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No Fixed Abode, Home Counties, United Kingdom
I’m a 51-year-old Aspergic CAD-Monkey. Sardonic, cynical and with the political leanings of a social reformer, I’m also a toy and model figure collector, particularly interested in the history of plastics and plastic toys. Other interests are history, current affairs, modern art, and architecture, gardening and natural history. I love plain chocolate, fireworks and trees but I don’t hug them, I do hug kittens. I hate ignorance, when it can be avoided, so I hate the 'educational' establishment and pity the millions they’ve failed with teaching-to-test and rote 'learning' and I hate the short-sighted stupidity of the entire ruling/industrial elite, with their planet destroying fascism and added “buy-one-get-one-free”. I also have no time for fools and little time for the false crap we're all supposed to pretend we haven't noticed, or the games we're supposed to play. I will 'bite the hand that feeds' to remind it why it feeds.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

327 is for Ländliche Gruppen. Gespanne

We come to arguably the most problematical set - for collectors - in the entire Preiser catalogue oeuvre, past, present and - I suspect - future. It is also by far and away the most useful set for war-gamers, small scale modellers, scratch-builders, dioramists and railway enthusiasts.

Preiser Artikal Numer 327 - Ländliche Gruppen. Gespanne (Rural Groups [and] Wagons), now listed as: Art.No.16327, contains . . . well, that's where the problem starts, and remains; it seems it contains whatever anyone at the factory feels like putting in it! But there is order to the madness . . . let's have a look . . .

The box-fronts from my two sets, I used to think the one on the right was the newer, but now I'm not so sure, although if wagon-wheel size is a guide, the older is on the left, suffice to say that for now and in relationship to the tables used later in the post 'My 1' is on the left here; 'My 2' is on the right.

The first thing to note is that the set on the left claims to contain 3x the milkmaid from the 'At the Mill' runner/vignette when in fact it only contained the one, indeed neither of my samples have extra milkmaids, but one of them is suspect as it was loose when it came in. The other point is the inclusion of the 'Washing Day' runner/vignette in the second box's line-up

Contents of one is described as 60 figures (no set yet encountered has a 60 figure count), 40 accessories and three wagon kits. The other set just states 120 pieces, with pictures that include an unrelated cement-tower/railway trackside scene.

The backs of the two boxes - again; 'My 1' is on the left. The illustrations on the box are mostly the contents of the box, with the mock-up wagon we looked at the other day, but the number of sheep can only be obtained with another set, again: that we saw the other day.

While the other box only has one image on the back pertaining to set 327 among all the railway and military scenes; advertising itself (327) with the cow family, but 327's only ever have a part of that family.

Of note is the "Subject to alterations in assortment, shape and colours" message on the older (?) box, that's the cover-all for the rest of this post!

The ends of both; 'My 2' is the lower, both repeat all the points raised above.

Now 'My 1' gets the inaccurate cow shot, repeated on the other box with another rail scene.

So a mixed message from my boxes, while the newer box on Plastic Soldier Review (PSR) seems to be an update of 'My 1' with different graphic panels, now describing 60 figures and 43 accessories (why so specific?), while showing the [old] large wheels on the buggy by using the artwork from my earlier set. Figures have lost the little numbers underneath on the artwork as well.

My 1; If you count all the animals including those from the 'wagon kits', all three suckling pigs, both packs, the feed-bucket and the held-child, you get 41, not 60. If you count all the unmade accessories on the three fencing/accessory runners and the bundle of wire you get a count of around 78, not 60?

You can make it 60 by tweaking stuff, likewise you can make 120, by counting fences made, but wagon springs, or axles separately &etc. until you go potty in the head, but basically, there is little relationship between the box descriptions and the contents, other than most of the stuff illustrated on 'My 1' is there in the box!

The catalogue image that ran through the early catalogues which covers the period of both my sets, like mine it has half the large animal set, but with a foal and calf, there is no hint of the fencing runners, but the water-pump/trough is there so at least one runner must have been present, with the gate and gate hinges? [See below].

This set/advert (?) has the extra shepherd which requires breaking a runner and two extra milkmaids - likewise. It has the same three wagons as both of mine, which we will come back to below.

The current layout in the catalogue is a fuller picture, not in comparison to box contents per se, just that it has more in it - as a line-up! An extra wagon (also seen in PSR's example) is the obvious addition along with a (new design?) tall-post water-pump, extra calf, more cattle, more tools, an extra draft horse and the +1 shepherd. The low water-pump and trough also seems to have been redesigned to a longer, more slim-lined model, but not in PSR's sample.

The three wagons that seem to be universal in the early sets, and retained in the larger current line up; all very useful for war gaming and for modellers. The Buggy hasn't been seen in these posts yet and is very Wild West in design, as is the flat box wagon, the other is more European in outline, and would make a nice addition to medieval armies/scenes.

Note how the original version of the buggy had huge wheels which severely limit its turning circle, these have been replace on more recent versions of 327 by a smaller set allowing tighter turns without the wheels fouling.

The fact that one complete set of wheels are dark brown is a further indicator of the add-hoc nature of filling these sets - whatever is to hand that matched the artwork and then make up the difference! Also note that the artwork shows a wishbone draw-bar, with one horse, yet the contents include a central pole, but only one horse came in the box, when two are required?

The reason I can't trust 'My 2' is that although it seems complete (and similar to 'My 1'), it was started and most of the runners had been 'de-sprued' so I can't vouch for it to the same extent as the earlier (?) one.

This (the painted one) has the wishbone poles and the smaller wheels and while it had the correct one horse, also came with two of the heavy brewers dray horses, the only time I've seen this.

I've prepared a table to show how the sets differ, if anyone would like the original to add their set to the table eMail me on the usual (maverickatlarge[at]hotmail[dot]com) and I'll send you a copy. Or send me your contents list and I'll do a follow-up.

You can see that no two of the five examples I'm using has the same contents listing, or count. The latest set (or the catalogue image - which can only be a guide*) has three pairs of draft-animals which makes it the most useful, with the extra wagon as well!

* I believe that's how it happens - the workers use the current catalogue image or a printed-list based on it; as a guide, filling the sets from stock and adding odds and sods to make-up the numbers and/or ensure the count is greater than the box states, negating complaints from customers?

The smaller animal runners seem to be universal and come with no extras, each is an old 'six-figure' set's-worth and I'm not sure how the suckling piglets vignette should look as it had come loose/off the runner.

Figures are dealt with below, but the 'Washing Day' runner's contents are here to minimise imagery in what was always going to be a long post.

The larger animals are interesting as they were separate sets in the 'six figure' range, with cows and horses offered as 155 and 156 respectively (six animals each), however in the budget range (4150 - Horses and 4155 - cows) they lost the foal/calf, I suspect some of the animals in 327's came from those removed in that exercise. The rest provided by splitting the original runner/s for horses and/or cows into two and chucking half in one 327 box, the other in another.

The foal is missing from both my line-ups so is also missing from the previous image, while numbering has changed slightly with regard to the 'last three' as a second set of [more animated] horse poses was added in the 1980's and there are now various sets of cow offered by dint of different paint finishes.

There are two poses missing from this as my listing for the table is based on the five sets studied only.  Either of the prone/lying-down horse or cow from the original 'six-figure' sets may have been included in 327's, otherwise it would have been back in the granule-hopper?

The farm or 'rural' family, he's casting seed, she's literally holding the baby, while the older boy is suggested as the goat-heard in pictures. They'd look just as good out on the prairie waiting for the Clancy Gang to raid their barn! The set was also part of the coloured plastic batch we looked at the other day.

'At the Mill' is a nice vignette with a recalcitrant donkey/ass/mule type refusing to be told what to do or where to go, again useful - add it to the various Atlantic mules and the Esci Alpini one (not to mention the more recent additions to the canon) and you've got quite a team for your Chindits or Merrill's Marauders!

This is an odd one as well, as there are clearly some sets of 327 (not mine) which have extra milkmaids from this runner, as the budget issue is the full six-figure (or five and a mule) set, there'd be no extra's kicking-around the factory so did they break whole runners for one extra figure , or even two? It may have been reduced to five in earlier times, but earlier sets seem to lack the extra milkmaids - although they are on the box? Maybe the rest of the family ended-up in some of the larger, bulk, figure-only sets; sans milkmaid?

I say this as those set's which have the extra shepherds, get them as they are left over from the sheep-only sets. If you cast back to the shepherd post, you'll notice that one of the bulk sets only has standing sheep, the 'spare' prone sheep then appear at a higher ratio in another bulk set, leaving lots of spare shepherds and dogs to be added to these 327's.

One would expect something similar with the milkmaid but it doesn't seem to be the case, as a result a lot of recalcitrant donkeys may have gone back in the hopper - that'll learn 'em!

The other standard 'six-figure' set is the farm worker set, in the painted 'exclusive' range this is one of many, another being scaled-down ex-Elastolin poses, while a third has more rotund sculpts and a fourth 'At the Cattle Market' is a cow-based version of 'At the Mill', only with a slightly more compliant cow. The above set comes with a runner of six little tools, usually in a contrasting colour plastic - here grey (part-painted, part set - My 2) and brown (My 1), but it also raises question marks - see below.

Every set seems to 'agree' with regard to the four old, knackered, fence sections, which have definitely seen better days and need some work . . .

. . . for which there is a mending-kit included in most sets. The codes: 0566 put them in a small range of accessory-sets (we looked at '556 - Luggage' the other day) which came out just before the big late 1980's re-numbering exercise, whether there was a separate 566 I don't know, I haven't found it yet.

No instructions come with this group of runners, and you can see in the official Preiser shots above, several ways of building the water-pump/trough (803.0566). I think the other runners are meant to make four two-bar fence sections (802.0566) with three uprights each, tall enough for horses or cows to be corralled, and the short posts (801.0566) are for the wire?

The 803.0566 runner also carries two buckets with separate handles (more question marks), a stool and some thin hoops which may be to fashion a hinged gate from the N/Z shaped piece and the posts at the other end of the runner, but all three runners just provide useful stuff for buildings, shelters, earthworks/defence-works or 'bits' of built environment, while the 'barbed-wire' is lovely stuff.

If anyone wants to buy it in bulk - WWI or ACW war-gamers - it's the 'security' wire used with lead-plugs to seal utility meters, corporate router-cabinets, service panels and the like and can be bought, dirt cheap (per inch), by the reel, from electrical wholesalers.

So the question marks seem to be over the newer sets, the catalogue image shows six buckets and PSR reports 12, these are clearly being added now as the PSR box has the latest version graphics, but PSR doesn't seem to have the 566 runners, the parts from which are piled-up all over the catalogue image.

Neither source seems to show the two from the 566 runners, but everything in the catalogue image is grey so they may be there? If the [new] buckets are on a runner of 6 with PSR having two runners, you need to add the two from 566 (and the one from the guy feeding the horse?), which would change totals to 8 or 14 where a 566 is included.

Tools are also a query, in the old catalogue image (and both my sets) you get a runner of 6 field/barn/yard tools with long handles, there are a lot in the new catalogue image; maybe three sets (I've assumed two), held, stacked or loaded in the wagons, so it would seem multiples are being included, but PSR's don't break-down by runner (4 forks, 2 spades?), and PSR also has a bunch of hand tools not seen in other sets, seemingly 2x1 runner?

Don't get me wrong, I do not doubt the contents of PSR's set, I know how diligent Dave is when it comes to these things, but it's clear the latest sets are getting a bunch of smaller items added to the extra wagon, horses, milkmaids (&etc) whether or not they should have been, or where in [some of] the older sets.

That's the thing with this set, the boxes have never fully explained the contents, the contents vary every time you look at them and the catalogue images shift components like sand on the breeze, but it seems to be following a basic contents 'menu', it seems to be the place of last refuge for items left out of other rural, bulk or budget sets and it seems to be slowly growing in size/contents - it's a really useful set; get one, get two - compare the contents and report back!

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