Stewart F7 Shell Substitutes and Other Questions

Discussion in 'HO Scale' started by Flash Blackman, Dec 23, 2008.

  1. Flash Blackman

    Flash Blackman Staff Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    As I understand it, there is a Stewart F7 and an earlier version Stewart - Kato powered F7. It seems that the Kato powered is a preferable model. What exactly is the difference and when were these models made? Also, I see that Bowser - Stewart is about to release a new run of the kato F3/F7/F9s.

    I see there is a detailing kit for these Stewart F7 models. Perhaps it will bring it up to the detail level of other models made today. Are there other good tips for improving these units? I want to add a pilot plow on my Espee Black Widows. What version of that is recommended?

    I have a series of these engines and I am trying to learn a little about them as I will be operating them on the club layout soon. I understand that the Intermountain or the Athearn Genesis engines have "out-classed" the Stewart models, but I thought the Stewart engines ran very well.

    Thanks for the help.
  2. Flash Blackman

    Flash Blackman Staff Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    I can see my earlier post did not gather a massive number of responses; however, I shall persevere.

    Will an Athearn F7 shell or a Proto 2000/1000 shell fit a Stewart F7 mechanism? Is it a snap on or are we talking about cutting a little? How important is the "glass" in a Stewart unit as far as holding the model together? (Does the "glass" hold the shell in place?)

    Does anyone make an aftermarket 1500 gallon fuel tank for the Stewart model? Any F7 model?

  3. SP 8299

    SP 8299 Staff Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    When you say the "Athearn" F-unit shell on the Stewart drive, do you mean the old RTR Athearn shell, or the current Genesis/Highliners shell? As far as 1500gal. F-unit fuel tanks go, Hi-Tech Details makes one:

    Walthers Model Railroad Mall -- product information page for 331-6024

    as does Details West (not pictured, but they are white metal overlays and skirt sections designed to mount over an existing tank): -- search page

    And various Athearn Genesis F-units can come with 1500gal tanks, as appropriate per prototype, such as the "modernized" SP Black Widow F7As:

    Athearn - HO De-Skirted F7A, SP #6177
  4. Flash Blackman

    Flash Blackman Staff Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    I meant the old RTR shell. I guess it would be better to just use the Stewart shell.

    Thanks for all the info and the links. I am amazed all this stuff is available in H0 scale.
  5. jimfitch

    jimfitch TrainBoard Member

    I can't speak for the Bowser versions, but I do have the KATO made and in-house USA made Stewarts. Many thought the USA made Stewarts ran smoother and better but as far as I know, the major difference was a change in motors and circuit boards after they went to USA produciton. So I haven't heard that the KATO are better but the opposite. however, the KATO built Stewart mechanism are excellent!

    The only F7 detail kit I am aware of is the Walthers which has rather thick wires and one version has windshields for the Athearn shell, which is extremely crude by todays standards. Mostly the detail kit had wire grab irons IIRC. I bought one years ago but don't recommend that one. If there is another newer detail kit, I'm not aware of it.

    Basically the Athearn Genesis, Intermountain and lately Proto 2000 F units have much better shells, paint jobs and details than the Stewart shell. However the Stewart chassis is still considered by most to be as good or better than many of the newer chassis. The Athearn Genesis chassis runs very well but occasionally people run into a bad apple - probalby another one of Athearns QAQC lemons that show up here and there. So for chassis, Stewarts are among the most reliable and smooth runners.

    The Stewart F shell is still considered quite good but there are mold lines in the nose that many don't care for and of course the side air grills are not etched metal but molded (still nicely molded). The paint jobs are not as complete on Stewarts either but overall they are nice models. Just not as completely finished.

    Recently Athearn Genesis and Proto 2000 has been offering F units with a lot more detail on them which is nice. I have a set of the Proto 2000 F7's and a Genesis phase II F7 all nicely detailed.

    The old Athearn RTR shells are still being used on new Athearn RTR F7 releases with better paint jobs but that shell is EXTREMELY crude by todays standards and represents 1950's molding technology. They are poorly proportioned in many ways and such things as number boards and side grills and wind shield openings are gross looking. IMHO, the Athearn RTR F7 shell should have been retired 10 years ago and the molds destroyed. They really are in the league of cheap toy train set quality now. I would definitely just use the Stewart shell, which is MUCH nicer looking. If you paint, you can even sand down the mold lines on the nose before painting and it will look even better.
  6. SP 8299

    SP 8299 Staff Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    As myself and others have pointed out to you before, it would be extremely short-sighted to phase out or destroy the old Bluebox F-unit tooling. For one thing, I'm sure the tooling is LONG since paid off, and continues to make its owners revenue. Second, since it's RTR and very simple, it's cheap to produce and sell. And most importantly, it makes for a solid train set engine that's good for getting new people (especially youngsters) into the hobby. I've been to plenty of train shows and watched a young child's eyes light up when they see a bluebox F (or something similar) roll by on the manufacturer's display. Which is usually followed with the kid saying "I want that!".:mbiggrin:

    The fact is, most youngsters couldn't care less if the engine is 1950s tooling, or its windshields and number boards are wrong, or whatever; they just see a train, and they want one of their own. Having a readily available and inexpensive model helps make that a reality. I'm sure the parents appreciate the cheaper price tag; not many parents want to (or can afford, especially these days) spend several hundred on ONE high-end engine for their 7-year old. If one lowly F-unit can help bring new people into the hobby, and make money, then by all means, keep cranking them out until the molds implode. Just because it doesn't meet your modeling standards doesn't mean it won't make a child or other beginner (or even an experienced modeler) happy.
  7. Larry777

    Larry777 TrainBoard Member

    "The fact is, most youngsters couldn't care less if the engine is 1950s tooling, or its windshields and number boards are wrong, or whatever; they just see a train,..."

    Very well said. I am now in my sixties but many track miles ago, when I was about 10, my uncle gave me a Marx HO set for Christmas. I thought that was the coolest locomotive and set of cars even though it was even more crude than the Athearns! That following summer, I saved my pennies and bought an Athearn flatcar and a dummy Athearn GP9. Never mind that the body on the locomotive was too wide, I thought I had arrived.

    In a child's mind that Blue Box loco is heaven sent and what better way for them to start out? Better for the child and better on the parent's pocket book. And don't worry... As they grow older and start to earn their own money, they'll find their way to the pricier items...

    As for the Stewarts, I have a set of Bowser Stewart's, Stewart USA's and the Kato drive Stewart's. Can't say enough about the Kato drives; they are tops. The Stewart USA's aren't bad. I bought a set of Northern Pacific Bowser Stewart F9's and I wasn't impressed with the growling that I heard as soon as I put them on the track. Clean up the mold lines on the older shells, add some details such as grabs, etc. and you'll have yourself a nice locomotive. The profiles on the Stewarts are, in my opinion, among the best. There are still a lot of Kato-powered Stewart locomotives out there. Some folks buy them from eBay, others look elsewhere. I employ a lot of Kato-powered Stewarts and Kato-powered Atlas locos as well.
  8. FA-2

    FA-2 New Member

    I am not 100% sure about F7 detail kits, but Detail Associates sells detail kits for the Stewart FT and F3 units. Wouldn't be surprised if they also sold one for the F7. I have never modeled an F7, so I have not thought to look. Their kits contain thinner wires than the Walthers sets, as well as eyebolts and probably some other parts I am forgetting.

    I can also attest to the Stewart/Kato and Stewart/Stewart chassis as being good runners.
  9. jimfitch

    jimfitch TrainBoard Member

    First off, I was responding to an adult IIRC so my recommendations of a Stewart F unit vs Athearn RTR F stands as excellent advice. It makes a difference to have good equipement to encourage a hobby. For example a cheap pair or roller blades turns someone off to roller blading, or a really cheap musical instrument will turn people off from music. A really cheap crude looking model IMHO may have the same effect on the hobby of a teen or older modeler. I just offer that it makes a difference to step up from crude 1950's tooling.

    Now since you widened the scope of the discussion to children I'll offer my thoughts: 90% of the kids who are young enough to not notice the crude shell are going to end up with crappy trainset trains, sad but true. It is relatively rare that a parent is like you are me and goes out and buys Athearn blue box stuff for a kid between the age of 5 and 10 or so. That means having to go out and purchase separate power pack, track and trains. Someone like me would assuredly to it. But average people won't. Now if I were going to go out and get something for a youngster, I would not buy an Athearn RTR F unit. For a similar price there simply are better alternatives. Thats why I say the blue box globe F unit should be mercifuly retired. Lets start with Proto 1000 F3's. Way nicer looking and in the same ball park pricewise. Even the botchman plus is better looking and running (yes Athearn RTR still produces too many coffee grinders I hear about all too often). So the argument that the globe F shell needs to remain falls flat with the myriad of better looking F units for a similar price point.

    Now for kids older, they CAN tell the difference. Yes, I was 12-14 years old in the early 1970's when I got into "model" trains and left Lionel behind. I had the Athearn F unit and I thought the windshields were gross. However at that time there was no alternative other than brass in the early 70's. My fat body SD45 really bothered me to at that age. Yes, kids in their early teens CAN tell the difference at least I could. I'd rather have had a Stewart anyday if they were available. Lets see, Athearn F7 for around $45 or $50 or a Stewart or Proto 1000 for a little more. No contest.

    I'll just agree to disagree about the Athearn RTR "globe" F shell. It's time is past. There are a gazillion F units all over the price map that pretty much all look better (when you get to the lower price range). This is a reasonable argument. I understand the emotional nostagia I see in the other post but nostagia doesn't mean its a good idea when better selections now exist.
  10. SP 8299

    SP 8299 Staff Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    Let's see...

    Athearn RTR F7A (e.g. 80223 - EL, non-sound) - $44.98
    Intermountain F3A, non-sound - $99.95
    Stewart F3A (e.g. 691-3137 - NYC, non-sound) - $115.00
    Walthers P1k F3A (e.g. 920-35008 - SAL non-sound) - $89.98...Walthers' site shows them on sale today for $33.98
    Walthers P2k F3A (e.g. 920-48230 - B&O, non-sound) - $159.98

    Sorry, but I'm not seeing the significant price difference you're touting; all of them retail for at least twice as much as the old BB F7. The only exception I saw while perusing the Walthers site is on the P1k SAL F3A, which is showing a sale price today of $33.98. But many of the P1k F3s are also shown as being discontinued, which doesn't help for the person who wants to buy at their leisure.

    That all being said, IMHO the BB F is still a good value for the price and ruggedness. Are there better running and looking F-units out there? Absolutely, I never said otherwise. But don't make the assumption that just because it doesn't meet your own personal modeling standards, it shouldn't be on the market. It serves its purpose by providing a cheap, almost indestructible basic trainset engine geared towards newbies. We all had to start somewhere...the first engines I bought as a kid certainly weren't Kato, Proto, or other high-end models that started to appear as I got into the hobby. Some of my first equipment were basic bluebox models...being an SP modeler, I went big-time for Athearn GP9s, SD9s, Train Masters, and other SP-painted models. Yes, they were all widebodies and crude, but you know something? As a kid, I didn't know, and didn't care! All that mattered to me was that they were gray and red and said "SOUTHERN PACIFIC" on the sides, much like the engines that ran through the branch in my hometown. I spent a lot of fun hours running them around and around on a 4x8 layout my dad and brother built for me. The wheels may have sparked, and they stunk to high-heaven of ozone, but they gave me a lot of enjoyment.:tb-biggrin:

    As I got older and more into the hobby, I learned more about the prototypes, about the various models out there, and started buying only more accurate models as my knowledge and budget increased - to the point where I'm a deranged rivet-counter today.:we2-jimlad: Fact of the matter is, not all youngsters (and even some adults) have the knowledge or budget for the higher-priced models you're touting (although some kids do, thanks to generous parents!). Which is why I firmly believe the old BB F-unit (and other low-end models) still has a place in the hobby, especially for kids and newbies. I know I sold a lot of them when I worked in hobby shops, and for the most part, people that bought them were happy with them, and progressed on to better brands as their knowledge base and interest in the hobby increased.
  11. jimfitch

    jimfitch TrainBoard Member

    Ok, my turn to say sorry but you set up a straw man to knock down.

    First off your tossing in Walthers P2k and Intermountain, why? Even Stewart F units are in a different class quality and price wise.

    Ok I just did a quick "buy it now" Ebay check on 3 products, all AB sets all abundant:

    Athearn RTR F7's ranged from around $52 to $59
    Proto 1000 F3's ranged from around $48-$69
    Bachman Spectrum F7's ranged from $58-$65

    That right there tells me street price is pretty much comparable between those 3 commonly available F units in HO. Yes, on the average street price is slightly higher for the P1k and Bachman but the quality of the shells is clearly better. This little glimps says enough to me that there is no reason to keep 1950's technology alive and in production. For the nostagic among us, swap meets provide plenty of fodder.
  12. SP 8299

    SP 8299 Staff Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    Why did I include P2k, IM, and others? said there were other F-unit alternatives to the old BB, so I listed them. And FWIW, don't assume the newbie will start off with ebay, or other sources to get a deal (and the prices you found on the BB Fs on ebay aren't much of a bargain, since they're higher than the MSRP of $44.98). Typical pattern for a rookie, at least from my experience, would be to start off at the LHS for basic pointers to get them going, and move on to swap meets and ebay as their knowledge increased. That's what I saw in years of working at an LHS, and from my own personal experience. And as for a reason to keep 1950s tooling in production, that's easy...they apparently sell and make their owner money; otherwise, they still wouldn't be in production.

  13. jimfitch

    jimfitch TrainBoard Member

    Alright. I figured it was clear that the context was cost benefit situation as to why I questioned your adding in the IMR and Stewarts as alternatives. It appeared you threw them in there to try to drive home the point using a large disparity in price. Obviously why buy a very crudely molded engine at all if cost weren't a facter? But it is a factor, so I demonstated that there are other cost effective alternatives out there - I took a few mintutes to document it.

    Now to address your next idea: As for assumption, either of us can have assumptions all over the map. However, it is reasonable to assume, for example, that Athearn BB "globe" F's are not as important as some nostagically believe because #1 noobs who are not savvy buyers tend to get train set junk which are not Athearn (although Athearn has broken into the toy train set market more and more, they never used to be) and #2 savvy buyers tend to know they can get better prices on the better F units that are in the price range of the Athearn RTR F by using Ebay, swap meets etc. I don't think you can just go, but but, Ebay doesn't count!!! Hold the phone. If you think someone is only so savvy as to buy the Athearn F and avoid the trainset junk, but not smart enough to find similar prices on better models you are assuming a specific set of parameters to try to make you point, rather artificially in my opinion. I say phooey, a few people may fit that description but you can't generalize the buying population that way. The people who are savvy enough to know that Athearn offers a better alternative to train set junk also know about even better alternatives. I've been in the hobby since the 70's and know the patterns as well as anyone else. I've worked in hobby shops too in several different states and either been to or lived in 45 of the 50 states. I'm not sure your experiences mirror mine. If you worked in a hobby shop(s) and they had certain items, thats going to affect how you steer individuals. You have stock to sell and biases. I would steer someone to consider a bigger pictures and show them that they might be happier with Proto 1000 or Bachman Spectrum and how they could get them for a few dollars more.

    I think the argument that if it sells, it must be good may make economic sense. It obviously does to Athearn. But there is the buyers remorse factor when someone starts to take a hard look at what they bought and then what they could have bought for a few dollars more. Thse children get older and then go, oh, this isn't so good after all. I did starting around age 12. I don't think Athearn is necessarily doing anyone a favor except themself in the case of the globe F unit. I've got logical reasons for thinking so, backed them up with good rational, so I'll just have to agree to disagree with you. Frankly this is a bit off topic from the OP questions - but I think my point to him about the better model based on his question is good advice. I didn't get the impression he was under 12 years old. ;-)
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 6, 2009

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