M-T Conversion of Life-Like FB-1

Hardcoaler Nov 23, 2019

  1. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    I've come across a pair of Life-Like FAs, an FA-1 and FB-1 from c. 2000. I'm mostly a DC guy and they run really well. From the factory, the pilot coupler on the A is a dummy knuckle and the other three couplers are Rapidos. Has anyone attempted a Micro-Trains conversion of these?

    I'm okay with converting just the one trailing coupler on the FB-1 as seen below. As you see, L-L's mounting is a simple affair, but there's not much room on the backside. M-T recommends their 1015 (regular shank) or 1016 (medium shank), but these are contained in a coupler box and I'm just not sure if they'll fit. What do y'all think? As a Plan B, I can do a simple conversion using a Red Caboose Unimate dummy coupler. Thanks.

    2019-11-23 Life-Like FB-1 Coupler.jpg
     
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  2. BNSF FAN

    BNSF FAN TrainBoard Supporter

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    Hardcoaler, is that a clip that holds the coupler box in place? If so, it would be an easy swap to M/T. If not, I think M/T makes a T shank coupler kit that might be the fix. I'd vote for Unimates between the A and B unit though.
    clip.JPG
     
  3. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    I think it's a plastic clip alright and that the Rapido coupler is sprung by the metal strip behind it per the photo below. I've not taken the assembly apart yet, but I'm guessing that the plastic clip lifts up to free the coupler.

    2019-11-23 002 Life-Like FB-1 Coupler.jpg
     
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  4. Sumner

    Sumner TrainBoard Member

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  5. Inkaneer

    Inkaneer TrainBoard Member

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    Go with the Unimates between the A and B units. Let's face it you will not run the B unit all by itself. The Unimates will draw the units closer together than the MT's and the uncoupling ability of the MT's is not needed. Place a MT on the rear of the B unit to couple with cars but use the Unimates between the A and B units
     
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  6. BNSF FAN

    BNSF FAN TrainBoard Supporter

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    That's what I was thinking it was. If you pop that clip out, it most likely has a pin made in the center of it (or maybe the pin comes from the frame) that fits through a hole in the coupler assembly. you should be able to slide the coupler off and put a 1015 or 1016 (one has a square coupler box that would fit better) onto that pin. Snap it back in place and you are good to go. Most newer Atlas and Kato units have the set up.
     
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  7. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    Oh, that'd be GREAT. No drilling or tapping required. I just found some M-T 1015/1016s in my stash and I see what you are talking about with the coupler boxes. Thank you.

    Good idea Inkaneer using the Unimates between the A and B. That'll assure they stay coupled and it'll cost less than using M-Ts. Thanks for the link Sumner -- I somehow missed finding it when I searched before starting this thread. :oops:
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2019
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  8. brokemoto

    brokemoto TrainBoard Member

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    Pop out the clip. Take off Rapido and metal thing that acts as a spring. Poke the pin in the middle through the hole of the 1015/1016. Put the clip back onto the locomotive. The Rapidos are pretty close couplling, so you can use them between the A and B. If you will pull out the pin in the nose of the A unit, slide out the dummy coupler, you can slide a 1015/1016 back into the opening then replace the pin.


    If you are going to run A unit only, you can pull the clip off the back of the same, pull off the Rapido and metal thing, poke the pin in the middle through the hole in the 1015/1016 then replace the clip.

    It works the same for the metal frame FA-2.

    MT makes a kit specifically for the plastic frame FA-2. It includes a piece that fills in the gaping opening in the pilot. You screw the 1015(?) that comes in the kit to the back of the B unit. If you bought the Western Maryland units, you must buy two kits and screw the 1015(?) to the back of each A unit. WM had no B units; only four A units.
     
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  9. bill pearce

    bill pearce TrainBoard Member

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    The photo in int OP shows a clip that goes UNDER the coupler. The post that shows one on the back goes BEHIND the coupler. That's not the same.
     
  10. dualgauge

    dualgauge TrainBoard Member

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    I have used Red Caboose Body mount couplers between units, which need to be shimmed on the retaining clip. Do not need to used the metal clip. The Micro-Trains 1015 will be mounted will the clip. Works just like Atlas locomotives use.
     
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  11. r_i_straw

    r_i_straw Mostly N Scale Staff Member

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    No, both photos are from the OP, Hardcoaler, just from different angles. Both behind the coupler.

    I used the Unimate couplers that come with the two holes in the shank and clip the back one off, filed it to a curve and installed with some spacers to get the correct coupler height.
    [​IMG]
    I did this between units for close coupling. On the end of the B unit facing the train I installed an MT 1015. I was not sure that there was enough clearance with the truck frame for tight curves but there is just enough.
    IMG_4090.jpg
     
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2019
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  12. MK

    MK TrainBoard Member

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    They are the same. Have you removed one before? It's a clip with a pin in the middle pointing upwards that goes through a hole in the coupler. Replace with a MT coupler and the pin still goes through a hole in the coupler. Same for front and back.
     
  13. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    I shot both photos using the same unit. The first photo sees the shell on the locomotive, the second shows the shell removed. There's a plastic clip that holds the coupler in place and a sprung metal piece that fits in from behind.
     
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2019
  14. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    Great information here guys -- thank you all and thanks Russell for your photos too. I see that you used a screw to secure the M-T 1015 coupler, but from what I read here, it isn't needed? The hole in the coupler box fits over the pin and the plastic clip secures it all?

    Am I correct in assuming that the M-T 1015 sets in place at the correct height?
     
  15. r_i_straw

    r_i_straw Mostly N Scale Staff Member

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    I am not sure why I used a screw instead of the clip to secure the 1015. It does end up at the correct height.
     
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  16. MK

    MK TrainBoard Member

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    Sometimes the clip gets "tire" an doesn't have enough spring memory to be secured tightly. Then you use a screw but be CAREFUL that you get the right size so the screw doesn't poke through the deck.

    As for height, 1015 should work. I know they are slightly off if you use 1015 on some locos so you end up having to shim, which isn't a big deal. You just need to line things up before you insert the clip. Sometimes could be a test of your patience. :)
     
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  17. bill pearce

    bill pearce TrainBoard Member

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    Fortunately, I never owned one of these beasts, but I have owned a very few LL locos in the past. I can see from the new better lit photos what you mean, and I find it strange construction. I am now reminded why I always avoided these now.
     
  18. r_i_straw

    r_i_straw Mostly N Scale Staff Member

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    They are actually a pretty sweet running locomotive. Much nicer than the plastic frame with lead weight models. However, even the later runs of those ran better than the early Life Like jobs with the "spring" for a universal joint in the drive shafts and the soldered wire truck electrical pickup.
     
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  19. Sharky_McSharknose

    Sharky_McSharknose TrainBoard Member

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    +1. I have several of the Life-Like cab units with the metal frames and the clip coupler mounting system (FA1/FB1, FA2/FB2, DL109, C-Liner, Erie-Built). They're all very smooth runners and most have quiet motors. On the one hand, there's no space for a decoder, but on the other hand that means they are super-heavy and can pull tons. I also have a plastic-frame PA1 and an A-B-A set of the Walthers' C-Liners (same shell as L-L, frame modified to accommodate DCC) that I've converted to ESU LokSound and they all run beautifully.

    @bill pearce, I found most of my L-L locos for cheap at train shows (~$40 each). It might be worth it to try one for that price if you don't mind them being DCC-unfriendly. Most metal frame L-L units came in blue boxes and some were re-released by Walthers in gray boxes. Be sure to open the box and look at the underframe before you buy because some of the plastic frame locomotives came in blue boxes like the metal frame units. If you can't see the frame, look at the fuel tank - plastic frame L-Ls have metal castings, metal frame L-Ls have plastic covers like Atlas units.
     
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  20. Sumner

    Sumner TrainBoard Member

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    I've picked up quite a few Life-Like at this point and have only run them on my short section of test track, but like them. I haven't seen a big difference in the way they run vs. the Kato and Atlas locos that I've bought. I'm DCC and thus will have to hard wire decoders in most of these along with quite a few of the Kato and Atlas loco's I bought but have found good info on that on the Internet and have done a couple already. A lot of info on doing it here...

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

    This has been an informative thread for myself also so thanks guys,

    Sumner
     
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