Beginner questions, Life-Like SD7

Hi, it's been almost a year since I first asked here about getting started in N scale. I finally decided to do something and have acquired my first starter set. I am on a budget but I managed to get started for $60 total which I think is pretty darn good.

I purchased a like-new Life-Like complete set with a GP38-2 on ebay for $35 with some extra track. I also purchased a Railmaster 1300 controller from ebay for $8, and a Life-Like SD7 Engine for $20. I am happy with the set since it came with standard nickel track which I prefer (not the quick-lock). The old style track reminds me of my childhood sets and I can use flex track with it for my layout.

Everything arrived in great condition and works very well.

First thing I noticed is that the new power pack (despite being older and used) is substantially better than the stock unit. I expected a significant difference but the performance is far better than I expected and I am very satisfied for the $8 it cost me.

The next thing I noticed is that the GP38-2 runs very smooth and quiet! This is baffling to me because I was under the impression that the GP38-2's (especially those included with a set) were junk. It looks good, and even has the little GP38-2 porthole on the rear right side and the fans on top look very nice and crisp. I can almost see down through the fan gratings into the shell. The lighting isn't very good though and could probably be improved with some careful drilling tinkering.

Now for the SD7. The SD7 makes a bit of a "clicking" noise... not a loud sharp click but a subdued tapping noise, almost as if it's partially derailed and bumping the rail ties, but after examination I can find nothing wrong with how it's sitting on the track. I sounds like I am hearing the brushes against the commutator in the motor. The typical hiss motor and rail noise is also significantly louder, probably two or three times as loud. It also requires significantly more throttle to start moving. I see no lint or anything else in the trucks, it looks brands new. Is this uncommon for the LL SD7? It seems to run ok, it's just loud. The detail however is very nice.

So, what next? Should I remove the shell, clean it up, and add a drop of oil to the gears? How should I remove the shell without damaging it?

I would also like to add an additional bulb for the rear lights while I have the shell off if possible.

I am really looking forward to starting my first layout!

Thanks in advance

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And total for shipping was...? :-)

Cheap LifeLike _HO_ sets are junk. LifeLike N scale is very good. OTOH, LifeLike Proto1000/2000 (HO) are excellent.


No idea how un/common it is, but the most likely explanation is that there's have a bit of flash in the gear train, or on the universals, hence th clicking. If it changes with the speed of the engine, almost certainly the problem. Fixing that is not a job for the beginner, so I would find someone who's taken a few LL engines apart and can reassemble them, or else send it back. (I know that may be a problem with e-Bay, which is the reason I don't buy anything there.)

It's worth a try.

There are little tabs connecting the shell to the frame, that you unlatch by spreading the shell and/or by pushing gently with a small screwdriver.

If there isn't one, there's no room for it. You'd have to machine a notch in the frame to make room. The frame is actually a split block of diecast metal with spaces milled out for the motor, the gears, etc.

Go for it!

And I notice you said "first." Good. You'll find that you'll want to start over at some point.... :-)


Reply to
Wolf K

Hope all Goes well.

Please remember that walthers own life like now. You engine may need maintance .

A good book is Maintaining and Repairing Your Scale Model Trains by(Model Railroader) you may be able to obtain or borrow from your library?

Good luck merry Christmas


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Thanks. BTW, the cost of shipping (total for all items) was $15.

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So total was about $75 - pretty good for a very good quality train set, a good quality powerpack, plus a good quality loco (if you can get the click fixed.)

Have fun! And don't hesitate to ask questions. Most folks here are glad to help, if they know anything at all about your problem. And even if they don't.


Reply to
Wolf K

tinytrains wrote:

That's what I would do for an HO model. N scale locomotives are smaller and trickier to work on, but I think you can still do it. Do some prep. Clean off your work table. Get decent lighting, daylight is best. Take notes and make sketches as you take the locomotive apart so you can get it back together. Take great care not to loose a tiny part. Lay the parts out on a strip of sticky Scotch tape as you take the engine apart. Don't force things lest they break. You ought to have a set of jewelers screw drivers and a pair of small long nose pliers. On HO models, the shell usually snaps onto posts molded into the chassis. The shell comes off by inserting a hobby knife between the shell and the chassis and prying gently. There may be an instruction sheet for your engine on the Web somewhere. Drop the maker's name and the model number into Google and chances are good you will get the maker's instruction sheet. Inspect each gear and moving part for flash, crud, rough spots. Remove any of the above with a file or a sharp hobby knife. Wipe each tooth of each gear with a pipe cleaner. When finished you will likely see a few flecks of black crud on the white pipe cleaner. Check the gage of all the wheels. Inspect the commutator. If it's black and ugly, try a little Goo-Gone on a pipe cleaner. The engine ought to pick up juice on all 8 wheels. Check that this is happening with an ohmmeter. Look for wheel wipers and make sure they are all tracking properly. N locomotives often have a split chassis doing double duty as a weight and a current carrier. Take extreme care not to loose any tiny pieces. When reassembling the engine see how freely it rotates. The motor armature ought to rotate pretty freely. Tighten the fasteners enough to hold but not so much that you strip out the threads or the screw slots. Make sure the rotating parts (armature, u joints,gears) are not rubbing on the shell.

If the lights are incandescent lamps just wire a second lamp in parallel with the existing lamp. You want a 12 volt lamp. Beware of tiny bulbs that only take 1.5volts. If LED's are used, you need a LED that fits, and a dropping resistor (470 ohms for a 20 mA LED, 1K for a 10mA LED)

Good luck

David Starr

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David Starr

Thanks a bunch David. Excellent info.

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As Anthony mentioned, "Maintaining and Repairing Your Scale Model Trains" (Model Railroader Book) should be helpful and a good reference for your future locomotive purchases:

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I have 20 of the Life_like SD7/9s and only one didn't run straight from the box. I never did get around to trying to find out what the problem is. I've found that the post-1989 "made in China" Life-Like N scale locomotives are well made. You do want to avoid Life-Like N scale locomotives made in the 1970s and early 1980s (Mehanotehnika, Yugoslavia) locomotives, though.

Good luck with your model railroad. I'm sure you will enjoy it.

Bill Bill's Railroad Empire N Scale Model Railroad:

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