Introduced: 1969 (original Yugoslavian version)
Man, the tooling for this thing seems to have been around the world several times. Someone should dump it all into the ocean though, as this is just one lame model. Originally manufactured by Mehano of Yugoslavia, this model was originally imported by AHM, MRC, and Model Power (and probably several others as well). At some point (circa 1985) Life-Like acquired all of the molds and other tooling from Mehano (or maybe just made copies of them) and set up production in China (albeit with some minor modifications to the model). And at least as of this writing (2011), Life-Like (now owned by Walthers) is still cranking these things out.
As near as I can tell, the differences between the Mehano and Chinese manufactured shells are limited to the "lights" (not that either version has actual lightbulbs, mind you). The Mehano version does have lenses for their non-existant lights, whereas the Chinese shells don't. As for the mechanism, the Chinese version has a brass worm (see below), whereas the Yugo model has a plastic one. The main gear (driven by the worm) has a different tooth pattern on the Chinese version (for whatever that's worth). Further, the motor on the Chinese version appears to be different, although who can say whether or not it's any better or worse? The Chinese-made models (or at least the ones I've encountered) have blackened drivers, which tend to aquire a tarnished "copper" look on the flanges over time.
OK, these aren't particularly horrible looking models. On the other hand, they are horrible performers. Like pretty much all old N scale locomotives of limited wheel-span, poor pick-up means they're generally dead ducks on anything but a "round-the-xmas-tree" type layout (IE, forget about getting them through a turnout). The fact that only the outer four drivers collect current certainly doesn't help matters any. Worse still, the running gear is pretty flimsy, the motor is "coggy", and the mechanism itself is prone to binding - with the end result being a pretty wobbly and herky-jerky ride. I will say that the Chinese version runs quieter than the Yugoslavian version, but beyond that they both pretty much suck.
Atlas released a similar saddletank 0-6-0 in 1969 (manufactured in Austria by Roco). The easiest way to differentiate the two is by the running gear - the Mehano/Life-Like version has two driving rods per side, whereas the Roco version only has one. And sorry, the Roco version doesn't run any better than any of these Mehano-ites.