Walthers has re-released its HO scale FP7 and F7B Electro-Motive Division diesel locomotives with new tooling and a LokSound 5 Digital Command Control sound decoder. And wow, is that a bully. The pair of locomotives mustered almost 2â3 of a pound of pulling force in our bench test and battled 30 cars up to a 3 percent incline on our staff layout. If you’re looking for well-detailed Transitional Era diesels to pull a long passenger train through your network, Walthers has a set for you. Although most of the road names are sold out on the Walthers website, they are still available in many hobby stores.
The Electro-Motive Division’s 1,500hp FP7 was developed to be the best of both worlds. Railways whose passenger trains traversed mountainous slopes found that the A-1-A E-series trucks provided insufficient traction, while the F units did not have water tanks large enough to supply water. steam generators on long journeys. Enter the FP7, essentially an F7 freight locomotive with an extra 4 feet in length for a larger water tank. Between June 1949 and December 1953, nearly 300 were built at EMD’s plant in LaGrange, Ill. For US Railways; Another 57 were made in London, Ontario, for Canadian roads. Mexican Railways received 18 FP7s, and two more went to the Saudi Aramco oil company in Saudi Arabia.
No cable-less B unit of the FP7 has ever been manufactured; rather, they were sold with the F7B booster, like the Walthers model. As the F7Bs did not have cabins, they had plenty of room for the water tanks, so an elongated version was not needed.
Many FP7s remained in service until the Amtrak era of the 1970s. Several are still in service today, serving railway museums and excursion railroads.
Dimensions and details
I found drawings of the FP7 in The Model Railroader Cyclopedia: Vol. 2, Diesel Locomotives (Kalmbach Books, out of print). I placed the HO scale locomotive on its side directly above the drawing, and all features and dimensions were aligned. The model also looked like prototype photos published in this book and in The Milwaukee Road Diesel Power by Frederick Hyde and Dale Sanders (The Milwaukee Road Historical Association, 2009).
Our sample set is decorated in the Armor Yellow and Harbor Mist Gray pattern inspired by the Union Pacific of Milwaukee Road, adopted when the Milwaukee began shipping the City of UP trains from Omaha to Chicago in October 1955. The paint is smooth and even, with crisp colored edges between the yellow, gray, and red lines that separate them. The lettering is crisp and legible, including the thin black outlines over the red lettering.
The model carries many prototype-specific details, including a winter hatch, roof-mounted oil cooler with cover, and Milwaukee Road’s unique barrel-style spark arresters. Eye-catching stainless steel horizontal side grilles show the details of the air intake behind. Handles, sun visors, cabin steps and nose access shelf are painted gray, a nice contrast to the yellow. Silver trucks also have a host of separately applied details, like brake cylinders and speed recorders.
Removing the shell is simply removing the rear coupler (so as not to damage the delicate decoupling lever), gently spreading the sides of the shell to release the locking tabs, sliding the frame out of the shell and thread the front coupler through the pilot opening. The silver painted die-cast metal frame represents the model’s weight of over a pound. The motor and flywheel are tucked down in the center and topped with a printed circuit light board and plug-in decoder. Transmission shafts connect the engine to the gear towers of each truck. The speaker is securely enclosed between the motor and the rear gear tower.
Test, one, two
Our sample models were equipped with ESU LokSound DCC dual mode decoders, so they can operate either on DC or Digital Command Control (DCC). I first tested them under DCC.
The two motors of the FP7 and F7B assemblies are powered and equipped with sound decoders. I put them both on the MR workshop test track and found they were identically equipped, so I did all of my testing on unit A only. The locomotive was programmed with so much momentum that in speed stage 1 it simply shook. This could be corrected by reducing the dynamics with an adjustment to the configuration variable (CV) 23 and / or by increasing the value of Vstart (CV 2). The locomotive was running steadily at speed 2 at a majestic speed of 1.5 mph. At speed stage 28, it peaked at 67 mph. That’s just over half of the prototype’s rated top speed of 118 mph, but it’s probably very fast for most model railroads.
I checked all the sound and light controls available on the function keys of the controllers. The bell (function key 1) and the horn (F2) sounded fine. Function key 3 played a coupler crash and F4 dynamic brakes. I liked that the headlights (F0), Mars light (F5), and illuminated number boxes (F6) could all be turned on and off separately.
Under direct current, the only sounds played were the roar of the diesel engine and a screeching brake when the speed was greatly reduced. The sounds occurred at 8.5 volts and at 10 V the locomotive was driven at 2.5 mph. At 14V, the maximum power of the Atlas PSU I used, it was moving at 85 mph in scale, which was faster than the maximum speed in DCC, but still slower than the prototype.
The pulling power of the locomotives overwhelmed me. When I hooked the A unit to our bench force meter, I had to hold the instrument down lest the motor drag it across the track. It registered over 1â3 of a pound of pulling force – enough to haul 80 40-foot freight cars or 40 passenger cars on a straight, level track. Unit B was even more powerful.
Using the NCE PowerCab DCC system from our workshop, I was able to easily set up a coupling with the two motors. The FP7 and F7B were well suited to speed right out of the box. Coupled together, the two gathered almost 2â3 of a pound of force.
I then took the compound locomotives available to us from Milwaukee, Racine & Troy staff and coupled them to a chain of 20 assorted 50-60ft freight cars in the Bay Junction yard. I put the throttle on and the train hit the top of the 3% grade to Skyridge with no hiccups. I veered more and more until the wheels slipped at 35 cars. Thirty was roughly the limit. You don’t have to worry about your passenger train being too long for these locomotives.
A home run
Walthers hit him out of the park again. Upgraded bodywork is attractive and precise, the drivetrain is smooth and responsive, and the sounds from the LokSound 5 decoder are loud and vibrant. This is a set of locomotives that deserves to be at the head of your railroad’s passenger rationalizer.
Facts and characteristics
Price: FP7 and F7B Package: with LokSound 5 DCC and sound, $ 549.98; DC no sound, $ 369.98. FP7 only: sound DCC, $ 279.98; DC, $ 189.98.
Wm. K. Walthers Inc.
5601 W. Florist Ave.
Milwaukee, WI 53218 walthers.com
Time: 1949-1970 (some remain in service on excursion railways today)
Road names: Milwaukee Road (Armor Yellow and Harbor Mist Gray and orange and brown modified), Amtrak (arrow without dot), Pennsylvania RR (single stripe “Brunswick Green” pattern), Soo Line (brown and Dulux Gold), Southern Pacific (“nose bloody ‘diet), and Southern Ry. (âsmokingâ scheme).
– RP-25 contour wheels in blackened metal, gauge
– Cabin interior with engineer and firefighter figures
– Directional light emitting diode headlight and reversing light
– ESU LokSound 5 Digital Command Control sound decoder (available)
– Engraved metal grilles, windshield wipers, eyebolts and other details
– Five-pole obliquely wound motors with flywheels
– Illuminated numbered boxes (Unit A only)
– New bodywork tools
– Proto-max metal hitches, at the right height
– Prototype specific details
– Weight: 1 lb, 2.2 ounces (FP7); 1 pound, 1.6 ounce (F7B)
– Functional Mars Light (Unit A only)