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.
In the late 1970's Williams slowly shifted its interest to modern 'O' gauge trains,
beginning with the purchase of Kusan's dies. The company started
making Post-War 'O' gauge replicas, starting with the GG-1, and FM trainmaster. Complete Williams
sets were made in the mid 1970's to 1980's including
NASA sets and military sets.
During 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. Some of the models built for the first time in 3-rail 'O' gauge were: The
Pennsylvania RR K-4, NYC Niagara, Norfolk & Western J-Class bulletnose, and Southern Pacific Cab Forward.
Thus Williams became a major distributor for
scale-like three rail locomotives and cars. 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.
As 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. Although today Williams is often considered a maker of reproduction 1950's-era Lionel equipment,
Williams' offerings are distinguishable from the Lionel originals because Williams sometimes adds details
that were not possible using 1950s 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 want
a more "traditional" train layout reminiscent of the 1950's but who want to buy modern equipment. However,
this decision has also allowed companies such as MTH and K-Line to eclipse it
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.
Link to Williams Trains Web Site.