OK at about two and a half inches and a gateway that cavalry can ride through at five or six. But your 90 foot castle wall is going to be nearly three feet tall. To look balanced it may have to be ten feet long! And ten feet deep!!! Of course it cannot be. Toy castles are never to scale. Even the smaller 'Fort Laramie' style wild west timber fort is a distorted compromise scale to make it manageable.

Given the availibility of figures in this scale ( and their size) I am a bit surprised that there is no dolls house market at this scale. I am sure some examples must exist but they are very hard to find. As I have commented elsewhere, the dolls house market is driven not by the buildings (or even by the 'dolls') but by the availibility of furniture and accessories.

For more on the importance or irrelevance of scale see the article Scale or Effect ?

This model of an English Village Street Scene is something of a mystery. It is being offered for sale on Alibaba.com The heading (and the image name)mark it as 1/32 but the brief narrative says it is in 1/43 scale. It is apparently hand built to order; a unique one off hand built scale model of an early English Street Scene, comprising of an Inn and Cottage, copied from a prototype in Hastings England, It is made from Art Board, Wood,and some Plastics, painted in acrylic paints and has two coats of matt varnish. The cost per unit is £175(GBP). But who the maker is we are given no direct clue. A little bit of digging points to Jan Preece of Newport in Wales who has very recently died. The company websites now seem to be blocked. He seems to have been a remarkable man.

The Auberge-des-Hunaudieres

Another manifestation of 1/32 scale is Scalextric, and other car racing brands. Not a lot of buildings of course beyond a control tower and a pit garage but the surrounding market offers a few examples including this French Auberge from Greenhills Garages constructed of foam board printed on the outside. . The original is apparently situated on the famous Mulsanne straight on the circuit of the Le Mans 24 Hours race. They also offer a Le Mans toilet block for that final realistic touch to your layout

The Auberge-des-Hunaudieres

If you are modelling in 1/32 there is not a lot of component material about. These might be useful. Embossed papers of brick and stone from Dimitris Tastsidis, a supplier in Thessaloniki. I haven't been able to find a direct website but he seems to sell through e-bay and Etsy.

If you want to stick on individual tiles or build walls brick by brick you might also explore the Juweela site. They say their (plastic) products are made in Germany but the site seems to be based in the Netherlands. They have product in 1/32, 1/35 and other scales.

As always, please write to  Miniature Buildings with any comments, criticisms, extra thoughts, pictures, or even complete articles for inclusion in the Miniature Buildings site.

David
November 2019