ABOUT OAK VALLEY – A Miniature Town In 1912
Welcome to Oak Valley! It’s been fun creating this blog to share close-up photographs of Oak Valley, my HO scale early 1900’s town and its citizens. I began the blog in the fall of 2011, and that holiday season, I posted a new photograph almost every day. The big change for 2015 is the custom backdrop, and it has made a remarkable difference! I may switch out some old photos for new, but if you have time, I hope you’ll check out earlier posts as well. Some of my favorites are from 2011…like Mr. Jones Checking the Time, and Mrs. Cody Coming Home, and The Mounted Policeman.
Oak Valley is mostly an HO scale town. The buildings are inexpensive ceramic houses and shops which I’ve collected and painted for over 20 years. Most of the people, animals, wagons and carriages are HO Scale Preiser brand figures from its early 1900’s collection. I have used some modern figures from Woodland Scenics and other manufacturers if I can make them fit into the vintage theme. The model train language, HO Scale is roughly 1/87th of the actual size of the object.
The table is a 4′ x 6′ permanent display of nine city blocks with Plexiglass walls. A friend built it for me several years ago, and I finished it with the blocks, streets, lighting, etc. Most buildings are slightly less than four inches high. I ran a long string of larger white Christmas tree lights (4 W bulbs) under the table,.
To have so many people strolling the sidewalks and riding in open carriages, I had to determine that the weather is mild, and there was a very light snowfall the night before, loosely based on a small northeast Illinois town. Preiser didn’t make many early 1900’s figures in winter clothes, so you’ll see a few pastels in the ladies’ and children’s dresses. In some cases I have painted the figures to have long sleeves, darker winter colors, or to be African American. My hat is off to the talented artists at the Preiser factory. Even with a magnifying glass, it is very difficult to see the detail of these figures.
Model train enthusiasts may lose interest when they find out that there’s no train. I completely understand the lure of the train and wish I had a spacious dedicated room to accommodate a large layout. Without the train, I believe the street cars add another dimension to the town in addition to the horses, wagons, and carriages.
I love creating vignettes inside the town. I can gaze into the town from above, but the people of Oak Valley are living their little lives on the ground every day. I can only see them at street level through the camera’s eye, and it’s been a revelation. Below is one of the wild horses on a (U.S.) quarter.
As for me, I’m an avid historian, genealogist, and vintage postcard collector. I collect pre-1914 postcards of towns and cities where my ancestors lived, and my largest postcard collection is Chicago. A couple of years ago, I began scanning cards at high resolution and digitally restoring them. It’s been very rewarding, and they’ve been purchased for publications, documentaries, and framed prints. You’ll find the latest restored images at http://www.oldplaces.org/vintage_images/
I host several history and genealogy websites for the USGenWeb Project, including the county where I live in Georgia. My parents were Georgia transplants, and we moved frequently for our dad’s job. Only briefly did we live in a quaint little town. We were suburbanites, a nuclear family with no grandparents, aunts and uncles, or cousins in the same state. I am certain that is why I find small towns and traditions so charming.