The Athearn F7 A&B unit ATSF Freight


Description F7 AB
Category Locomotive
Manufacturer Athearn
Website Http://www Athearn. com
Purchased at Mark Twain Hobby (web site)
MF List $420
Street price $225
Date of purchase 04/27/2007
DCC / Electrical  
Overall Score  
 rating scale 1 - just awful - 10 perfection
Pros: Finely detailed, both A & B units powered and with sound.
Cons: Very poor slow speed operation, DCC and Sound system defects and short comings


I was indeed excited to see Athearn release this product.

My road name and freight colors are all the options I value in DCC and Sound and the huge benefit of both units powered with sound. The honeymoon was very short though.

I must add that this is only the second Athearn locomotive I have purchased since returning to the hobby in 2005. 80% of my freight rolling stock is Athearn and I'm quite happy with it, however, Athearn still does not have it right when it comes to locomotives. They can blame it on their selection of MRC as a decoder provider.


 smiley-smile The units are closely matched and do not pull against each other, like my P1K F3's do even after a lot of Speed Curve work.
 smiley-smile Like QSI, the sound system can put out very loud and hgh quality sound.
smiley-smile The unit includes a radio controlled remote to allow for control of sound on DC layouts. (I wonder if including this functionality included the downside loss of low speed operation.)
smiley-smile The dual sounds are kinda neat, but frankly it is not something I'd require in my decision process going forward. They do have a Doppler effect that is quite genuine but it is not pronounced.
smiley-undecided Strong pulling power, pulled 25 40' & 50' box cars and caboose on my long 2% grades. Unit easily stopped and started on grade, lurching at the start though.
smiley-undecided The B unit was silent due to a defective speaker, yes they sent me a new speaker but I had to replace it. The service from Athearn was about the same I received from BLI, poor. I wanted a replacement which they refused. They would only send me parts. After the speaker was replaced, well more disappointment.
smiley-frown Slow speed operation on this unit is 7-9 mph measured by my trusty Accutrack speed-o-meter. My BLI E6 & Proto 1000 F3's will run under 2 mph.
smiley-frown These locomotives rather lurch at start!
smiley-frown The MRC decoder has the fn keys mapped differently from QSI and Soundtrax, namely 0, 0 is sound off/sound on and turning the headlights on and off use fn 0. Figure that out!
Will I buy another one? Yes, I conditionally recommend this unit due to the MRC decoder which is the root cause of all the issues I have with this locomotive.
Will I use this supplier again? Yes, this is a great locomotive, just needs a better decoder.