Which F7 is better?

MegaBlackJoe Jul 8, 2022

  1. MegaBlackJoe

    MegaBlackJoe TrainBoard Member

    Hi folks. I am not really a US train fan, but I recently decided to purchase an F7. I remembered the fun of owing it. It was my first train set that my parents gave me when I was 7 years old. This was an F7 in warbonnet paint scheme, a tank car and a caboose - it was an absolute pleasure.

    So which one in this scale is better in terms of prototypical accuracy? Do I get it right that AZL option is better (more prototypicall proportions) and as a matter of fact is possible right now as MTL units are not in stock?

    Also seeing those prices, it makes me feel sad that you can purchase Kato AB units in N scale for the same amount of money as AZL A unit.
    Kurt Moose likes this.
  2. Kurt Moose

    Kurt Moose TrainBoard Member

    Definitely go for the AZL brand of locos, better running, reliable, and better detailed. MTL versions are solid runners, but noisy and less detailed. Getting harder to find as well.
    MegaBlackJoe likes this.
  3. rray

    rray Staff Member

    The AZL F7 has a much better drive mechanism, i am not a fan of the MTL coffee grinder mechanism.
    Kurt Moose and MegaBlackJoe like this.
  4. Kurt Moose

    Kurt Moose TrainBoard Member

    Check out some of the Z-scale dealers online, some have some good deals I've seen recently.
  5. acptulsa

    acptulsa TrainBoard Member

    Should I tell you what I paid for two HO Athearn blue box F-7As, an F-7B dummy, two Raintree FTA bodies and a Bowser FTB body thirty years ago?

    I had plenty left over for chicken wire...
    Kurt Moose likes this.
  6. SJ Z-man

    SJ Z-man TrainBoard Member

    AZL, for sure. Much smoother running, much less power requirement, DCC compatible. Manufactured ~2020.
    MTL Manufactured ~1990 (chunky blob horns, lesser detail ), remastered 2011 (horns now horns, more detail)

    The possible deciding element: switching or just running trains. MTL’s patented coupler will allow you to decouple MTL’s freight cars. AZL cannot be used for switching. You can push them together (Autolatch) but you must pick up one end to uncouple.

    For MTL’s locos with old style Permanent Magnet motor takes lots more power than the AZL’s cordless motors. MTL locos need the older power packs whereas AZL can uses less bulky power packs.
    MegaBlackJoe likes this.
  7. z.scale.hobo

    z.scale.hobo TrainBoard Member

    Kato AB in N is only $144.99?
  8. MegaBlackJoe

    MegaBlackJoe TrainBoard Member

    It was around $180 at some point in time.
  9. sumgai

    sumgai TrainBoard Member

    I wrote the above 7 years ago, and MTL F7's have been plying Z rails since 1986. The MTL F7 isn't DCC. Funny, brand new Z scale switcher locomotives made in 2022 aren't DCC either right out of the box! But the MTL F7 can do a real switcher puzzle layout right out of the box. Crickets from newer design Z "switcher" locomotives.

    I like the MTL F7 due to the metal truck towers with metal frames and metal gears. MTL continued to use this exact full metal jacket drivetrain into their GP9/GP35, into which they also added a Swiss-made Maxon can motor and in doing so (along with DCC board swap capability) made the perfect Z locomotive. Subsequent Z locomotives from MTL (SD 40-2) had a chintzy all plastic gearing and frame truck assembly that is to say the least, pathetic (my opinion only.) But the open frame carbon-dust-spitting 3-pole motor of the MTL is just so Lionel, which is why run with MTL Can-motored, all metal frames/gears/trucks, easily switchable couplers, GP9/35's.
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2022
  10. rray

    rray Staff Member

    Yeah, I have to agree the MTL GP35 mechanism is the best running loco in Z. The AZL is good, but just not AS good as that original GP35 with Maxon motor and dual flywheels. Everything is just high quality in it, and it just runs and runs... smooth and quiet.
    Kurt Moose likes this.
  11. Kez

    Kez TrainBoard Member

    Robert, I'm glad you've had such experience with the MTL locos, but I must post my generally opposite experience. I have over a dozen of the old, overwide, MTL GP loco releases, and they NEVER get run at shows, because they are so unpredictable/unreliable. Sometimes they'll run great for an hour or so, then start grinding/binding like I've thrown sand in the gears. Set them aside and try later, same exact thing. I'm guessing it's a heat and tolerance issue, but never have time to really deal with it at a show. I run MTL F7's more than I do any other power from them, though those are mostly modified/enhanced with wheel wipers.

    And if running any AZL hood locos on the same layout, the MTL hood width sticks out pretty significantly.

    Just my alternate take. Again, glad you've had such good results!
    tjdreams likes this.
  12. tjdreams

    tjdreams TrainBoard Member

    For Prototypical accuracy AZL is by far the best choice. They are good dependable runners with better details than MTL or Marklin. + their is a drop in decoder available for them.
    The MTL F units are not as prototypical, they are noisy, The chassis must be modified to make room for a decoder and some tend to wobble down the track, + they suffer from poor power pickup. but they are good pullers and those that have been tuned up with Glens wheel wipers tend to run very good.
    Marklin's F units run ok but they are not prototypical.

    As for price Well you get what you pay for. If you want a high quality well detailed prototypical Z scale loco then pay the price and go with AZL. If you want a noisy, loco that looks like a f unit. save some money and buy a used MTL. And if you want less prototypical unit buy a used Marklin F unit.

    If your going to compare N to Z why not compare HO to Z as well. Back in the 70's i could buy a brand new TYCO F unit for $11.99 and if the build tolerances were 1mm out of speck it still ran great. With Z scale if its out 0.01mm its going to give you trouble if it will even run at all.

    Example (as it was explained to me) All things being equal lets say it cost $15,000 to make a mold for wheel sets in HO, N, & Z
    and that mold wears down the same of no matter what the scale is at about .0.01 per 100,000 wheels.
    Well with Z 0.01 is max tolerance = 100,000 wheel sets for $15,000
    N scale is a little more forgiving and can go to 0.02 = Gets them 200,000 wheel sets for that same $15,000 mold twice as many for the same cost
    H0 can go to .05 which gets them 500,000 wheel sets for the same $15,000 mold 5 times the number of wheels out of that same $15,000 Mold
    The smaller the Manufacturing Tolerances are the more expensive the cost is going to be.

    So Yes Z scale is a little bit more expensive than the larger scales are.
    Kurt Moose, Kez, Zscaleplanet and 2 others like this.
  13. bostonjim

    bostonjim TrainBoard Member

    The only MTL F7's I own were both worked on by Glen Chenier. They run like tops even after sitting for long periods. He also added LED headlights as well. I have one NYC and one PRR. We've come a long way since the Marklin F7. For sentimental reasons the MTL F7's are my favorites. I do not own an AZL F7. However, if one comes out in NH, I will. Jim.
    Kurt Moose, Kez and Zscaleplanet like this.
  14. ztrack

    ztrack TrainBoard Supporter Advertiser

    Hey all, just a heads up. If anyone is looking for wheel wipers, I just came across 24 sets. I put them up on Ztrack Resale.
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2022
    CNE1899, bostonjim and Kurt Moose like this.

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