Life-Like (China) Fairbanks-Morse C-Liner A & B

Introduced: 2001 (first version) and 2006 (DCC-Ready version)

These models are sold either as singleton A's or A/B sets (with both units being powered). I've also seen them in Life-Like trainsets.

The 2001 C-Liner release employs a mechanism very much like the one Life-Like used in their 2000 FA-1 models - IE, a giant split-frame, all-metal chassis sandwiching a 5-pole / skew-wound motor, dual flywheels, etc. The truck pickup scheme is of the "low friction" ilk. A non-directional (non-LED) headlight is mounted to the chassis of the A units. Couplers are shell-mounted Rapidos. All wheels are geared and provide pickup (no traction tires). The wheels are blackened. They're also low-profile, so no problems on Code-55 track. All gearing is plastic. There is no provision for DCC.

These are very nice looking models that run very well. They're smooth and quiet, slow speed performance is excellent, the top-end speed is very reasonable, and they can pull a ton. Conversely, the lack of any sort of DCC support is a bit disappointing for a 2001 model. Also, that non-directional filament bulb headlight is straight out of the 1960s. So, although respectable models, not exactly state of the art.

The Rapido couplers are easily converted to Micro-Trains, although I've had more than my fair share of problems with the clip / bracket system that holds said couplers in place. The bracket is simply glued to the shell, and removing the clip that holds the coupler will often dislodge the bracket (requiring that it be re-glued). So no, not a particularly elegant design.

These models were re-released with a revised mechanism in 2006. The filament bulb headlight has been replaced by an LED, the Rapido couplers have been jettisoned in favor of Accumates, and wonder of wonders, actual DCC readiness has been introduced into the mechanism. The motor is electrically isolated from the frame, and a clip-in PC board has been provided to ferry current from the frame to the headlight and motor. As of this writing (2008), MRC has a drop-in sound decoder that will fit these models (MRC #1660).

To remove the shell, simply spread the sides apart and lift. Watch out for the tiny little square windows on the sides. There's not much holding them in place, and chances are they're going to fall out as you slide the shell off.

Grade: A (either version)

First version reviewed: 11/01 Model Railroader- "Life-Like's latest N scale offering is this smooth-running model of a distinctive locomotive, the four-axle freight version of the Fairbanks-Morse C-Liner... Life-Like's ready-to-run model consists of a one-piece injection-molded styrene shell on top of a two-piece cast metal frame. The only separate items on the shell are the horns and clear window and headlight glazing. All other details, including grab irons, stirrups, fuel tank skirts, exhaust stacks, and grills are molded in place. The shell's dimensions match prototype drawings... However, the nose contours are not quite right. The top of the model's nose comes to a definite point in front, just above the headlight, while prototype photos show this area to be much more gently rounded... The trucks have single-piece plastic castings that comprise both truck sideframes. The sideframes capture the overall look of F-M's distinctive trucks, but the detail is rather shallow and the brass electrical contact strips are quite visible behind the frames. Also, the real trucks have brackets under each set of coil springs; these aren't on the model. The motor and other drive components are surrounded by a two-piece cast metal frame. Each frame half carries electricity from the wheels on its half via sprung bronze contacts from each truck. No provisions have been made for converting the model to DCC. The model ran smoothly and quietly from its impressive starting speed through its top end. With its 1.1 ounces of drawbar pull, the C-Liner should pull about 26 cars on straight, level track. A dummy knuckle coupler is included on the A unit nose, while the A unit rear and both ends of the B unit have shell-mounted Rapido-style couplers. Distance between coupled units is a scale six feet - double the 36" of the real thing... The painting and lettering are very good... It's nice to see these distinctive first-generation diesels available in N scale. CMSP&P, NYC, PRR, Undec. $130 (A-B set, both powered)"

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