The Val Ease Central Railroad ©

Taking Z Scale to the Public Around the World
(Text and photos © Copyright Jeffrey MacHan)

AZL delivers GP7 Dream Machine!

I have been involved in Z scale since June 1992 when I bought a Märklin Mini-Club 0-6-0 starter set in Paris, France. Ever since that moment, I have been dreaming of the day when my layout would be the home to my “mostest favoritest” locomotive of all EMD GP9. Well, on Tuesday, March 13th, 2007 the next best thing to my dream coming true took place when a box containing an AZL GP7 in Union Pacific colors arrived at my door.

Dynamic brake-equipped UP Geep7 #102 tackles the grade on Val Ease Summit Division.

So what is so special about a Geep?

Sure I feel wonder at the deep rumble in my chest as a multiple lashup of SD40s roars by at close range but for sentimental value, nothing compares to the modest Geep 9. Here's why...

Way back when I had a summer job on a CN-CP line gang along northern Manitoba's Churchill line, I ran into a little “situation”. My job consisted in driving a tracked vehicle that the crew used to roll iron wire that we were salvaging from the obsolete telegraph line along the right-of-way. It was early June and the lakes along the line were still covered with ice (yes, ice. We are talking about northern Manitoba here). As I manoeuvred the tractor along the slope, the embankment gave way and I found myself in a rather sticky situation, through the ice and in the lake.

When you are working in remote areas, you are expected to use your wits to stay out of trouble or to extricate yourself from same. My tractor was now sitting at a right angle to the track. In a flash of inspiration, my crew mates and I ran out the steel cable from the winch and clamped the hook to the track. I slowly took up the slack in the cable and began to winch myself up the embankment. For about 30 seconds my plan appeared to be working...then the tractor slid back down the slope, dragging the track with it! Now, there were two problems to solve, my tractor in a lake and the mainline with a two-foot kink in the track! This was not good, not good at all. To make things worse, the local freight was due in about 30 minutes. With the track out of alignment, the train would be stuck as well. Think, think!

Necessity is truly the mother of invention. I yelled at my mates to grab the hook and to run the cable over the track, around the telegraph pole that happened to be directly opposite my stuck tractor and the kink in the track, then back to the track, attaching the hook to the opposite rail from my position. Time was running short!

As my crew mate kept a keen eye on the track alignment, I cranked up the winch and slowly began to drag the track back into its original position. He yelled for me to stop and quickly detached the hook and brought the cable back to my side of the line. I climbed the bank to take a look at our handiwork. The only sign that we had done something unnatural to the mainline was that the track was much straighter than elsewhere along the line!

The local came into view, swaying side-to-side and pitching up-and down along our lonely stretch of track at a whopping 15 miles per hour. We had no trouble flagging down the 5-car local, which was headed up by a single GP9 in the classic CNR olive and gold color scheme. After a brief chat with the engineer and conductor, who seemed to find my predicament highly amusing, I attached the winch cable to the front of the Geep. The locomotive inched away from our trapped tractor. Effortlessly, the locomotive swung the tractor around and began to drag it along and up the embankment. In less than a minute, I was able to drive the tractor onto solid ground and out of harm's way. The engineer gave us a salute on the horn and notched the engine into forward and lumbered off toward Hudson's Bay. My crew mate and I held our breath as the train passed over our recent track work “improvements” without incident.

I have never forgotten that Geep for keeping me out of hot and cold water, figuratively and literally!

The AZL Geep 7

Opening up the box...I was pleasantly surprised to find a parts list and an order form for several interesting detail parts: single horn, 3-chime air horn, 5-chime air horn and bell (for variations on prototype practice), pilot conversion with dummy coupler, PCB with lights and trucks with or without traction tires. The reverse side of the parts list presents an exploded view of the GP7. Note: the diagram also provides a color-coded wiring schematic for a 6-wire DCC conversion.

Also included in the box are front and rear truck pilots with an integrated dummy coupler knuckle. Instructions on removing the factory-supplied coupler boxes are included. Note: the AZL couplers will mate with Micro-Trains “Magnematic “couplers but will not uncouple automatically.

First look

The Geep is a beautiful piece of model making art. It is more impressive than I could have imagined. After a few moments of silent admiration, I carefully removed the unit from the generous foam liner and took a close look at the details. The first noticeable item were bent handrails near the cab. They were easily and gingerly tweaked back into position using a pair of tweezers. Although made of metal the handrails are easily bent with inattention.

Next, I was struck by the sweet detail of the included winterization hatch over one of the fan housings. A very striking detail is the silver-colored metal window framing. The paint and lettering is top-notch. The truck side frames are painted in prototypically correct silver.

On the track

Turning on track power illuminated golden yellow constant-intensity directional LED headlights. (Pet peeve: real locomotives do NOT switch off their front headlights when backing up. Note: I suppose that it would be possible to wire a jumper across the diode matrix on the PCB board to only turn on the rear lights when reversing). The locomotive had silky smooth starts and excellent slow-speed running. The dual flywheel effect was obvious.

I was impressed with the Geep's outstanding pulling power up a 3% grade (I only had 12 MTL cars for the test and I suspect that the GP7 can handle several more with ease. Note: a 15 – 20-car consist was pretty much standard for the real 1500 hp locomotive). I noticed that the unit is a little growly out of the box but the instructions call for a 30-minute running in period at “normal” speed. The instructions also specifically state that the Faulhaber motor is rated to a MAXIMUM of 8 volts. The parts list does NOT include a replacement motor, so be advised.

How does the AZL GP7 stack up to the real thing?

AZL locomotives have been leading the way in efforts to produce true-to-scale replicas in Z. Yes, there will always be compromises, not the least of which are the over scale couplers and huge flanges on drive wheels. What I have been waiting to see is how the GP7 compares to prototype dimensions. Let's take a look.

Engine builder: EMD (Electro Motive Division)

Engine: 567B 16 cylinder

Bore & Stroke: 8.5”x 10”

RPM (max/min): 800 / 275

Main generator: GM-D12

Horsepower: 1500

Gear ratio: 62: 15

Speed: 65 mph

Trucks: 4-wheel

Configuration: B-B

Weight: 246,000 lbs

Traction motors: 4x GM-D27B

Tractive effort (starting): 65,000 lbs @25%

Tractive effort (continuous): 40,000 lbs @ 9.3 mph

Multiple unit capacity: yes

Dynamic breaking: yes

Auxiliary generator: Delco A8102

Alternator: GM D14

Air brake: Westinghouse 24L

Compressor: Gardner-Denver WBO

Quantity built: 2724 + 5 GP7Bs

Dates: 10/49 to 5/54 (3-4/53 for GP7B)

Prototype data compiled by Jean-Denis Bachand

Exterior dimensions

GP7 / GP7B

Model (inches)

Model (feet)

Total length

55' 11”


56' 3”

Wheel diameter




Truck wheel base



8' 11”

Height to top engine hood

13' 11”


13' 10”

Height to top cab

14' 6”


14' 5”

Cab width

10' 3”


10' 2.5”

Engine hood width



6' 5”

Center bolster





The AZL Geep7 is probably the most accurate Z diesel ever produced by a commercial manufacturer. Amazingly, the wheel diameter is only a fraction larger than the prototype (measurement error may be due to the tread slope). The cab and engine hood widths are practically spot on (AZL used an 8mm Faulhaber motor and a brass side frame insert which allowed them to maintain a scale hood width).

The overall length is also outstanding. My readings were made from the center point of the installed couplers. The model comes supplied with separate pilot conversions with molded MU hoses and front steps. I suspect that the pilot conversions will shorten the overall length to a scale 55' 11”.


AZL has produced an accurately-scaled and impeccably-performing locomotive. This unit has been a long-time coming and makes a fine addition to the transition era that so many of us enjoy. For this Z-modeler, my UP Geep7 will be going into duty on the VECRR at the head of a scratch-built MOW train. More on that in a future “Last Spike”. 'Till then, enjoy your trainZ.

Z-Scale: minimum size, MAXIMUM enjoyment