How tall are 1:76 scale figures?

How tall are 1:76 scale figures?


Adding people to a model railway layout is one of the most effective ways of introducing ‘life’ to the scene. Locomotives and coaches look so much better with little figures on the footplate, in the driving cab or sat staring from the windows. Platforms become purposeful, street scenes are more interesting and having groups of workmen stood round chatting is almost as necessary as that bus on the bridge (don't forget the bus needs a driver and passengers too!).  

But, how big should those little people be ?

As with real people, 1:76 scale figures should be different heights. But that doesn't always look right.  Read below where we explain the pitfalls often made with model people, and how best to avoid them.  

Table of Contents

  • How tall are 1:76 scale figures?
  • What size are OO gauge figures?
  • How do I attach figures to my layout?
  • What sort of OO figures can I buy?
  • Should I fit figures to my locos and coaches?
  • Where do I put figures on my layout?

How tall are 1:76 scale figures?

The average height for UK males in 2023 is 5'10" (or 1.78m).  In 1:76 scale, this converts to 23.32mm. But…, as we know, lots of people are not 5'10" tall (me, for example, at 5'8½"). So should our model people all be different heights?  Yes, and No.


Well, using figures which are significantly shorter than 23mm unfortunately makes them look a different scale, rather than short. Using a mixture of manufacturer's mini figures, in the same group, can also give this effect, for example mixing Merit with Modelu.

However, careful placement of figures can help with perspective, if the shorter people are put at the rear of the scene.


What size are OO gauge figures?

For non-rolling stock items, OO gauge is usually equated to a scale ratio of 4mm/1ft, or 1:76.

Traditionally, figures were sold as a compromise between OO and HO, which meant they were slightly smaller than they should have been. But, as all the figures were generally the same height, this didn't really matter.

Typically OO gauge figures should be about 22mm-24mm high. More modern resin 3D printed figures are based on real people, so are accurate in both height and girth.


How do I attach figures to my layout?

Figures with integral bases can simply be stood on the layout wherever they are required. They can easily be moved around too, to create new scenes, such as for story telling or removed for safety when moving the layout.

For figures without bases there are several options.

If the material is soft enough, a very fine drill can be used to hollow out one leg, then a small pin can be glued inside.  The figure/pin can then be placed in a pre-drilled hole on the layout.  Again, this allows for flexibility for changing scenes, and also for removal of delicate figures when transporting the layout.


For harder materials, figures can be ‘attached' to the layout using a semi-permanent glue, such as Tacky Wax.  

Of course, the final solution is to stick the figures in place with a cyano glue, such as Roket.


What sort of OO figures can I buy?

Model figures come in three main types - moulded plastic, moulded white metal, or 3D printed resin, although within those groups there are many different options.

 Traditional UK Model Railway manufacturers, such as Hornby & Bachmann, now sell sets of moulded plastic, pre-painted, themed OO scale figures, each one with a large base to allow them to stand (and be moved around as needed).

Dapol still sell unpainted sets of what used to be Airfix moulded plastic models.

Smaller manufacturers, such as Monty's Models, supply white metal figures in a wide variety of professions and eras.

New production techniques now allow 3D printed figures of real people to be created. These are produced not only in various heights, but also with different shapes figures, to better reflect the variety of their human originals.


Should I fit figures to my locos and coaches?

Absolutely, yes.  

However, especially with steam locos, it can look odd if both driver & fireman are looking forwards. One idea is to have them looking different ways, so whichever way the loco is moving , someone is looking in the right direction.

For more modern locos, with cabs, it's much harder to disguise a driver staring out of the rear window, but adding a figure into each cab gives the excuse of a ‘driver on the cushions’.

Of course, as in this picture by Commission Model Maker James Hilton, they don't always need to be in the cab…

For your train coaches, how many people you add very much depends on the sort of service you train run, but at least one or two looks better than none at all.


Where do I put figures on my layout?

The placement of model people is often simply a case of observing, and copying, real life.  Generally, though, having your little people stood in non-moving poses will seem more realistic.  

For station scenes, although you can't go back in time to look at a 1930's GWR branch line station, or visit King's Cross in the LNER heydays, the movement of people by train is still very much the same.  People still congregate around ticket offices, beverage emporiums and entrance/exits, or sit endlessly waiting on platform benches. 

Out in the town or village, shoppers look in windows, or wait to cross the roads, workmen stand around leaning on shovels. Policemen stand & give directions, or chastise youngster who are mis-behaving.  Having pairs or small groups of people talking is much better than late arrivals running for a bus or train.


Last and not least, any road vehicles will often need at least a driver, but here again they can be delivering the milk or collecting post.  But a bus on a bridge will always need a driver !

It's a people thing…

Overall, it's you who decides how realistic you want your figures to be. You can buy packs of 100's from the main shopping websites, or you can spend a few pounds each on very high quality miniature masterpieces.

But, without a doubt, unless you're modelling a graveyard at mid-night, you'll probably want some figures on your layout.



Happy modelling

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Interesting blog. I've been constructing oo gauge rail wagons based on late 19th Century prototypes and may make a small shunting layout to use them on. Scale 'people' for this project would typically be at least 1mm shorter than those on a contemporary based layout. This article shows how average heights changed throughout the railway era:

Very useful for new modelers, I'm an older one (87) and although it can be difficult at times I have always made sure all my locos have a crew. my carriages have people amd my stations have staff. it makes me cringe at exhibitions to see a loco go by with no driver, pulling a train devoid of people! Oh yes empty stock backing into

a station.

I have a Lionel Polar Express with full model that comes out every Christmas. It’s on a OO guauge track with OO gauge scale figures painted as the conductor, children and dancing elves. I want to add the 8 trumpeting elves but cant find anywhere suitable figures to use. Can anyone recommend a 3d modeller that can make these.