I'm considering buying a brass N scale UP caboose, but the pictures on caboosehobbies.com show unpainted models, and I was wondering if the models themselves come painted or unpainted? If I'm paying >$US90 for a model, I want to make sure it's painted. The photos on the Overland Models site show painted models, although the retailer's don't, and I just want to get some advice on this.
If it doesn't say "factory painted" or "custom painted", it comes in brass. Not unpainted, actually the models are painted with a gold lacquer to hide the solder and discolorations from the heat, but that counts as unpainted. A lot of collectors want their models unpainted, oddly enough.
AFAIK, Overland models all come factory painted and lettered.
Plastic models require a very substantial amount of tooling for the casting process. Therefore, to get models of certain special interest cars and locomotives, there has to be short production runs in something that doesn't require casting.
I myself only own one brass locomotive - something that wasn't and still isn't available commercially. Everything else is plastic. However, I would disagree that plastic is just as good. With metal parts, it is possible to make much smaller, fine detail such as grab irons, various pipe details, etc. The walls of cars can be thinner, and have a more realistic look to them.
However, just because it is possibe, doesn't mean that it is always done. There are brass models out there that aren't so very wonderful. Riding qualities and (for locomotives) running qualities can sometimes be poorer than one would expect at the price - because they expect the model to be in a display case or some such rather than actually used.
An awful lot of that fine detail only shows up if you are looking at the thing in a full page photo in model railroader magazine or something like that. Most modelers don't look at their stuff under 5x maginfication like that. For most practical purposes, plastic appears just as good, particularly now that laser machining is far more common than it once was.