Will you see all the trains you want in your lifetime?

Will you see all the trains you want in your lifetime?

Creating an exact model of a passenger train comes one-car-at-a-time. Only Kato has given us complete train sets. But, hold that thought… As a consumer we want it all and are pretty fickle about criticism of those manufacturers when they decorate a car that is not, although nicely decorated, accurate to that particular body style. What do you care about? If we learn about what passenger cars made up that ’name train’, that knowledge can work against us as criticism when it is wrong and some will ask, ‘why can’t they get it right?’.

Now I’m on the other side-of-the-tracks and personally deciding what my vision is of how to move forward with the acquisition of the Walther’s N Scale passenger cars. Cases in point that you will understand: Kato produced very nice models, and nicely decorated, and we like their models for those reasons. Did we care that the models were of Union Pacific cars that are now painted GN, Via, SP, etc…? We bought them because they were nicely done and because there were few, if any, other choices.

Walthers passenger cars, nicely done, never carried a road number or a road name, and the cars were sold with a decal set for the consumer to decide and ‘finish’. I want to produce a finished car. That decision means that choices need to be made about producing a ‘prototypically’ accurate car. And when it is not, what would you suggest? And, how many of you really know the difference and do care? I know the answer to that question and will show you. We buy a boxcar because we ‘like it’ and like the decoration or road name. Knowledge can be good and bad. We have heard folks say their railroad never had that car, so they won’t buy it. And while I can appreciate the desire for accuracy, it comes down to time. I want it in my lifetime! The process of manufacturing, and the cost of tooling, is limiting the end solution of perfection of a train!

I think that less than 20 percent of model railroaders know that a car is right or not. When a producer boasts they are making a boxcar with XYZ accurate brake wheel, roof detail, etc., I did not realize the ones produced in that paint scheme in the past, were not prototypically accurate. Did I care? Did you care? The fact is that less than 20 percent do. You may know YOUR railroad, but in this day-and-age of model railroading, can we expect that all will come our way and we will get 100 percent prototype trains? In recent years Kato is doing a pretty good job of this. But time works against us all and we still are not there. It is a numbers issue. The cost of tooling-up new models is very high.

I am committed to produce high-quality and accurately-decorated passenger train models for the RailSmith line.

I believe that most will support my plan to continue, as I do with Lowell Smith Signature Series, to produce smaller quantities in my production of RailSmith Models. So whether or not somebody likes it, if it is decorated correctly, I’d like to believe ‘ideally’ the quantity produced will not be sitting on a shelf six months later, thus allowing more trains to be produced.

What is your opinion? Please share in the comments below…

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Lowell Smith

A native of Portland, Oregon, Lowell Smith married his church choir sweetheart Barb in 1978. After a lifetime of rail-fanning, Lowell and Barb ventured out in 1992 to launch a new business in Portland, Oregon. Read more


  1. David on March 24, 2018 at 12:04 pm

    Lowell, I am among the 80% of model railroaders that neither know the prototype specifics of my or any other railroad, or even care. I love the trains that you produce because they are expertly crafted, creative and unique. When would we ever see a mass produced 26 car American Freedom train or a 30+ car Circus train or an eclectic SP&S passenger train, each of which are “close” to prototype and consist of models from different manufacturers. The answer is simple . . . never. You are to be commended for filling this void for the several model train enthusiasts that appreciate the beauty and quality of a complete train. I am excited about the future possibilities of your creativity and consistency as a result of your acquisition of the Walthers tooling. I promise that you will never hear from me about the misplacement of a rivet or a window, and I think most others would say the same thing. Keep up the great work!

  2. Steve on March 27, 2018 at 11:51 am

    While I am a “rivet counter” I have come to the conclusion that you can’t always get what you want….BUT….This was my feeling when I bought into the AFT. That said, it’s a very nice spectacle on a layout, and I’ll tweak the details that matter to me…..I’m certainly looking forward to your future releases. They are unique, and make collecting fun……

    • Lowell Smith on March 27, 2018 at 12:08 pm

      Steve your comments are very much appreciated. Thank you for taking time to say what you feel about this!

  3. Tom on March 27, 2018 at 4:17 pm

    I’ve answered both of your recent surveys, so you’ve seen my opinion before, but I wanted to add to your public comment section. As you noted, Walthers expected modelers to decal names and numbers on their cars, a non-starter with me and many others, and I know I did not buy many of the cars I would have otherwise if the lettering had been complete.. The “semi-generic nature” of the various cars chosen to be modeled made them well-suited for the variety of roadnames Walthers initially produced, but I believe their sales were hurt by the lack of detail lettering. I think the line could be successfully expanded to include at the very least a matching diner, with a lounge of some type (full, coach-lounge, sleeper lounge or diner-lounge) being another, albeit it lower, priority. The lack of a matching RPO, round-end observation or any type of dome car is not an issue for me. I look forward to seeing your upcoming releases in the RailSmith line!

  4. Dale Miller on May 2, 2018 at 8:58 pm

    For me the accuracy of paint colors, quality of application and a quality model most convey the time and place of a model railroad. I am somewhat knowledgeable of the prototype details and desire those as well but, that does not matter much without the right paint and quality.

    I am so happy that you are doing the NP’s Mainstreeter in both the Pine Tree and Lowey schemes as they are beautiful Micro-Trains models and fit my mid-1954 model era perfectly.

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Ferdinand Magellan is great! This really fits your mission of offering significant cars that otherwise wouldn’t be produced. Facebook Twitter Google+ Pinterest


Aside from the quality, creativity and originality, you are to be commended for your ongoing commitment to this (GAC) series, and all of your series of trains over a period of so many years.  There is always something to look forward to. Keep up the great work!’ D. K. Facebook Twitter Google+ Pinterest


I just received the “The Great Locomotive Chase” set from the Walt Disney Family Museum. Very nicely done! Facebook Twitter Google+ Pinterest


“You seem to be the shining light in an industry that’s seen a lot of change since the early 2000’s when I was last in the hobby”. Facebook Twitter Google+ Pinterest

J. Arenas

Wow… You made my dream come true with the CK Holiday! I am a great admirer of your work. Facebook Twitter Google+ Pinterest


I am looking forward to many more releases in the new year. I stayed up really late on Christmas to talk to Santa when he came by our house. I asked him for an n-scale SP&S 700, and he said that was out of his league and I’d better call you. Facebook Twitter Google+ Pinterest

Joe W.

And as for your goal of 5 releases a year, I admire your ambition, but I won’t hold it against you if you fall short on that accomplishment.  I’m just thrilled you’re doing such an AWESOME job of releasing this amazing train, and hope you don’t stop until it’s all done! Facebook Twitter Google+ Pinterest


As a retiree of the Walt Disney Company I look forward to upcoming releases of the Disney Family Museum and Disneyland series.  Keep up the excellent work! Facebook Twitter Google+ Pinterest

Ray F.

I just wanted you to know my O gauge Hood River Pears car came yesterday in perfect condition. This car is just beautiful I can’t wait for the next one to come out. Keep up the good work. Facebook Twitter Google+ Pinterest

Jim and Jo Ann K.

Every aspect of the trip was professionally done.  You and Barbara were on top of every change and your matter-of-fact assurances speak highly of your professionalism.  Jo Ann is a retired chef  and we know what good food is, and the meals provided on the CZ trip were stellar! BRAVO to you and Barbara for…