HO Scale Diorama & Christmas Village

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

Oak Valley

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.

HO Scale Victorian Lady

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.

Street Car

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.

Wild horse in HO scale standing on a 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.


15 responses

  1. Catherine Gifford

    I’m a lurker on this site but I have to tell you that I love your practical attitude toward your hobbies and the visual outcome above. Thanks for sharing.
    Catherine G

    October 23, 2011 at 4:30 am

  2. Don

    Great stuff! I just found your blog and your little town. I love it.
    I haven’t read your blog thoroughly but do you make some of the figurines? If so, how?
    Oakland, CA

    November 16, 2011 at 7:33 am

    • Hi, Don. I wish I could take credit for the lovely, detailed figures, but I have to give all the credit to Preiser. Preiser figures and carriages are expensive, and I rarely purchase any new ones in this recession, but they are head and shoulders above any others in quality. Local model train stores usually carry HO scale figures of several makers, but the vintage figures are not popular. You’ll find a vast selection of vintage and modern figures in online stores.

      I tried my hand at buying unpainted figures and finishing them myself. They are OK at a distance, but there’s no comparison up close. I also put together a few of the horse and wagon kits in the town, but I really don’t have any aptitude for modeling. Most model train enthusiasts would say that building the models is 95% of the fun, but my fun is in putting together little vignettes and enjoying them.

      November 16, 2011 at 1:48 pm

  3. Don

    Thanks for the info! Keep up the great work! I love the vignettes and look forward to more scenes from Oak Valley!

    November 17, 2011 at 6:28 am

  4. Sal

    How did you make you cobblestone streets and paved sidewalks?

    November 30, 2012 at 3:25 am

    • Sal, the streets and sidewalks are printed on light weight cardboard. I ordered them online, but it was about 7+ years ago when I had the current table built. I can’t find my receipts to give you the name of the dealer. I found a good many options at http://www.hobbylinc.com.

      December 1, 2012 at 11:44 pm

  5. nearboston

    Great site and congratulations on a job well done. I am hoping to copy some of your ideas for a small display for this years Christmas Eve get together. The idea of getting the plaster buildings from Michaels is especially intriguing. Thanks for putting this online.

    November 24, 2013 at 3:19 pm

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it and may have gotten some ideas. The last year has been so busy, I never got around to lighting the newest buildings. My new additions this season will be a few statues/monuments and a chimney sweep with a ladder. I should have those before December. I wish Preiser would add more to it’s early 1900s collections. 😦

      November 24, 2013 at 4:23 pm

  6. I love your photographs! They’re so quaint and peaceful. 🙂 I’m having a charity event to benefit local children in my town around in December this year and would love to use some of these wonderful shots in my posts about it on facebook and instagram! My I please!? I’d be happy to link back to here!

    November 5, 2014 at 12:08 am

    • Sure. That’s fine. I already have new citizens ready to move in this season. It’s lots of fun!

      November 5, 2014 at 1:15 am

  7. Yestalgia

    Absolutely beautiful work @geaorgiapat, and thank you!

    November 5, 2014 at 1:46 pm

    • Thank you for visiting, Yestalgia. I will check out your blog!

      November 5, 2014 at 2:29 pm

  8. So happy to have found your blog. Gorgeous little town you have here 🙂

    November 14, 2014 at 7:47 pm

  9. Charlie

    Well, it’s close enough to the Christmas Season for me. Back to peruse your site during lunch break. I

    November 18, 2015 at 7:26 pm

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