News & Reviews Product Reviews Staff Reviews Athearn HO scale CF7 diesel locomotive offers solid performance

Athearn HO scale CF7 diesel locomotive offers solid performance

By | April 1, 2004

Reviewed in the April 2004 issue

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Athearn HO scale CF7
Athearn HO scale CF7
Athearn HO scale CF7
The unusual-looking CF7 road switcher is the latest ready-to-run plastic locomotive released by Athearn, and it’s the third Ready-to-Roll locomotive to feature a modified Rail Power Products shell. The model is based on a prototype rebuilt by the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe in the 1970s.

An oddball is born
In late 1969, workers at Santa Fe’s Cleburne, Texas, shop began the arduous task of converting F7 A unit no. 262C into CF7 road switcher no. 2649. This first CF7 was finally completed in March 1970. By the time the conversion program ended in 1978, 233 CF7s had been built.

The CF7 design went through some evolution during the eight years of production. More information can be found in Cary F. Poole’s book CF7 Locomotives: From Cleburne to Everywhere (The Railroad Press). Santa Fe retired the last of its CF7s in August 1987, but several shortline and regional railroads purchased CF7s, and many of these units are still in service today!

Great details
Athearn’s Ready-to-Roll CF7 features a nice level of detail, including see-through radiator and dynamic brake fans with separately applied fan blades, wire grab irons, and Celcon molded handrails.

The model closely matches the prototype dimensions in the March 1971 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman. Our sample is neatly decorated in Santa Fe’s yellow warbonnet scheme and features crisp separation lines. There are a few spots where the yellow Santa Fe lettering and the bonnet didn’t get into the louvers and door hinges, but this could easily be touched up. The one thing I noticed right away when I opened the box was that Athearn is now blackening the inner truck frames! While the rivets are still unpainted brass, touching these up with black paint is much easier than having to paint the entire inner truck frame.

I was also impressed with the detail painting and printing. All of the windows are trimmed with either black gaskets on stationary windows or aluminum frames on the sliding windows. The side sills sport small, clearly legible stencils printed on the side, including Cleburne, gear ratio 62:15, and engine water. Very nice!

Solid performer
The model CF7’s starting speed seems a bit high, but most Athearn locomotives improve in low speed performance as the mechanisms run in. The model’s drawbar pull is equivalent to 38 free-rolling cars on level track. It’ll be right at home in an F-unit consist and should do fine as a single unit working a yard switching or branchline job.

Certainly, Athearn took a bit of a risk producing a model of such an unusual prototype. But in an era where massive steam and diesel locomotives are being produced at an incredible rate, the release of the CF7 is certainly welcome and refreshing.

2 thoughts on “Athearn HO scale CF7 diesel locomotive offers solid performance

  1. Hey I have 2 of these beasts coupled with a drawbar and have run out of cars trying to get them to stall! I have toal 67 cars 2 cabooses. They hook and drag with ease. Thanx to ATSF and Athearn for giving me what I call a locomotive for the 18 inch radius. Please add sound to them though ok?
    I'd buy another 4 if you did.

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