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Trying to ID a Life-Like GP20 HO

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Trying to ID a Life-Like GP20 HO
Posted by xsvtoys on Monday, September 2, 2019 5:29 PM

I picked up this locomotive and I am trying to figure out exactly what it is. The only markings anywhere on it (that I can find) are on the bottom where it says Life-Like and Made in China. I was able to find via some searching that it is likely a model number 7088 which matches up with pictures of the road number 1107. I found this info:

Released in 1998, 2004 (revised version with Accumate couplers), and 2011 (DCC-Ready version, with MTL couplers)

The 2011 version is DCC ready. Accepts the following plug-in decoders (non-sound): 
Digitrax DN163L0A: 1 Amp N Scale Mobile Decoder for Walthers Proto GP20 and similar. 
TCS L1D4: BEMF decoder designed to fit Life-Like GP20 locomotive.

Maybe this is the 2011 version?? I don't know what the decoder is, I can't find any picture that looks like it. It does say on there " 'X' CUT FOR DCC" so maybe that is a DCC decode, but I don't know. I'd like to find instructions for it.

I haven't tried running it yet...thanks.

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Posted by xsvtoys on Tuesday, September 3, 2019 9:26 AM

OK, sorry I am so dumb, I realized that the Life-Like #7088 is actually an N scale. I finally found a matching picture on the internet and how I am pretty sure this is a Proto 2000 HO Sante Fe GP20 #1107 Part Number 8008.

There isn't any documentation that I have been able to find for it, but I will fire it up and see what it does. Any advice or knowledge about this one that anyone has is appreciated.

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Posted by Eilif on Tuesday, September 3, 2019 10:51 AM

Someone more knowlegable than me may be able to provide better information but I'm pretty sure you've got the 1998 version there, though I wouldnt' be surprised if it were offered for a few years after.  

I don't see a "DCC ready" plug anywhere in the pictures you provided.

If you put "Life Like Santa Fe 1107 Proto 2000" into google you'll find examples of what you have.

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Posted by SPSOT fan on Tuesday, September 3, 2019 11:13 AM

I am not to knowledgeable on this sort of thing but the words LIFE-LIKE on the bottom make me think it is not the 2011 release, as by that time P2K was part of Walthers, so I think the LIFE-LIKE lettering would have been removed by that point in time. It appears to have Kadee couplers. I am confused as to weather or not this is HO or N. You said the 2011 release had MTL (I’m assuming that’s Micro Trains Line?) but the model looks to be HO.

If you want to know of the loco is DC or DCC place it on DCC and try to run it on address zero. Also you’ll hear a distinctive wirring sound when a DC loco is on DCC and in idle.

Regards, Isaac

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Posted by gmpullman on Tuesday, September 3, 2019 11:51 AM

 

Hello,

 

 LL_GP-20 by Edmund, on Flickr

 LL_GP-20_4 by Edmund, on Flickr

 LL_GP-20_0005 by Edmund, on Flickr

 LL_GP-20_0001 by Edmund, on Flickr

 LL_GP-20_0002 by Edmund, on Flickr

 LL_GP-20_0003 by Edmund, on Flickr

In all of the DCC conversions I've done on my Life-Like fleet I have completely removed the "light board" and wired a decoder directly to the track pickup and motor leads. Once LEDs are installed the light board is pretty much worthless anyway.

TCS has some good information here:

https://tcsdcc.com/installation/ho-scale/1401

 Keep in mind that this early version of the Life-Like design uses the locomotive frame to pick up current through the truck bolster. Not the best design but you will need to attach one pickup wire, right rail=red, as I recall, to a tapped screw on the frame. I usually place a drop of DeOxIt or CRC 2-26 on the pivot point to assure good contact here.

The TCS instructions say to solder the motor wire to the bronze strip while in place. I strongly suggest carefully removin that strip, careful not to lose the brush and spring, then solder the motor wire in place.

When Walthers bought Life-Like there was tons of inventory remaining with the L-L name on it. The early runs under Walthers ownership was marked Life-Like by Walthers. Eventually after Walthers revamped the entire line it became Walthers Proto.

Good Luck, Ed

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Posted by CGW121 on Tuesday, September 3, 2019 12:02 PM

What you are seeing is a light board for directional lighting. It is NOT a decoder of any kind. I usually remove it and hardwire a decoder in. Not sure you may have to deal with cracked gears. You can check for cracked gears by runing it in dc. If you hear a thump thump you more than likely have cracked gears. I used athearn gears.

 

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Posted by xsvtoys on Tuesday, September 3, 2019 12:43 PM

Thanks everyone so far, this is all great information and I will work on it. There should be a post by me before this one where I found out more about what it was. I seem to be on some sort of probation with a day's delay for my posts to be approved, maybe because I haven't posted in a while.

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Posted by rrinker on Tuesday, September 3, 2019 1:47 PM

 That is the older version, that board is not a decoder, it is a light board for directional constant lighting on DC. Forge t the cut at the X for DCC, remove the board completely if you want to install a decoder, and replace the light bulbs with LEDs and resistors.

 You are definitely getting incorrect item numbers, the descriptions of those items match N scale locos, that loco is an HO scale loco. Forget the couplers, they look like real Kadees, no P2K loco ever came with real Kadees, so they were changed out at some point.

                                    --Randy

 


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Posted by xsvtoys on Tuesday, September 3, 2019 5:41 PM

gmpullman thank you for the manual and the guide for the T1 decoder install.  That looks like it will be a good project to start on. I have been reading for a long time, now getting ready to put some stuff into HO action. 

 

rrinker, here are some close-ups of the coupler. Are these Kadees? I'm not up enough yet to be able to tell but want to learn. It doesn't surprise me that the couplers were upgraded, the guy I got this from was really into detailing and modeling. Oddly enough though I don't think he ever ran anything. I got some other cool stuff from his estate sale that I am still going through. No more locos though. I'll get this one going and see how it runs, but I am guessing it has hardly been run at all. Everything does look new on it.

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Posted by CGW121 on Tuesday, September 3, 2019 6:17 PM

yes they are Kadees.

 

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Posted by tstage on Tuesday, September 3, 2019 9:44 PM

The GP20 chassis looks very much like the Life-Like GP7 I just picked up so you should be able to use a TCS LL8 decoder, which is a simple drop-in replacement for the diode light board that came with your locomotive.  And the same screws used to secure the light board to the chassis can also be used to secure the LL8 decoder.

If you are thinking of installing LEDs, the LED version of that decoder comes with built-in resistors.  All you have to do is replace the incandescent bulbs and solder the front & rear LEDs directly to the blue (common), white, and yellow tabs on the NMRA socket.  I also used some black heat shrink as a shroud around the LED bulb to help focus the beam into the front & rear light pipes for the headlights.

Tom

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Posted by SPSOT fan on Tuesday, September 3, 2019 10:55 PM

Those coupler’s could be ProtoMax (Walthers) couplers, like a KD, but I think they are KDs. I don’t have a KD with me to compare though...

Regards, Isaac

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Posted by rrinker on Wednesday, September 4, 2019 12:25 AM

The chassis is the same, but that board is not like any of my GP7s that use the LL8 decoder, those decoders are meant for the locos that have a long narrow board with diodes and all the wires connect to a second board which just has an 8 pin socket and plugs in to the diode board. There are no resistors. Or cut at the X marks. This board is the same as the one in the SD 7/9.

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Posted by gmpullman on Wednesday, September 4, 2019 2:11 AM

SPSOT fan
Those coupler’s could be ProtoMax (Walthers) couplers, like a KD, but I think they are KDs.

The ProtoMax are distinctly a shiny black color. Kadees generally have a graphite/metallic look to them. The Kadee 5 and 158 are flanking a ProtoMax here:

 Kadee_1a by Edmund, on Flickr

Some people save pieces of string, some save twist-ties from bread bags. I save old light boards from DCC conversions of days gone by:

 DCC_PCBb by Edmund, on Flickr

This is only about half of them. I sent a bunch out to several forum members. 

 DCC_PCBa by Edmund, on Flickr

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Cheers, Ed

 

 

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Posted by SPSOT fan on Wednesday, September 4, 2019 3:21 AM

gmpullman

The ProtoMax are distinctly a shiny black color. Kadees generally have a graphite/metallic look to them. The Kadee 5 and 158 are flanking a ProtoMax here:

 Kadee_1a by Edmund, on Flickr

The difference I see between a KD5 and a ProtoMax is with the ’bumps’ around the area were the knuckle and the rest of the coupler meet. I’m being a bit confusing and I can’t seem to see the difference in Edmund’s picture but a bit ago I studied the two in depth and that’s what I found. I though since the OP’s model is perhaps a Walthers model it may have ProtoMax couplers, though they look more like KDs to me.

Regards, Isaac

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Posted by gmpullman on Wednesday, September 4, 2019 4:46 AM

rrinker
The chassis is the same, but that board is not like any of my GP7s that use the LL8 decoder,

I found a board from one of my GP-20s. It is unique in that it has a bronze strip to contact the top of the motor brush retainer clip.

 DCC_PCB-gp20 by Edmund, on Flickr

I don't recall encountering many like that. 

 DCC_PCB-gp20a by Edmund, on Flickr

Good Luck, Ed

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Posted by tstage on Wednesday, September 4, 2019 6:19 AM

rrinker

The chassis is the same, but that board is not like any of my GP7s that use the LL8 decoder, those decoders are meant for the locos that have a long narrow board with diodes and all the wires connect to a second board which just has an 8 pin socket and plugs in to the diode board. There are no resistors. Or cut at the X marks. This board is the same as the one in the SD 7/9.

                    —Randy

Should have looked at the initial photos more closely, Randy. Embarrassed  Yea, no NMRA socket to plug into.

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Wednesday, September 4, 2019 6:44 AM

Did the LL-P2K GP20 suffer from the cracked gears as well?

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Wednesday, September 4, 2019 7:14 AM

riogrande5761

Did the LL-P2K GP20 suffer from the cracked gears as well?

 

All LifeLike two axle trucks at that time were the same design (a clone of the Athearn truck) and suffered from the same undersized gear center hole that lead to the cracking.

The gears seemed to fail faster, or more frequently in locos not used, or that sat as NOS, than in locos purchased and ran right away.

But eventually most failed.

LifeLike gave them away like candy until the Wathers buyout, Wathers was a little more conservative but still replaced them for free for many years.

Now, almost 30 years later, you are on your own. But other than replacing all those gears at some point, my fleet of nearly 60 early Proto locos still run great. Many purchased for only $35 to $60.

Sheldon

    

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Wednesday, September 4, 2019 7:20 AM

Additional note about these early locos, even using DC, I remove these circuit boards, install LEDs, and eliminate those voltage stealing diodes.

I only use a track voltage of 13.8, so out of the box these locos run a little slow.

Sheldon

    

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Posted by BRAKIE on Wednesday, September 4, 2019 9:10 AM

riogrande5761

Did the LL-P2K GP20 suffer from the cracked gears as well?

 

Jim,That's a trick question..  Around 20 years ago I bought two NYC GP20s both LL. One had crack gears from the factory the other one the gears never cracked the 5 years I used them the  club I was a member of back then. The suffered from the gear ratio of the month LL used and never MU'd well together so,I used them for yard switchers.

My plans was to have them repainted in the club's road name but,never did. 

Larry

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Wednesday, September 4, 2019 9:41 AM

BRAKIE

 

 
riogrande5761

Did the LL-P2K GP20 suffer from the cracked gears as well?

 

 

 

Jim,That's a trick question..  Around 20 years ago I bought two NYC GP20s both LL. One had crack gears from the factory the other one the gears never cracked the 5 years I used them the  club I was a member of back then. The suffered from the gear ratio of the month LL used and never MU'd well together so,I used them for yard switchers.

My plans was to have them repainted in the club's road name but,never did. 

 

Larry, respectfully there was no "gear ratio of the month". If it was a two axle truck made under LifeLike ownership, it was the same. All my LifeLike produced 4 axle locos run together fine and have the same gears, GP7, BL2, FA1, FA2, to the tune of about 45 locos of those 4 types. And my SD9's run fine with them as well.

Blame the gear ratio non sense on Walthers retooling after they bought the line.

Now my Wathers Proto F7's, that is a different story, but I don't MU them with those others as a general rule.

So that makes two different gear ratios.........old and new..........

Sheldon

    

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Posted by xsvtoys on Wednesday, September 4, 2019 9:41 AM

Thanks gmpullman, that's a nice macro shot of the couplers. After looking at it closely and also comparing to other images on the net, I am 90% sure that this loco has the Kadee 5 couplers on it.

My plan is to try this thing out in DC and see how it works. Then if needed I'll get into replacing the gears and such. Then, I'll probably install that T1 decoder for DCC. Should be fun.

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Posted by dknelson on Wednesday, September 4, 2019 10:39 AM

ATLANTIC CENTRAL
All LifeLike two axle trucks at that time were the same design (a clone of the Athearn truck) and suffered from the same undersized gear center hole that lead to the cracking. The gears seemed to fail faster, or more frequently in locos not used, or that sat as NOS, than in locos purchased and ran right away. But eventually most failed. LifeLike gave them away like candy until the Wathers buyout, Wathers was a little more conservative but still replaced them for free for many years. Now, almost 30 years later, you are on your own.

Walthers continues to offer for sale replacement wheel/axle sets for the Proto2000 engines that had the cracked gear blight.  The E unit replacements are also available but there is the info on the GP units, including the early GP20s.

https://www.walthers.com/replacement-geared-driver-assembly-diesel-wheelset-pkg-2-for-early-proto-2000-r-bl-fa-gp7-9-18-20-30-60-proto-1000-tm-f3

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Wednesday, September 4, 2019 10:52 AM

dknelson

 

 
ATLANTIC CENTRAL
All LifeLike two axle trucks at that time were the same design (a clone of the Athearn truck) and suffered from the same undersized gear center hole that lead to the cracking. The gears seemed to fail faster, or more frequently in locos not used, or that sat as NOS, than in locos purchased and ran right away. But eventually most failed. LifeLike gave them away like candy until the Wathers buyout, Wathers was a little more conservative but still replaced them for free for many years. Now, almost 30 years later, you are on your own.

 

Walthers continues to offer for sale replacement wheel/axle sets for the Proto2000 engines that had the cracked gear blight.  The E unit replacements are also available but there is the info on the GP units, including the early GP20s.

https://www.walthers.com/replacement-geared-driver-assembly-diesel-wheelset-pkg-2-for-early-proto-2000-r-bl-fa-gp7-9-18-20-30-60-proto-1000-tm-f3

Dave Nelson

 

I simply meant they were no longer free.

Sheldon

    

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Posted by gmpullman on Wednesday, September 4, 2019 2:50 PM

xsvtoys
My plan is to try this thing out in DC and see how it works. Then if needed I'll get into replacing the gears and such.

Glad the coupler photo helped you out. 

Perhaps your particular engine has been given a mechanical tune-up by the previous owner. I've had many brand new, old stock Life Like locomotives that required mechanical work before they would even run.

 Proto_gear-3 by Edmund, on Flickr

The above photo is of a second-run of the FA-1. The worm gear bearings were frozen solid to the shaft. Whatever combination of the metals in the shaft and bearing reacted with the lubricant and formed a lacquer-like gunk that formed a solid bond.

 Proto_gear-5 by Edmund, on Flickr

Eventually, you will probably find yourself stripping the drive-train down to clean the parts and remove old grease, look for any flash on the universals and gear parts and replace the axle gears.

 Proto_gear-4 by Edmund, on Flickr

 Proto_gear-2 by Edmund, on Flickr

These vintage Life-Like locomotives were very dependable and will give very satisfactory performance with a few basic maintenance chores taken care of.

Good Luck, Ed

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Posted by BRAKIE on Wednesday, September 4, 2019 8:01 PM

ATLANTIC CENTRAL
Larry, respectfully there was no "gear ratio of the month".

Sheldon, With due respect.The LL gear ratio of the month was discussed in lenght  on the old Atlas forum nobody seem to have a direct answer why some P2K engines of the same type could not MU together. Even today two of my four LL P2K GP38-2s will not MU together like my GP7/9 and 18s will. The only Walthers P2K I have is my Ohio Central GP7. I don't MU this unit with my others.

For general information these Geeps has Athearn replacement gears. I doubt if that has anything to do with it.

 

 

Larry

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Wednesday, September 4, 2019 8:23 PM

BRAKIE

 

 
ATLANTIC CENTRAL
Larry, respectfully there was no "gear ratio of the month".

 

Sheldon, With due respect.The LL gear ratio of the month was discussed in lenght  on the old Atlas forum nobody seem to have a direct answer why some P2K engines of the same type could not MU together. Even today two of my four LL P2K GP38-2s will not MU together like my GP7/9 and 18s will. The only Walthers P2K I have is my Ohio Central GP7. I don't MU this unit with my others.

For general information these Geeps has Athearn replacement gears. I doubt if that has anything to do with it.

 

 

 

I think I know the answer, and it has nothing to do with gears. As for the old Atlas forum, never spent a minute there.

Under LifeLike production, there were primarily two different circuit board designs, which used different approaches to the constant lighting circuit, changing the starting voltage of the locos.

Original versions without 8 pin plugs used a voltage sucking diode arrray, newer versions used a differnt circuit that did not raise the starting voltage nearly as much.

Additionally the motors themselves evolved slightly.

So an early 90's GP7 and a late 90's GP7 would have different starting voltages that would make DC MU operation "clunky" on startup.

I have removed all those older style boards and replaced them with different circuits that work fine with the newer style boards.

As a confirmed DC user, and a comfirmed Aristo Train Engineer user, I have learned that these DCC interface lighting boards can be problematic. I have learned how to test them for compatiblity with my system and my other locos and then modifiy or replace them as needed.

And I don't really need fancy constant lighting circuits because the pulse width modulation output of the train engineer is full voltage, so a simple LED headlight with a resistor goes full bright when you crack the throttle, long before the loco moves.

And, modeling the early 50's, I don't do much "mix and match" MU stuff, most of my MU setups are matched sets, ABBA, or three or four matching GP7's, etc.

But gear ratios, only two, one before Walthers, one after Walthers retooled.

And even that is not a big issue. 

As DoctorWayne (who just rips out all the lights and lighting boards) and I have explained many times, if your train really needs three locos, the locos really need not run at the same speed under no load, the main thing they need is a similar starting voltage so they all start at the same time.

The train weight will take care of the rest.

I run Bachmann 2-6-6-2's with Proto 2-8-8-2's, they run great together. No idea how similar the gearing is or is not. You might be amazed at what locos will run together pulling 50 freight cars that weigh a total of 15 lbs.

Sheldon 

    

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Posted by xsvtoys on Thursday, September 5, 2019 9:46 AM

Holey moley, so much information to learn about about this loco I picked up! Thanks everyone for your help. I will work on it and report back what i find. I've never taken one apart before but looks like this will be a good one to start with to check out the gears.

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Posted by Doughless on Thursday, September 5, 2019 11:12 AM

Okay.  Keeping it simple.  The cracked gear issue applies to GP units mainly (except the 38-2), and the BL2 since they are the units with the Athearn cloned trucks. (not sure about FA's or F units since I've never owned one)

The switchers and SD7/9s, and I believe the Uboats, had kato cloned truck designs. 

I've never owned other SD units, like SD45s, but I assume they went with the kato cloned and LL never designed an Athearn cloned six axle truck. 

The switchers, six axle units, and Uboats, did not have the cracked gear issue. There may have been some lemons in the batch, but cracked gears were not a systemic problem like they were in the Athearn based GP trucks.

The GP38-2 was a completely new loco that was designed from scratch by LL way later than their 1st generation GP units, and had different trucks than the rest.

As far as gear ratio of the month, understanding that LL used different truck designs depending upon the loco explains the different ratios.   

Not the gear ratios, but the light boards changed nearly almost every run.  As a modeler who is lighting aware, different light boards would cause different starting voltages for the motors with each change as well, which would effect the brightness of the lights upon start up.

The tall starting voltage was fantastic.  The slower the better.  Loved those LL light boards.

I assume folks who consisted locos thought it was a poor design, but it actually made the lights work more prototypically, so the slow starts were actually a more advanced design.  And then Aristo Craft PWM throttles made it even better.

Then LL added a DCC plug to the light boards, so the design changed again.

Then Walthers took over LL and designed their own 12:1 truck for everything, but they may have continued to produce some locos with the Athearn clone under the Walthers brand until their new trucks were produced. Light boards were consistant by then.

But relative to Athearn blue box, from which the original LL GP units were mechanically based, LL used light boards instead of that metal strip Athear used.  So LL wired both sides of the truck to the boards, eliminating the need for the bottom motor clip to pick up current from the frame.  All LL GP units should have that connection taped at the bottom, isolating the motor from the frame and making them suitable for DCC conversion by replacing the light board with a decoder.  (now following murphy's law, that early GP20 will be different somehow)

After all of that, okay, I guess its not so simple......

- Douglas

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