At one time Airfix had a range of railway kits including trains, buildings and figures. Around the end of the 1970s they produced a set of railway workmen, but this set disappeared almost immediately, and does not appear in any Airfix catalogue, making extant examples very rare and collectible. Why the sudden disappearance is unclear, but it seems that when Airfix sold their railway moulds to Dapol, the deal included this set. However when Dapol released the figures, they had been given a flattish round base
instead of the classic Airfix square one, and may even have been completely retooled. Today these figures are still available in Dapol packaging.
The figures themselves, particularly those in civilian dress, are appropriate for quite a broad time period. Those in uniform could have some use in military units, and of course many armies employed civilian contractors for various tasks, but perhaps the main value of these is in the potential for conversions. Converters always complain that there is never enough material, so even a non-military set like this is welcome. Certainly there is no other source of flat caps and bowlers of which we are aware.
Happily the figures themselves are really nice too. Despite their age they have very well defined detail such as folds in the clothing and faces, and every figure is well proportioned and lifelike. There was almost no flash to get rid of, but the one tell-tale sign of the vintage of these figures is that each has a round mould mark on the back.
This is a very fine set that is still in production, and deservedly so. It serves to illustrate the value of keeping an eye on model railway products to supplement the figures available.