Bachmann's GP7 is a decent looking, fine running, and affordably priced locomotive model - basically following along in their tradition of "semi-upscale" trainset-style locomotives (kicked off in 2006 with their H16-44 and B23-7/B30-7 models). More or less the equivalent of the Atlas "Trainman" line, these models trade fancy for affordability (this particular model being priced about 50% lower than a DCC-Equipped Atlas "Master Line" GP7).
The chassis is all-metal, split-frame and nicely hefty. The motor is closed-sided (and presumably the same 3-poler used in the other Bachmann locos of similar vintage). There are no flywheels (per se), however the large brass worms probably help out a little bit in that regard. All wheels are geared, with all the gearing being plastic. All wheels provide pickup (no traction tires). The wheels are blackened and low-profile, so no problems on Code-55 rails. Wheelback wipers provide pickup, with current then transferred to the chassis by way of sticky-uppy contacts on the trucks. Current is transferred from the chassis to the decoder by way of four sticky-downy contacts on the board. Directional lighting is provided by small LEDs on the decoder board. Couplers are shell-mounted (Bachmann's McHenry-eque automatic/magnetic couplers). The dynamic brake blister is press-fit to the shell and easily removed (unfortunately, the winterization hatch is glued in place).
Performance is truly outstanding (both DCC and DC). Throttle response is smooth, slow-speed creep is sensational, and the top end is quite reasonable. Pickup is perfect, allowing mine to crawl through insulated-frog turnouts at ridiculously low speeds. Pulling power is strong, as mine can easily haul twenty 40' boxcars up a curving 2% grade. And wow, is this thing ever quiet! Apart from a slight hum at extremely low throttle settings, this thing basically emits no noise at all. The lack of flywheels does make for some rather abrupt starts and stops, but beyond that nitpick I can't really find any flaws with the way this model runs. Still, the current collection scheme is a bit of a disappointment (vis'a'vis the wheelback wipers and the flimsy metal contacts that transfer current from trucks to the chassis). Bendy metal contacts like that are simply not reliable, as they eventually get squashed down and/or bent out of shape and lose their conductivity.
The looks are decent, with sharp paint, relatively fine detailing, and nice, skinny handrails. Sure, if you do a side-by-side comparison with an Atlas GP7, you're going to see plenty of minor differences (no handgrabs on the shell, no tread on the walkway, unlit numberboards, etc). But then again, if you're not a big time rivet-counter, these sorts of cost-cutting measures probably aren't going to worry you too much. Overall, this is a very respectable model. And given the relatively low price, one that should find a comfortable niche in the N scale locomotive pantheon.
- DCC-equipped for speed, direction, and lighting
- Dual-mode NMRA-compliant decoder
- Can motor
- Die-cast chassis
- Super quiet drive train
- Finescale detailing / handrails
- Directional LED lighting
- Blackened metal wheels
- N scale RP25 wheel contours
- E-Z Mate Mark II coupler
Trivia - it is possible to mount a Bachmann GP7 shell on an Atlas Classic GP7/9 chassis, although some minor grinding to the ends of the Atlas chassis may be necessary to get a proper fit.
Shell removal is somewhat difficult, as the thing is on there really tight. I wound up removing the trucks (they pop off easily) and then inserted a small screwdriver between the shell and the chassis up on the cab end. This allowed me to pry the shell up far enough that I was eventually able to pull it off. But yikes, it's a daunting process. One thing to watch out for is the decoder board - if it moves around too much during this process (it tends to want to grab onto the shell), it's possible to mess up the wipers on the board such that they are no longer in contact with the chassis (don't ask me how I know this). Fortunately, they're easily adjusted - just unclip the board from the chassis and restore their downward bend.
Grade: A (although with the above caveats re the old-fashioned pickup design)