Life Like Engines for a Newbie

Discussion in 'N / Z Scale Model Trains' started by dannyceralde, Jan 14, 2002.

  1. dannyceralde

    dannyceralde New Member

    Jan 13, 2002
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    I've checked out Spookshow and have narrowed my choices to following Life-Like products:

    A List

    B List
    GP18 (low nose)

    Just a few questions for you guys:
    1) Any general comments on the any of the choices?
    2) Any others I should consider? (doesn't need to be Life-Like, but should be in the same price range).
    3) Being a switcher, is the SW9 only used in yards?
    4) What roads should I consider for California?
    5) I've seen some fantastic close out pricing online for the F40PH and GP38-2 ($20). With prices that low, is this a red flag that this stuff is junk? (I'm not sure if I can provide the name of the online vendor in this forum, so if you're interested, I can send it to you directly).

    In addition, I'd love to get a Kato or Atlas, but my wife would kill me if she found out I'd spent $100+ on an engine. ;)

    Thanks in advance for indulging a newbie,

    Also, the feedback on Life-Like trainsets was very helpful.
  2. roryglasgow

    roryglasgow Active Member

    Jun 4, 2001
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    Most N-scale locomotives are produced in limited runs by their manufacturers. This means that there isn't necessarily a constant supply of any particular model. Sales eventually begin to drop (for most models) after a period of time, so the retailers will put them on clearance. This isn't necessarily indicative of the quality of the model--the retailers are just trying to get rid of their excess inventory.

    Generally, the more you pay the better the quality. Life-Like is sort of an oddball in that they have been producing a number of really nice locomotives for very low prices. Bachmann and Model Power also have cheap prices, but most of their stock isn't of particularly good quality. Both companies are attempting to make better products, though. Bachmann's gas/electric Doodlebug engine, and their new 2-8-0 Consolidation are supposed to be really good locomotives. Model Power's new FP-7 and 4-6-2 Pacific (made by Ajin Precision) are supposed to represent the turning of a new leaf for that company... Time will tell! I'm particularly interested in that Pacific, myself!

    Anyway, look around for the clearance prices. My wife got me a Kato SD80MAC for $55 from Check out their Hot Deals section. They don't have the best service in the world, but they do have good prices sometimes. is my favorite online dealer. They're fast and very helpful. has a huge inventory and great service. If I ever find myself in New York, I'm going to visit their store in person! Also, I hear that is a reputable dealer (but I've never bought anything from them...yet).

    I've seen SW9/1200 and/or their cousins working outside of the yard, but they've always been in multiple-unit arrangements with other types of locomotives. The SD7/9 can work either way, too, and if I'm not mistaken so can the GP-20 ("GP" stands for General Purpose, aka "geep," sorta like the car).

    For road names, check out this link: It might be helpful. Check around on the web or your local library to see what lines run (or ran) in California during the time period you are wanting to model. You can also make up your own, too, ya know!

  3. TGL1956

    TGL1956 New Member

    Dec 31, 2001
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    Of the Life Like locos you listed, I think the SW9/12 and GP20 would be your best bet. They're the only ones on your list that have a split frame and flywheels which make for better, smoother performance. I have 8 of the SWs and every one of them is a gem. I also bought 2 of the GP 20s for my son, another winner for LL. Depending on the era you model LL also has FA1/FB1 (I have 3 of these and they're great) and C-Liner A/B sets as well as BL2s. As Rory mentioned, you can get Atlas and Kato locos online for well under $100. BLW has many of the Atlas in the $50 to $65 range.
  4. Drew1125

    Drew1125 Active Member

    Jan 28, 2001
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    Your A-list is a winner...I also had one of the GP38-2's. Igot it at a train show for $20, & it was a great runner, until it took about an 800 scale foot fall to the floor:eek:
    If your into older stuff, & passenger trains, the LL E7 is a fantastic locomotive.
  5. IMRL393

    IMRL393 Member

    Aug 8, 2001
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    Dan -

    I'm HO, but other than the fact that you are in the wrong scale,

    ;) (Just kidding.....I think ....)

    it seems to me you have the cart before the horse!

    You should pick a favorite road or two first, find out which locos (and how many) that road (or roads) had, THEN buy the models!

    For example, Athearn makes a RI SD40-2. Well and good, but the RI only had 10 of them - as opposed to 70 GP38-2! P2K's BL2 is neat, but the RI only had 5 of them. Athearn even makes one switcher that the RI NEVER HAD !!! So some research will help your road look "real".

    On the topic of loco availability, today's "limited edition" models disappear fast! If you are having trouble finding the model loco in the road name you want, you might try e-Bay. I have a "search" routine that lets me see all the HO RI models on bid at any given time. Got some good bargins on locos that were "out of stock" or "discontinued" at Walthers.

    Happy shopping!

    - George
  6. RI541

    RI541 Member

    Feb 21, 2002
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    I have several Life-Like locos and like them the most of any other,the best being a RI GP18 #1347 this model doest have flywheels but is a strong puller even on the 2 % grade that runs almost five feet in the back of my layout. I also have all the Rock Island E8/9 units including the b-unit which i re-powered from a L&N E8/9 I bought for parts. Another one of my favorites is the BL2 which i installed a flywheel with out difficulty,My daughter has an SD7 which I'm impressed with very quite,I also have two of the most well liked SW9/12 these are very nice.
    As for Atlas I have two that i run reguarly one is a U25B RI#214 this is a good engine that I didn't pay alot for $39.99 this is quite and a good puller for long trains, I also have a RS3 former new haven that i repainted to RI#471 just before Atlas came out with thier version.
    I do alot of buying at train shows weather I'm looking for donor engines or new ones,Ive bought $50.00 locos for $10-15 and just had to clean them up a little.
    Life-Like has come a long way in the last few years,even thier rolling stock is getting better,I have an old Life-Like with a sliding door.This car is no where near prototypical in any sense but the sliding door makes it a rare find.
    I started with two Bachman sets and went from there,Its all trial and error and what your comfortable with,just remember its your rail road.
  7. nmtexman

    nmtexman Member

    Nov 8, 2001
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    One thing to consider, also, is that a lot of those engines you have listed are probably no longer available from a retailer.