Life-Like (China) EMD F7A


Introduced: 1990

Like the rest of the Chinese-made diesel models marketed by Life-Like during the 1990s, this F7 is a very sweet running loco. It features all-wheel pickup and drive (no traction tires) and a high quality 5-pole, skew-wound motor. Performance is sublime - extremely smooth and quiet, excellent throttle response and great slow-speed creep. Wheel flanges are low-profile, so no problems on Code-55 rails.

Huge free-floating lead weights sitting atop the chassis provide plenty of heft, making for very nice pulling power. On the down side, the headlight is non-directional, the couplers are truck-mounted Rapidos (and not easily converted to Micro-Trains couplers). And of course, you have the whole "wires running everywhere" problem.

This model also has a fair amount of prototypical inaccuracy. The shell is really huge and absolutely dwarfs other more accurate F7 models (Kato, Intermountain, etc). And although this loco is designated as an F7, it has (among other problems) the F9 fifth set of vent louvres ahead of the forward porthole.

These models used to be available at bargain basement prices ($20 or less), and proved popular with modelers who were more concerned with getting an inexpensive F unit that ran well than they were with getting an accurate one. Unfortunately, this model was discontinued circa 2000 when Life-Like started upgrading their locomotive line to compete with the Atlas's and Kato's of the world.

Grade: B

Reviewed: 11/90 Model Railroader ("This model is identified by the manufacturer as an EMD 1500-hp F7 diesel-electric locomotive. It features an injection-molded plastic body with all the details cast on. The one-piece frame and fuel tank is also molded plastic, as are the gears, gearboxes, and trucks. A pair of cast-soft-metal weights, positioned fore and aft of the motor, gives the model sufficient traction to pull about 33 free-rolling freight cars. Mechanically, the F7 follows the standard proven design used in most model locomotives. It has an open-frame five-pole skewed armature motor that's mounted in the center of the frame. Coil-spring universal couplings are used to connect the motor to both gearboxes. With an overall weight of 4.7 ounces, our sample F7's eight-wheel electrical pickup and drive produced fine operating characteristics... The model's minimum and maximum scale speeds are quite appropriate. Under load the model should operate at very slow speed, and even more important, the motor will be controlled by the top half of the power supply throttle. Truck-mounted Rapido couplers are used on both the front and rear of the F7... The model runs well and the overall appearance is pretty good, although there are some dimensional and physical inconsistancies. The model is sort of an F7 with F9 characteristics, a hybrid that never existed... While some late F7s had the vertical slit side grill, this feature with the mid-panel louver arrangement is typical of the later F9. Also, the rear peaked end roof was eliminated during production, so this feature doesn't fit the general F7 model configuration with the vertical slit side grill... The number boxes are too far forward on the bulldog nose, and the lower headlight is too high. If you consider the model to be an F7, the dynamic-brake fan is correct. However, if you consider it to be an F9, it should have the larger, 48"-diameter fan. I also noted that the model has the F7's squared cab doors and windows, while F9s had rounded corners at these points. The model scales about 3 feet too long. As for the trucks, their wheelbase is 10" too long and their centers are 12" too short. These features result in the elimination of the battery box that's normally just forward of the fuel tank. As a result, the fuel-tank area is about 3 scale feet too short... The lettering, logos and striping on our sample locomotive were very nicely done. This B&O unit includes blue, gray and black paint colors, in addition to Delux gold lettering and striping. All of this work is quite clear and sharp, and the color separations are especially well defined. Undec, B&O, PRR, UP, BN. $30")


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