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Williams Trains

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Williams Standard gauge reproduction Lionel 381E Loco, Bild-A-Motor Founded in 1971 by Jerry Williams in Columbia, MD, as a maker of reproduction Lionel and Ives Standard Gauge trains, originally produced in the 1920's & 1930's. At the outset the company was called Williams Reproductions Limited. All reproduction Standard gauge trains were made of steel, using the same gauge as the originals. Items were manufactured in limited runs, and some came in a solid redwood custom made box with special engraving on the ends and top. Most of the locomotives and cars came in unpainted 'Repli-Kits' or fully painted in colors that matched the originals. The company also offered restoration parts. Jerry Williams had come from Classic Model Corp., another Maryland based maker of Standard gauge trains.

Standard gauge production at Williams Reproductions Limited was called the Golden Memories Series and took place between the years 1973 to 1983. This included fabrication of a reproduction version of one of the most Williams Standard gauge reproduction Lionel 9E Bild-A-Locodesireable Standard gauge electric locomotives ever made, and originally catalogued by Lionel trains from 1928 to 1936, the #381E. The #381E was offered as a dummy unit, ready for a 'Bild-A-Loco' or 'Super' motor to be installed. The company also offered a replacement 'Super' electric motor for sale. There were three separate production runs of the #381E locomotive - first in 1973, then another in 1976, and a final run in 1980. In 1973 Williams Reproductions Limited also released a Lionel #9E electric locomotive. This too came as a dummy unit, ready for installation of a 'Bild-A-Loco' or 'Super' motor. In 1974 Williams released a Lionel #94 High Tension Tower. Initial production was limited, and a second production run was made in 1981. In 1975 a reproduction Lionel #8 'Pay As You Enter' trolley (originally catalogued from 1910 to 1915) with power truck and operating headlight was released. This was the largest trolley that Lionel ever manufactured.

Williams Standard gauge reproduction Lionel #8 Pay As You Enter TrolleyIn 1975 Williams released a Lionel #408E 8 wheeled electic locomotive (originally catalogued by Lionel as a dual-motored, top of the line engine starting from 1927 up until 1936, when all Standard gauge production was ceased). In 1978 came the #400 series pasenger cars in 4 or 6 wheel truck versions. Offerings included the #418 pullman, #419 combine, #428 pullman, #429 pullman, #430 observation, #431 diner, and #490 observation. These cars featured removable roofs, interior lighting, hinged doors, detailed interiors and colored transparencies in the window transoms. The observation car had a rear platform with a dome light. In celebration of the TCA's 25th anniversary, Williams released a special 3 car set headed by a #408E. The included cars were named after the famous manufacturers - with a Harry C. Ives combo car, a J. Lionel Cowan parlor car, and an A.C. Gilbert observation car. A Louis Marx diner car was also made available for this set as an add-on. In Williams Standard gauge reproduction Lionel #2 Trolley1980 Williams released their much longer state car sets with 6 wheel passenger car trucks. These were available headed by either a #381E or #408E and consisted of the #412 California coach, #413 Colorado coach, #414 Illinois coach and #416 New York observation car. Finally in 1983, Williams released a Universal Dual Motored Power Unit. Williams also manufactured a reproduction model of the #1694 Ives Electric locomotive from 1932.

By the late 1970's Williams was slowly shifting its interest to modern 'O' gauge trains, beginning with the purchase of Kusan's dies. Initial items were kits, then completed models were issued. The company eventually started making Post-War 'O' gauge replicas, starting with the GG-1, Madison cars and FM trainmaster by Lionel. Complete Williams sets were made in the mid 1970's to 1980's including NASA sets and military sets.

Williams 'O' gauge Canadian National J Class Steam locomotiveDuring the 1980's the demand for scale sized locomotives increased dramatically. In response to this demand, Williams created its Crown Edition Line. These models were nicely detailed handmade brass scale models produced as limited-editions. They started out as very simple models of common steam locomotives. Later releases were models built for the first time in 3-rail 'O' gauge including The Pennsylvania RR K-4, NYC Niagara, Norfolk & Western J-Class 611 bulletnose, Union Pacific Big Boy, a Camelback Loco, and the Southern Pacific Cab Forward. Thus Williams became a major distributor for scale-like three rail locomotives and cars. This was the birth of 'Hi-Rail' or scale sized items for 3-rail track. At the same time, Williams was phasing out, and eventually discontinued its tinplate Standard gauge offerings, selling the tooling to the company that later became MTH Electric Trains. Interestingly, Mike Wolf, the founder of MTH, had began working for Jerry Williams at Williams Reproductions Limited in 1973 as a 12 year old kid. Mike lived in the same Howard County Maryland neighborhood as Jerry. Mike and several of his schoolmates were employed to assemble latch couplers and other parts for the pre-war era reproduction trains in Jerry's basement. Mike continued to work for Jerry throughout his high school and college years, until 1980, when Mike's Train House was started.

Williams 'O' gauge Florida East Coast BL-2 diesal locomotiveAs the 1980's came to an end and the US economy went into a recession, the demand for expensive scale models declined, and Williams focused on more economical-to-produce diesel models such as F-3's, Geep's and SW1 switchers. From 1990 to 2007, Jerry concentrated on the development of models of diesels, passenger cars and rolling stock and the expansion of the Golden Memories line. In 2000, he indulged himself by making one of his favorite models, the Lionel #671 turbine locomotive first cataloged in the mid-1940’s. Most people discouraged him from making this model since they were common items, but Jerry’s instinct was right again and this model proved to be a success. Although Williams was often considered a maker of reproduction 1950's-era Lionel equipment, Williams' offerings are distinguishable from the Lionel originals because Williams sometimes added details that were not possible using 1950's manufacturing methods. Unlike most other 'O' scale manufacturers, Williams never added electronics such as Trainmaster Command Control or Digital Command System to its locomotives. This decision gained Williams a small but devoted following among those hobbyists who wanted a more "traditional" train layout reminiscent of the 1950's but who also wanted to buy modern equipment. However, Williams 'O' gauge U33C Scale Chessie System Diesel Engine #8285this decision also allowed companies such as MTH and K-Line to eclipse Williams in size in spite of being an older company.

After 35 years, Jerry Williams decided to retire from the model railroad business. In October 2007, Williams was acquired by Bachmann Industries. Bachmann continues to produce a Williams line of 3 rail 'O' gauge trains, track and accessories. In 2016 Jerry Williams was inducted into the Hobby Manufacturers Association Hall of Fame. Jerry’s vision and competition forced other companies to raise their standards. Additionally, many of today’s train manufacturers have benefited from the experience that they learned while working with Jerry. These include Mike Wolf and Andy Edleman of MTH, Ken Silvestri of Broadway Limited, and Larry Harrington of Bachmann Industries.

Link to Williams Trains by Bachmann Web Site.

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