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Cameo Capers

James Hickman

JAMES HICKMAN looks at how to add interesting scenes (some weird and wonderful) to your layout.

The dictionary definition of a cameo is 'a literary sketch, small dramatic scene, or the like, that effectively presents or depicts its subject'. However in modelling terms it means something slightly different. Have you ever looked at a model railway and seen a little figure of a postman being bitten by a dog? A lady hanging washing out in her garden perhaps? Maybe even a little group of wedding guests outside a church (usually as a funeral takes place around the back). If you have; you've seen a cameo. One bugbear of some modellers is there can sometimes be too many silly cameo scenes in some model railways, but not all of them need to be silly - they just have to depict an interesting scene to add depth and/or movement to your layout.

Noch Fruit Pickers

Noch N12035 Deco Scenes - At the Garden Plot, a ready-made cameo set.

So What Defines a Cameo?

There really isn't a true definition of a cameo in the model railway scene, but if I was to define it myself I would have to go for: 'A small scene on any model or diorama depicting an everyday occurrence or event.' I trained as a graphic designer and during my studies I found one important thing stuck with me. It was more of a passing comment by one of my lecturers, but it relates nicely to the subject matter.

'No form is wrong, just make it believable in the world in which it exists.'

Referring to character design, the statement simply means that as long as something is believable within the laws of the created world, no one can doubt it. If this still sounds confusing, think of it this way: In our world superheroes, as we see in the films, don't exist. There are no superpowers possessed by anyone (wealth isn't a superpower Bruce). However; in the Marvel comic book universe such people exist, and the world in which they inhabit has laws that allow them to. Its much the same on your model railway. It's your world, if you want a town populated with the clumsiest people ever, always having accidents, that's the law of your world - do it! Don't ever let anyone tell you that your idea of a perfect layout is wrong. It's your world, you created it, how could it be wrong?

Busch UFO Kit

Busch BU1010 UFO Flying Saucer. Will first contact occur on your layout?

How do I Create One?

Creating a cameo can be as easy as placing a single figure in a prime spot. As previously mentioned a postman being bitten by a dog can be a simple cameo, and yes there is a model produced:

Noch Postman

Noch N1508505 Postman 'Hubert'

So let's have a look at some figures that are produced and see what we can do with them.

Preiser Newlyweds

One of the easiest cameos is the wedding scene. Simply place the happy couple outside a church and there you go. Ideal for this is PR28029 Newlyweds from Preiser. To add to the scene use PR14415 Wedding Guests and PR28076 Priest.

Noch Street Cleaning

Is your model railway getting a little dirty? Some the best cameos are simple ones, just people getting on with their day to day jobs. Use these guys to keep the streets clean.

Noch Wanderers

Well if you're the kind of guy (or girl) that likes to roam around, then this will be an ideal cameo scene. Add these wanderers to the more rural parts of your layout, and to keep them happy, not too far from the local pub.

Preiser Fishermen

Do you have a small pond or river out in the country? If so, why not base a little fishing club there with these fishermen from Preiser.

Preiser Gardeners

As we approach the end of summer, it's time to get the last of those out-door jobs done before the cold, wet weather sets in. Spruce up your gardens with these fellas.

That is a minute selection of figures available to add to a layout. These scenes don't just have to be about figures though. Little cameos can be formed from an badly parked car (see the Gaugemaster staff car park for inspiration), a fallen down tree, or even an escaped hippo (Preiser 20373). The numbers quoted are for OO/HO scales however such products do exist for other scales too, a quick search on our website will reveal them.

For added interest, Noch produce a range of illuminated figures, which add an extra depth to your scenes, these can be found here. Viessmann go one step further and produce a range called eMotion. These figures are attached to a motor and actually move! Although only available in OO/HO scales, these are a massive draw for customers when we have used them on our displays. For further depth we head back to Noch, whose Sound Scenes range include figure sets with a relevant sounds which can be activated at the press of a button.


Various slightly more risqué figure sets are available, to spice up bedrooms or secluded areas on your layout...

The Weird and the Wonderful

Not only do cameos focus on normal life, some can feature more exotic figures as shown below, which can add talking points to your layout.

Grim Reaper

PR29004 Grim Reaper


PR29014 Mermaid

Santa Claus

PR29029 Santa Claus - find more Christmassy items click here.


PR29074 Vampire


PR29038 Clown

Well that sums up our look at cameo scenes, hopefully this has got you thinking about where the next little attraction to the layout could go. Simply remember not to over-do the amount of little scenes you have, otherwise your favourites may be missed.

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