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Model Train Help EBook

Southern Pacific E7 A-B-B

Golden State

8/1947 - 6/1949

image of Life-Like HO Scale E7ABB in Golden State paint scheme 105k

LifeLike HO Scale straight out of the box E7ABB set.

New! N Scale custom painted and decaled E7AB by James of Sydney

Life-Like released its E7A and E7B in Golden State paint some years ago. The photo above is of the units straight from the box with no modifications. These models are something of a paradox, while Life-Like has made available certain customer options, in this case they have either used the wrong one or not made an option where they could easily have. The E7A reflects (nearly) the as delivered condition in August 1947. With some minor and some major modifications they can be brought closer to accuracy. The options available as provided by Life-Like in the box are, a larger fuel/water tank, a freight pilot and clamshell doors to close off the pilot when the retractable couplers are retracted. When going through the points below reference to prototype photos on the E7A/E7B Page will be helpful. These Golden State E7's are only good through to mid to late 1949, after that they were repainted into standard Daylight paint scheme.

Anomolies and modifications...

Details that are just plain wrong...

  • The A units should have much larger numberboards, Details West makes these in cast metal as part #165.
  • The two vertical grilles in the panel behind the cab door, (on the A units), should be a louvered panel. They were changed to grilles in 1955, but then the Golden State painted units were well and truly in Daylight paint. Life-Like put the correct part on their Daylight painted A units and included both panels in their undecorated kits. When they had the correct part, why fit the wrong part ???
  • The steam generator exhaust (on both A and B units), is a square shaped item, this should be a round item, apparently Custom Finishing part #214. I think the relative positioning of the parts by Life-Like is also in error and there should be some vent pipes as well.
  • The small road numbers (on both A and B units), on top of the rear steps underneath the handrails needs removing and replacing forward of the handrails.
  • The B units need renumbering to 6000-B and 6000-C. They were not renumbered prior to being repainted in Daylight paint, and when renumbered into the 5900 series they did not have the alpha suffix...

Other wrong things...

  • SP E7's did not have the rear (ladder) grab irons, these need removing,
  • SP E7's had a large round back up light on the upper left side (as looking from the back).
  • The B units had a small single chime air horn high up between the back up light and next to the diaphragm. The B units had hostler controls to allow them to be moved when not attached to an A unit.

The above modifications while physically fairly simple, will require matching the paint on an all ready decorated model. These mods will get you closer to the as delivered condition.

Most modelers detailing a model will also want to replace the plastic handrails and the lift rings with wire items. Very possibly one of the Detail Associates kits for F units for the handrails and their #2206 for the lift rings or eyebolts. Life-Like made both items as plastic parts and both are fragile with most of mine bent or broken during delivery... Careful study of prototype photos will no doubt reveal many more details that can be added.

Other options to take are:

  • Removing the front coupler and fitting the provided clamshell doors on the A unit, see the photo of 6000 for open doors when parked and 6002 for closed doors when running. Later the retractable couplers were changed out for fixed tightlocks and the doors were modified to allow closing around the couplers.
  • Fit the larger fuel/water tank as provided by Life-Like on both A and B units.

Very shortly after delivery the rearmost upper panel of both A and B units was replaced with a new panel with 3 grilles cut into it and the B units had a large grille cut into the forward roof hatch (the opposite end from the steam generator), to provide more cooling. The "Trainline" article listed below is very very good value for all E7 mods and really is a must have for detailing SP's E7's. The article gives a couple of options to model these new grilles.

In 5/1948 the unit number was painted on the nose in 6" aluminum-bronze paint centered between the headlights.

The only other things to address are the diaphragms, close coupling and horsepower... It would seem to me that the diaphragms should probably be black in color, Life-Like chose to mold these in red. They could of course be replaced with something better, assuming there is a better product out there.

Close coupling so as to have the diaphragms touch will depend firstly on if you intend to run them, if these are display models only, then a permanant drawbar can be fashioned from either metal or plastic, painted black and applied.

For close coupling the things to consider are:

  • the radius of the curves you intend to run them on,
  • whether they can be permanently coupled together as a three unit set,
  • or whether you need/want actual couplers between units.

This is something I have not done yet to these E7's. I did successfully (temporarily) permanently connect my Daylight ABB set with plastic drawbars as an exercise. They were not painted and simply made the length required to have the Life-Like diaphragms touch when on straight track. I made the drawbars to fit into the coupler boxes. Not having a layout at the time (and still not...) they had to be taken to the club and assembled while on their side then the whole placed on the track. I cannot remember the radius of the club layout - too long ago... They were successful in that they did go around the curves without derailing while pulling a train. They were certainly permanent and a hassle to connect and disconnect. They were temporary beacuse I did not paint them and I was not happy with the hassles much preferring couplers. Something to investigate in the future.

More Horsepower may be required if you actually run these on a long train and your layout contains grades. Again this is something I have only looked at, not actually done. Only the A unit is powered, you may want to investigate getting a powered chassis to put under one or more of your B units. Naturally it is not as simple as taking an A and a B unit apart and swapping bodies, the B unit bodyshells are held on to the chassis by 4 screws, these screw into posts molded on the inside of the bodyshell. However, once you remove the posts you should be able to place the B unit shell onto an A unit powered chassis. The A unit bodyshells are held on by 4 cast protrusions engaging holes in the center of the fuel/water fillers, drilling out the center of the B unit fuel/water fillers looks like it will hold the B unit bodyshell on the same way. -- Another (better) option may be if Life-Like does a powered chassis for their later runs of E8/E9B's, then a simpler swap may be available.

The E7A's and E7B's went on to have many many more modifications (or in today speak "Continuous Improvement Process"), over the rest of their lives, but that was when they were in paint schemes other than Golden State, so they will be covered in other paint scheme webpages.

Image of hybrid 6001.

At right is part of an image courtesy of the SPH&TS. the famous hybrid #6001.

In 1949, SP started to repaint these E7's into Daylight paint, due to locomotive shortages, this is when #6001 as depicted right, received its very shortlived 'mongrel' paint scheme.

The Why 'O' Why Dept...

Life-Like made interchangable louver/grill panels for behind the cab door and two fuel/water tank options. Large numberboards were an EMD option at the time why not optional numberboards??? The opening cab and hood doors are a waste of engineering, they are in fact sprung-loaded shut, so you can't pose a crewperson climbing aboard or leaning out anyway and the cab interior is minimal and contains headlight wiring that can be seen through an open door. Time and money would have better been spent on factory options like optional numberboards and steam generator options, rather than useless and unusable 'features'...


  • Southern Pacific Historical and Technical Society magazine "Trainline" Summer 2004 issue #80 pages 14 to 28 - SP's E7's and how to model them plus color photos on front and rear covers
  • SP Historic Diesels Vol.3 E-Units and Pass. F's by Joe Strapac


  • N Scale
    • LifeLike have made E7 models.
  • HO Scale
    • Model Power and ConCor in the past have made E7A models, and Cary has made E7A and B cast metal shells, to fit modified Athearn SD40T-2 chassis' or similar.
    • LifeLike E7A's and E7B's in Daylight.
    • LifeLike E7A's and E7B's in Golden State.
    • LifeLike E7A's and E7B's in Blood Nose.
  • S Scale
  • O Scale
    • I am not aware of any models, probably made in brass tho'

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