Where Shall We Eat?

The thought process in choosing the right diner to model

I was rather surprised to see such a variety of floor plans that different railroads used. It was not just as simple as 48 seats or 32 seats and a lounge. We went to produce several variations on the diner theme and found the choices are rather daunting.

Selecting from the Pullman-Standard and American Car & Foundry diner versions, as they follow the type of cars we already have at RailSmith, helped us cross the Budd Company versions off our list. Next, I have to cross off the list those window patterns that are completely unique. The cost of creating a new mold is very high, so I needed to focus on a body and window pattern that hits a broad range of railroads. Even though that might mean that we would have to label something as a ‘Classic’ version instead of a ‘Prototype’ one, we must stay the course of what was common to most, or the majority of railroads. What I found was the six larger dining room windows, where there is one table behind each window, was ‘almost’ but not quite universal. In some cases, a car may have started with a lounge section that may have been later removed to increase the meal-seating capacity.  And in those cases, windows were usually ‘not’ moved, but in a few cases, however, such as the NP, they were moved.

Plans & Conversions

The Great Northern would convert a section of lounge seats to dining tables and chairs for the busier season, then back to lounge seating in the ‘slower season’. What a smart way to handle the need and flow of passengers.

What we have made, that you will see first, are floor plans that are most common and will appeal to everybody. We have closely followed the Great Northern’s 1947 Empire Builder and the 1953 Northern Pacific diners. Do we really count seats in an N Scale diner? Forty eight seats? Thirty six seats? I know that what is more cared about is the window pattern we look at on the outside of the body. But, for your enjoyment, there is room for forty eight hungry passengers in the RailSmith diner.

When we purchased the tooling from Walthers for these passenger cars, it also included the drawings for a diner. But, that diner was a one-of-a-kind. We have no idea why they chose that. If we moved forward with that version of an IC diner, 98% of you would say, ’that does not look anything like my railroad diner’ and would be disappointed, because that diner had very unique characteristics. We really do not want to paint our diner for a railroad if it is not even close in appearance. That will be our decision to make. But the choice of the body styles we have now made will help cross many railroads as you will see.

The RailSmith diner body styles will be unlike any other diner yet produced in N Scale, including that highly desired fluted diner version. I am sure that you will be completely satisfied with, each and every meal, and the service will be the ‘best’ and keep you coming back for more. Our hope, and goal, is that the RailSmith Diners will be like a new favorite restaurant that you will return to time and again! 

Listen for the diner chime and call… 

‘It’s supper time!’

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

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What They Say:

S. Reames

I received my observation/business car today and – like all of my other cars from you – I love it!


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


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.

M. Magliaro

I received my #99 business card in the mail today. It looks superb. Thank you for another wonderful job. You are really filling a niche.


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!


The thing I love about all the things you do is the fact that everything is so well thought out, so beautiful and so unique.  


“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”.


Nothing better than receiving that white box from Lowell Smith.


Thanks for all the great trains – it’s nice to have such wonderful rolling stock on the layout.


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