Life-Like engine.....good or not?

french_guy May 24, 2020

  1. french_guy

    french_guy TrainBoard Member

    My hobby shop has a n-scale Life-Like E6A L&N #777, item #7355
    Is it any good? He sells it for..............$30 !
    So I'm concerned it's not a great engine
    Is it worth buying it and investing in a decoder, or it it just.....crap?
    20200522_153017.jpg 20200522_153007.jpg
  2. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

    These run well, but converting them to M-T couplers is difficult-to-perhaps-impossible. I'm not certain, but I don't think these have any provision for DCC. Someone else will know for sure.
    gmorider likes this.
  3. ns737

    ns737 TrainBoard Supporter

    go to spookshows site and look at his review.
    TrinityJay likes this.
  4. french_guy

    french_guy TrainBoard Member

    Seems a decent engine then.....not sure about DCC install though !
  5. acptulsa

    acptulsa TrainBoard Member

    A very useful website for N scalers. Wish there was an HO equivalent, though being comprehensive in HO would be impossible.

    It was also an easier site to find before Google took over the internet, and changed the algorhythms to feature irrelevant, but popular and "approved" websites over websites that actually discuss the search term.
    gmorider, TrinityJay and mtntrainman like this.
  6. bremner

    bremner Staff Member

    I simply type into the search bar "spookshow" then the name of the manufacturer then the loco type amd it is almost always the top result.
  7. TrinityJay

    TrinityJay TrainBoard Member

    Not DCC ready according to Spookshow, and rear Crapido is integrated into the truck so not easy to change. He also says these are a direct swap for a Kato E unit mech so if you're mainly after this for the livery you could always do a transplant.
    gmorider likes this.
  8. brokemoto

    brokemoto TrainBoard Member

    These things are excellent locomotives. They draw more than the usual amount of current, though. The shells on the early E-8s were a bit clunky. LL did improve on this with its subsequent plastic frame E-7s, E-6s and PAs. The slow speed control is excellent. It has a lower than usual top speed. They will pull anything; this despite the two idler axles. The price seems about right; perhaps a dollar or five high, but, within tolerances.

    I did do MT conversions on some of mine. The E-8s did require a minimum amount of surgery to get the coupler into the nose. It was not hard to do the Number Two end. The E-7s were similar to the E-8s I did not do the nose on the E-6s, as its dummy couplers actually are the correct height and will mate with MTs and Unimates.

    I would expect that these would be easy to convert to DCC, although I am not a DCC user. I am aware that you must isolate the motor from the track on DCC. These are plastic frame locomotives. The motor already is isolated from direct contact with the track. The pickup runs from the wheels into needlepoint wipers on the trucks. There is a nub on each wiper set that makes contact with a bronze strip attached to the plastic frame. Wires run from each bronze strip to the motor poles. I would expect that all that you would need to to install a decoder is unsolder the wires either from the motor terminals or the bronze contact strips, then wire in the decoder. You might have to trim the weights a bit to accommodate the decoder. This could compromise the pulling power, slightly, but, still it should pull six cars, which is fine for a passenger train on most home layouts.

    You might even be able to cut each wire half way, strip the ends then splice in the decoder. If you choose to unsolder wires, you would have to remove either the contact strip or the motor, unless you are so skilled with a soldering iron that you would not melt the plastic.

    There is also a metal frame version of this locomotive. I do not know if LL did the Lousy and Nasty in the metal frame.

    At one point, I had several of these, E-8s, E-7s and PAs. All of them were very good. Between the changing of some of my modelling directions and the availability of more prototypical models, I sold off my A-1-A LLs. I liked them, they simply no longer fit my modelling wants. I would recommend them to anyone.
  9. digimar52

    digimar52 TrainBoard Member

  10. Sumner

    Sumner TrainBoard Member

    I bought an A/B pair where the B is a dummy for $55 for the pair and another single A unit for $38 for reference. I've only run them on a test track but was happy with the two A's.

    I plan on swapping the B unit onto the second A I bought for a powered B and then put the A shell on the unpowered B chassis for a powered A & B and an unpowered A to run together. I haven't tried it yet but assume it will probably work. I'll convert the A and B DCC. Here is another link to doing that but also love the site digimar52 posted...

    Last edited: May 24, 2020
    MK likes this.
  11. brokemoto

    brokemoto TrainBoard Member

    ............and this was just a guess, as I do not use DCC. He even mentions being careful not to use too hot an iron and to use a heat sink. I am clumsy with a soldering iron, so, when I converted my old MP steam to all wheels live tenders , I had to remove the contact strips from the B-mann or Kato tenders. The Kato was easy, as you pull up the clip and the lift out the strips. The B-mann was a little more challenging, as B-mann flattens the palstic nubs to retain the strips. I had to ruin the head created to get out the strips. What I did was fashion a clip out of styrene and secure it with MT coupler screws. When B-mann later put a decoder clip into its SPECTRUM tenders, it made things so much easier. All that I had to do was wrap the wires from the locomotive to the outer two prongs on each side of the clip, then solder.

    In fact, I wonder why the manufacturers did not go to the plastic frame and construct their models as LL did rather than reverting to flexing wires soldered to pivotting trucks in this age of DCC. The latter come undone, at some point. What LL did with the later plastic frame units eliminated the problem.

    I loved those plastic frame FAs and BL-2s as well. They ran well for what they were. They would pull every piece of rolling stock that you owned up a fifty per-cent grade on a seven inch radius curve. The problem was that the constant pivotting of the trucks caused the wires to flex frequently and come undone.

    MDC did a similar correction when it made a 2-6-0 out of its 1880s 2-8-0. I like my BLI USRA light 2-8-2, but am worried that the soldered wires on the tender trucks are going to come undone.

    I found it curious that LL never offered a plastic frame E-8B (it did offer a B when it went to the split metal frame). It did offer Bs for the E-7 and E-6, for roads that had the Bs. The plastic frame Bs were all dummies. It would make sense to power the B for an A-B-A, as you do want to avoid having a dummy B scrunched between two powered As. If you modelled the Q, though, if it had E-6 or E-7 Bs, you could run them A-A-B, as the Q often ran their cab units elephant style.
  12. bill pearce

    bill pearce TrainBoard Member


    I suspect that his advice to "not use a too hot an iron" without defining too hot has or will result in more damaged locos than ones saved. Most will perceived that advice to mean the tiny cheap irons sold. That's worse than too big. The problem with a too small iron is that it forces you to stay on the joint too long, allowing more heat to be dissipated into places it shouldn't be. The advantage to using a decent somewhat larrger iron is that you ccan get on and off quickly. I would suggest to the the blogspot guy that he would have little need for the tweezer heatsinks if he had a somewhat larger iron and quick eyes and hands. This technique , like everything in life, depends on procitce and experience.

    My best advice is to get one of the "soldering station" units with the temp control on it,, as the temperature will be better controlled that the ones with just a tip handle and cord. and, although the inexperienced mind will tell you the smallest possible iron is safer, it's not.
    Hardcoaler and digimar52 like this.
  13. r_i_straw

    r_i_straw Staff Member

    I have quite a few of them. E8s, E3s, Alco FAs and FBs, Geeps and SDs. They run well and don't cost as much as other brands. However I never liked the rendering of the nose profile on the E8s so I usually replace the headlight with styrene tubing and repaint the nose.
    This shows a Kato nose at the top, a modified Life Like in the middle and a stock Life Like at the bottom.
  14. MK

    MK TrainBoard Member

    A nose job! :D:p:ROFLMAO::)
    gmorider, Kurt Moose and Hardcoaler like this.
  15. Doug Gosha

    Doug Gosha TrainBoard Member

    A BIG improvement. The poor rendition has always bugged me too.

    Hardcoaler likes this.
  16. Run8Racing

    Run8Racing TrainBoard Member

    I have several LL E units and DL109s. All run great !!! Heard many times the shells will fit Kato chassis but I've never felt the need to do so. Didn't have much trouble with mounting MTs. All I know about DCC is that I won't do it. I'm NOT converting 300+ locomotives !!! I vote for "get it" !!!
  17. John Moore

    John Moore TrainBoard Supporter

    I have had my share of Lifelike including a few steamers all the diesels where 1st generation units. A number of the units got metal plow pilots which used to be available. My only issue was with the flimsy frame mounted pick-up tabs on the SW units. Otherwise they ran fine with no pick-up issues.
    Hardcoaler likes this.
  18. brokemoto

    brokemoto TrainBoard Member

    I hated those pick up tabs. They were not put onto the undersides of the walkways very well. Some people did disassemble them, Dremelâ„¢ out slots in the sides of the frame halves, then insert contact strips. I did not bother, as none of mine ever ran well. I ended up selling off all of mine. The slow speed control mine never were consistent. Further, they had a nasty habit of picking points and frogs on Atlas Number Six turnouts.

    There were rumours that WKW was going to do something about those pick-up tabs when it bought LL's model railroad line.. That did not happen. I bought one WKW SW. It was as disappointing as the others, so I gave away that one. Those pick up tabs were absolutely the worst.

    If Atlas ever re-releases those SWs, I expect that those tabs will vanish, as in this age of DCC, everyone is reverting to flexing wires soldered to pivotting trucks.
  19. bremner

    bremner Staff Member

    I have MTL SW1500'S that have the same chassis, and have none of the issues with Atlas #6's
  20. Thomas Davis

    Thomas Davis TrainBoard Member

    I have several of the Life Like E units (-6, -7, -8 ) and for $30 (also what I paid for most of mine, more or less) they are usually well worth the price, although there is an occasional "lemon." The nose issue with the E8s has been noted by several posters above. I would also note that IMHO, the paint jobs on E7s and E6s and the Walthers issued E8s are superior to the paint on the original run Life Like E8s.

    That said, the locomotive in your photo, and the box in your photo, are 2 different products. The box says E6 #777, but the loco pictured is E8 #796. So it appears the loco and the box are mismatched. L&N did have examples of both (as well as E7s). The loco ID is clear (beyond the L&N number) from the 4 portholes down the side that clearly identify it as an E8.

    I have added DZ-126 (IIRC) to at least one of these. Keep the kapton tape handy, you will need some, but otherwise it is not a particularly difficult install. One advantage of the "old fashioned" frame is that there is room to work and places to put wires. You will need to cut away part of the weight in the rear (and take precautions, I have no idea what the metals content is). An easier option if you can find one... N Scale of Nevada, and a couple other companies, used to market replacement weights already cut away, which are still found occasionally in old boxes behind the counter of hobby shops, and on eBay.

    Tom D
    gmorider likes this.

Share This Page