This week’s guest on the Toy Photographers podcast, Chris Shaylor, known to thousands of fans for his Empire Toy Works brand, is doing amazing things in Rotgut Station Spaceport, a fully realized, room-filling world he continues to build and evolve above his garage—all while creating incredible customs and shooting unforgettable toy photos on its dingy, dangerous streets, alleyways and terraces.

Custom Mandalorian Acid Rain World action figure on the streets of Rotgut
Custom Acid Rain World / Mandalorian mashup on the streets of Rotgut, Photo: Chris Shaylor, @empiretoyworks

A lifelong collector of 1:18 scale (3.75-inch) action figures and vehicles—of every brand, line and era you can imagine—Shaylor retired from his family business to pursue making and selling toys full time. Along the way, the now 47-year-old husband and father began taking photographs of his toys, first of the pieces he makes to sell online, and then to capture his many one-of-a-kind custom builds and the ongoing progress as Rotgut Station, its inhabitants and their often colorful ships and speeders took shape.

Rotgut Station Spaceport
Rotgut Station Spaceport, Photo: Chris Shaylor, @empiretoyworks

His sci-fi city is populated by hundreds of action figures and vehicles, which appear in his photos going about their daily lives at Rotgut, taking part in various adventures or reacting to bigger things happening in Shaylor’s expansive world, like a recent attack by an army of Cyberman figures from Doctor Who.

Cyberman army invades Rotgut Station by Chris Shaylor, @empiretoyworks
Cyberman army invades Rotgut Station, Photo: Chris Shaylor, @empiretoyworks

Culminating years of effort, Rotgut Station and all its related spacecrafts, beasts and denizens have earned Shaylor’s @empiretoyworks Instagram account more than 18,000 followers, including numerous companies that donate the toys he alters and photographs, with no directives other than the hope their products will appear in his images, even if they’re altered beyond immediate recognition.

A massive, custom Jurassic Park dinosaur fits right in to Chris Shaylor's world
A massive, custom Jurassic Park dinosaur fits right in to Chris Shaylor’s world, Photo: Chris Shaylor, @empiretoyworks

As you might notice in this podcast, I’m a longtime fan of Chris Shaylor and his work, and definitely fanboyed out a bit during our chat. That’s because Chris is truly one of the best in the game, and he’s doing it all—from making toys to sell, to building dioramas, customizing figures and vehicles, and taking pictures—according to his own, unique vision. If you see anything out there that looks similar, it was likely inspired by Shaylor and his creations, and he’s genuinely happy to motivate others, even if the results are a bit derivative.

Rotgut Station Spaceport action figure photos by Chris Shaylor, @empiretoyworks
Photos by Chris Shaylor, @empiretoyworks

In Shaylor’s magnanimity, Rotgut Station is for everyone. If only all of us could actually play inside.

Chris Shaylor builds an extension to his spaceport
Chris Shaylor builds an extension to his spaceport, Photo: Chris Shaylor, @empiretoyworks


Barlowe’s Guide to Extraterrestrials: Great Aliens from Science Fiction Literature (1987) by Wayne Douglas Barlowe and Ian Summer

Gnomes (1977) by Will Huygen and Rien Poortvliet

Empire Toy Works YouTube channel

Empire Toy Works eBay store

Empire Toy Works on Facebook

Shaylor's action figure avatar imprisoned
Shaylor’s action figure avatar imprisoned, Photo: Chris Shaylor, @empiretoyworks

Along with finding Empire Toy Works on Facebook and Instagram (@empiretoyworks), be sure to check out Chris’s toys for sale under empiretoyworks on eBay, and watch his YouTube videos offering an in-depth look at Rotgut Station Spaceport and his process (find all links above).

Rotgut Station speeder Acid Rain World
Rotgut Station speeder, Photo: Chris Shaylor, @empiretoyworks

You can find Oliver Peterson, your host for this episode, at @oliversees on Instagram and at @118af, a 1:18 scale toy photography feature page on IG.

Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next time on the Toy Photographers podcast.

Shaylor is especially fond of his Spaceballs / Razorcrest mashup
Shaylor is especially fond of his Spaceballs / Razorcrest mashup, Photo: Chris Shaylor, @empiretoyworks
Chris Shaylor, @empiretoyworks, and his Rotgut Station
Chris Shaylor, @empiretoyworks, and his Rotgut Station