LifeLike BL2 Conversion

Donstaff Jan 28, 2020

  1. Donstaff

    Donstaff TrainBoard Member

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    Somewhere, I saw a brief description of the conversion of a 1990s N scale LifeLike BL2 to DCC with a TCS CN decoder. This was the older version BL2 locomotive with the two massive weights inside and the single incandescent lamp. The description had some pictures, but was skimpy on details. I have one of these as well as the decoder, and wonder if anyone has ever done one of these, and if so, would you be willing to share the wealth of your experience?
     

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  2. Sumner

    Sumner TrainBoard Member

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    I can't see an easy way to use the CN on that loco but using one of the other small decoders like the DZ126T you could probably follow these instructions...

    http://n-scale-dcc.blogspot.com/search/label/Loco: Life Like E8

    I saw some other ones for a Life-Like with the weights but can't find it right now,

    Sumner
     
  3. Sumner

    Sumner TrainBoard Member

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    Here is another one with a similar chassis ....



    And another with a similar chassis setup....

    http://mysite.mweb.co.za/residents/grela/lifesd7-sd9.html

    I think I have a couple DC Life-Likes that I'm going to have to do also sooner or later so if you find something else please post it or when you do yours take pictures and post them.

    Thanks,

    Sumner
     
  4. Donstaff

    Donstaff TrainBoard Member

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    Thanks Summer,
    These are all helpful. The using the CN required some surgery too, to both weights, but had the advantage of having the head and backup lights (led vs. incandescant) already wired and mounted by virtue of the CN's split board. I just can't figure out how they did the connection from the truchs to the input side of the decoder.
    Thanks again,
    Don

    Sent from my Pixel 2 XL using Tapatalk
     
  5. Sumner

    Sumner TrainBoard Member

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    Check that video out,

    Sumner
     
  6. Donstaff

    Donstaff TrainBoard Member

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    Thanks Sumner,
    The two articles, SD7-SD9 and the E8, both are done on later versions with flywheels and flexible tube versus spring drive connections. I'm wondering if it would be workable to Dremel the tops of the weights enough to allow space for the front and back halves of the TCS CN decoder to sit on top of the weights. Then also, groove the sides of the weights for wires running from the truck frames to the decoder input and from the decoder output to the motor connections.
    Thanks,
    Don
     
  7. Sumner

    Sumner TrainBoard Member

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    There are others on here that have done a lot more DC to DCC conversions than I have so hope they chime in. I've only done two wired conversions at this time but have a lot of locos that need it done and have now bought a number of decoders to work on them after I finish my preliminary track work. I've been gathering a number of links to installs from the internet as preparation for doing this. Like the ones I posted above.

    [​IMG]

    Looking at your model I'd give up on the CN decoder and get one of the small decoders such as the DZ126T, TCS Z2, LokPilot Nano or someone else's really small decoder and mill out the back weight and put it there.

    I realize you want the CN since it already has the LED's on the two halfs but getting some SMD LED's and running them is not that big of a deal. You can find them pretty cheap with the magnet wire already soldered on. Here is one example...

    https://www.amazon.com/25pcs-Pre-so...t=&hvlocphy=9029831&hvtargid=pla-710489092697

    I thought your engine also had those long rails on each side doing the pickup of power from the trucks but looking closer at the picture I now don't think so. Are there wires soldered directly to the sides of the trucks? If so there should be two black ones on the other side like what I think I see above. Isolate the wires from the frame, motor and light on both sides and take them to the decoder red and black wires for the track power to the decoder. I'm a little hesitant to offer that advice going only on what I think I see in the picture above.

    Again I think trying to go with the CN decoder half's is actually going to be more work than a more conventional approach for that engine, using a single small decoder and separate SMD LED's with resistors. If you only are going to have the rear or the forward light lit at a time you can wire it with a single resistor on the blue wire and going after the resistor to the two lights and their respective white and yellow decoder wires.

    I did that on this install...

    http://1fatgmc.com/RailRoad/Decoder-1/page-2.html

    Sumner
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2020
  8. Sharky_McSharknose

    Sharky_McSharknose TrainBoard Member

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    I agree that it will be easier to use a Z-scale decoder instead of a CN or CN-GP decoder on the BL2 version you posted.

    I have added an ESU Loksound Micro V4.0 decoder to a plastic-frame L-L Alco PA. It took a lot of shaving of the rear lead weight to fit (use eye and nose protection!). The speaker and baffle (ESU 50321) are mounted where the underframe weight/fuel tank casting was, partially hidden by the skirts. I do need to replace the speaker since I accidentally got some silver paint in it when I painted the baffle.
     
    Des Moines Rocket likes this.
  9. Des Moines Rocket

    Des Moines Rocket TrainBoard Member

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    Can concur with Sharky's post above. I have also installed ESU decoders in older Life-Like locomotives. I have usually just removed the rear weight and build a platform out of styrene for the decoder to 'rest' on without interfering with the rear truck. You can use almost any smaller, wired decoder, and save your CN or CN-GP decoders (which are good, too) for your Atlas locomotives with split frames.
     
  10. Sumner

    Sumner TrainBoard Member

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    Don he makes a good point here. The weights are not split in half and the CN decoders need a split frame. If you try and make room for them on the weights and they touch the weights they will short out from one side of the decoder to the other side,

    Sumner
     
  11. Donstaff

    Donstaff TrainBoard Member

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    Thanks to everyone. This is a really informative discussion. I have includeed picture of the other side of the locomotive and checked the wires to the trucks. There is continuity between the left side front wheels and the red wire going to the lamp and the frame is plastic. Looking closely, you might be able to see that LifeLike put a small groove at the top of the motor housing to allow the lamp to shine through and illuminate for both directions of travel. I really like the idea of having the light on for only for the direction of travel. That was the best reason for using a 2-piece decoder. So it is boiling down to the difficulty of mounting SM LEDs vs. the amount of grinding required on the weight(s).
     

    Attached Files:

  12. Sumner

    Sumner TrainBoard Member

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    [​IMG]

    After seeing the new picture of the other side I think I got the wires off the light backwards. I now think that the red wire coming off the light to the right must be going to the truck on this side and is probably common to the two smaller red wires from the trucks to the motor on this side.

    I thought the red wire running to the left off the light went to where the two small red wires are but after seeing the other picture it looks like it goes to the other side and to the truck over there completing the circuit from one rail to the other through the light.

    I'd get rid of the light and the larger red wire altogether and go with the LED's controlled by the two function wires on the decoder, white to head light and yellow to the rear light. The blue wire off the decoder splits and goes to both lights as the power light and they are then turned on or off with either the white or yellow wire which completes the circuit. You need a resistor in the blue wire before it splits if only one light is on at a time or a resistor for each LED either on the blue wire side of the LED on the control wire (white/yellow) side of the LED. Once you've done an LED it isn't a big deal and they could either lay on the weights, one on the back of the decoder or run into the shell and attached there. You don't have to use SMD LED's. If you have room you could use larger ones. Keep looking and you will see examples of both.

    Here is a great decoder install site (click on the install links on the left side of the page) ....

    http://n-scale-dcc.blogspot.com/

    ... and there are more out there,

    Sumner
     
  13. Donstaff

    Donstaff TrainBoard Member

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    Thanks Sumner,
    It looks like LifeLike's cavity that they provided in the front of the back weight is the perfect place for a Digitrax DZ126T, with little or no grinding. I will proceed with your earlier recommendation.
    Thanks again,
    Don
     
  14. Pie39

    Pie39 TrainBoard Member

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    I have a similar question and I thought I'd join in on this thread. I have one of the slightly newer runs, and it has this mechanism. Any recommendations for a decoder to use? [​IMG]
     
  15. Sumner

    Sumner TrainBoard Member

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    Looks like a candidate for the CN or CN-GP decoders if you want to go that route. I'd read this to see which might be better for you....

    http://n-scale-dcc.blogspot.com/2010/12/train-control-systems-cn-or-cn-gp.html

    I thought about using them for some of my installs but haven't so far. I've read mixed reviews/feelings on them (like all things). My main reason for not going with them at this point is cost as I could use some other decoder for 2/3's the cost or less for what I want to do (basically control the forward and rear light). They would be easier to install vs. other wired decoders (like what I've bought) to some degree.

    The way they mount gave me....

    [​IMG]

    ... the idea for what I've done to this point for power pickup and distribution...

    [​IMG]

    Above you can see how I've used the printed circuit board that is mounted similar to the CN to collect the track power and send it to the decoder under it and to also mount the LED light for this end of the loco and to send power to the LED on the other end of the loco.

    More here...

    http://1fatgmc.com/RailRoad/Decoder-1/Decoders-Index.html

    Sumner
     
  16. Sharky_McSharknose

    Sharky_McSharknose TrainBoard Member

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    I used a CN-GP decoder in my BL2. See below for details from another thread on this topic.

     
    Pie39 likes this.
  17. Tad

    Tad TrainBoard Supporter

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    If you scroll down on this page:

    https://nrmrc.org/dcc/decoder-installation.html


    there are instructions for some similar old Life-Likes.

    I found them while looking for how to do an install on old Life-Like F7’s. I have a couple of those that I really have no use for. I wa thinking about putting them into use for powering my track cleaning train. They are pretty good pullers.
     

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