Electro Motive Division F7EMD
F-series (“F” for freight
) of diesel-electric locomotives have been called ‘The diesel that did it’, referring to the diesel proving itself against the proven steam locomotive. Beginning in 1939 with the FT
, the first model in EMD's overwhelming series of cab unit freight diesels, successive models of improved F-units banished the competitors. Further F7 history is available at the bottom of this review.
Kansas City Southern
One of the handful of surviving ‘legacy’ Class 1 railroads, Kansas City Southern (reporting marks KCS
) have flung a web of steel in the US from the West North Central to the West South Central regions, into Mexico, and even along the Panama Canal! Like so many railroads the history of KCS is complex, although the legacy KCS was assembled and built by Arthur Edward Stilwell, first incorporated January 8, 1887 as The Kansas City Suburban Belt Railroad.  Stilwell was very eccentric, basing business decisions on ‘hunches’, eventually claiming later in life that his ‘hunches’ were brought to him by faeries! Stilwell was soon forced out of his railroad, after which his wee folk inspired him to start his interesting Kansas City, Mexico and Orient Railway to fling steel ribbons from Kansas City to the Pacific Ocean at Topolobampo, Mexico—but that’s another story.
Although the storied Kansas City Southern was what is known today as a “regional railroad”, KCS’ management ran trains with panache. Kansas City Southern became a sort of railroading Cinderella story, surviving to prosper in the 1990s and into today. Management revived the famous black, yellow and red "Southern Belle" livery to the delight of railfans. To power their executive train they even brought back a vintage F7 A/B set, the subject of this review.
HO RTR F7 A/B, KCS/Executive #KCS1
This striking model is packed in a form fitted cradle held in a blue and yellow Athearn Ready To Roll
box. This set is a powered A unit and an unpowered B unit.
• Fully assembled and ready for your layout
• Super weight installed for extra traction
• B unit is unpowered
• Machined RP25 profile metal wheels
• McHenry scale knuckle spring couplers installed
Bear in mind that this is an Athearn entry-level locomotive. As such it lacks the fantastic detail of Athearn Genesis models. It is an improvement over the old Athearn “Blue Box” models of old although I cannot tell if the plastic body shells are new or reworked Blue Box
molds. The molding is good with no flash, sink holes or visible ejector marks, and minor seam lines. However, the molded grilles have several lumpy flaws that are exaggerated by their silver finish. Some minor glue marks can be found on the windows.
Almost all detail - grab irons, stirrups, handles, diaphragms, dynamic brake fans, lift rings - is molded on. MU attachment points are molded as round raised knobs. Other brackets for air and steam lines are molded near the couplers. The model lacks windshield wipers on the windshield and open grilles along the sides (perhaps a dark wash on them will give the illusion of being open). It does
feature separately applied horns over the cab. The headlights illuminate but not the number boards. There is no detail in the cab.
Carrying the chassis along the rails are detailed trucks of B-B arraignment (a pair of powered two-axle trucks) with highly detailed plastic sideframes representing Blomberg B trucks. Brake shoes are represented. Athearn details each with separately applied brake cylinders and swing hangers. These trucks mount machined RP25 profile metal wheels.
Good looking McHenry scale knuckle spring couplers are installed. They can be replaced by removing a screw.
By “the 3-foot rule” these are acceptable looking models; the only proverbial sore thumb is the expansive space between the A and B units. One could consider removing the couplers and joining the two units with a short drawbar, although that may hamper the locomotive’s ability to negotiable the advertised 18in radius curve.
What’s underneath the hood is very important. The analog (DC) motor and drive have been updated. No longer do Athearn models growl like an old coffee grinder. They run smooth and quiet, although the minimum speed I could attain is a blistering 10mph (scale).
Paint and Markings
This is where this model shines. The paint finish of the retro Southern Belle
livery is excellent. Markings are crisp: Shreveport
adorns the A-unit, as does the classy KCS emblem on the nose, although this model lacks the fine stenciling of other Athearn offerings.
Athearn released in total 60 models in 31 roadnames:
1. Alaska Railroad
3. Atlantic Coast Line
4. Boston & Maine
5. Burlington Northern
6. Canadian National
7. Canadian Pacific
8. Chesapeake & Ohio
9. Chicago & North Western
10. Chicago Burlington & Quincy
11. Denver & Rio Grande Western
12. Erie Lackawanna
13. Great Northern
14. John Deere
15. Kansas City Southern (three different KCS liveries)
16. Milwaukee Road
18. Nacionales de Mexico
19. New York Central
20. Norfolk Southern
21. Northern Pacific
22. Pennsylvania Railroad
24. Rock Island
25. Santa Fe
26. Soo Line
27. Southern Pacific
28. Union Pacific
30. Western Maryland
31. Western Pacific
Today there are many detailed ready-to-run locos available. Some have a surprising amount of attached detail parts and photo-etch on them. This model is Athearn’s entry-level offering. It has reasonable molded detail and a couple of individual parts. It runs well. Knuckle couples are installed. The paint is excellent.
It lacks open grilles and wire hand holds and grabs. Many components are over scale.
While it may have some issues with shape, it looks like an F7 to me. I think it is a good entry-level model that will gain a lot of attention. Recommend.
Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on
The EMD F7 was a 1,500 horsepower (1,100 kW) Diesel-electric locomotive produced between February 1949 and December 1953 by the Electro-Motive Division of General Motors (EMD) and General Motors Diesel (GMD). It succeeded the F3 model in GM-EMD's F-unit sequence, and was replaced in turn by the F9. Although originally promoted as a freight-hauling unit by EMD, the F7 was also used in passenger service hauling such trains as the Santa Fe's Super Chief and El Capitan.  A total of 2,366 cab-equipped lead A-units and 1,483 cabless booster or B-units were built. The F7 was the fourth model in GM-EMD's successful line of F-unit locomotives, and by far the best-selling cab unit of all time. (Note: the B-unit is often referred to as an "F7B", whereas the A-unit is merely an "F7".)  The F7 can be considered the zenith of the cab unit freight Diesel, as it was ubiquitous on North American railroads until the 1970s (even longer in Canada). It powered some of the most famous trains in North America.  The F7 replaced the F3, differing primarily in internal equipment (mostly electrical) and some external features. Its continuous tractive effort rating was 20% higher (e.g. 40000 lb. for an F7 with 65 mph gearing, compared to 32500 lb. for an F3 with the same gearing). The F7 was eventually succeeded by the more powerful but mechanically similar F9. 
 Kansas City Southern Historical Society. THE KANSAS CITY SOUTHERN LINES. http://www.kcshs.org/schedule/subs/images/history/kcs_hist.htm. N.d.
, , ,  Wikipedia. EMD F7. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EMD_F7. 11 November 2011, 21:37hrs.
JEAN-DENIS BACHAND. EMD F7A and F7B. http://www.thedieselshop.us/Data EMD F7.HTML. 4 July 2006.