Growing up surrounded by Conrail industrial branchlines in Philly gave me an early love of end cab switchers. So, when Broadway Limited Imports announced blue SW7s I had to get (at least) one. Here’s a quick overview of it right after I pulled it out of the box.

First, what everyone wants, photos.

I only picked up one of these to start with because I wanted to check it out before dropping another $200 on a second one. While I didn’t have any reason to not trust Broadway specifically, wild things can happen, and it’s one thing to end up with a $50 “project”, but these are quite a bit more expensive.

Here are my quick observations. Overall, I think it’s a good model and a good starting point.

I took a quick look on my favorite web project, The Conrail Historical Society’s Conrail Photo Site to find some reference photos.

That was the only one I really found there, and the CRCYC, my other favorite Conrail site was coming up a bit short too.

George Elwood’s Fallen Flags site had a few hits though:

RR Picture Archives, however, had a bingo: And what a bingo that is! Hanging around Frankford Junction was four blocks from my house as a kid, and is where I got bitten by the Conrail bug. Pretty awesome. Thanks Bill Padgett!

So, with that out of the way, I have a few observations on the model.

First, it’s a pretty good starting point to turn into a good model. The major spotting features are all good enough. There are a few discrepancies, like the prototype having roller bearing trucks and the model being plain bearing. I don’t expect BLI to tool up modernized trucks like these, but it would’ve been cool if they did. I might fix that myself, but we’ll see. Lots of credit to them for getting the walkway color right. I guess they read my article in the Conrail Quarterly! Nicely done boys.

I do have a few issues to point out, but none of these should be reasons not to get one of these. First, the printing of the Conrail logo has some visible gaps over the gaps of the hood doors. These can likely be touched up with a few dabs of white paint, but it is a bit of a bummer. Next, and this one surprises me by how annoyed about it I am, but on a $200+ locomotive I would expect the manufacturer to have painted the white parts of the handrails. I understand the challenge of this, but it feels a little “less than premium” and is disappointing.

Lastly, and it’s a common complaint with all Broadway stuff, but the sound performance just isn’t nearly as good as competing products. I don’t mean the quality of the sound, or the volume, or anything else like that, but the Paragon 4 “brains” just don’t seem as responsive or consistent as any other brand of sound decoder. I don’t like that I’ll likely be replacing the decoder in this (and my other BLI) switchers with different sound decoders down the road. I know BLI prides itself on its whole sound schtick, but I wish they’d get over it and just offer everything with the “Stealth” options they’ve started to on some models.

If you’re looking for a sound equipped Conrail switcher, you could do far worse than these guys. I’ll probably be getting the second number someday soon.