Life-Like (China) EMD GP60

Introduced: 2004 (Non-DCC version) and 2012 (DCC-Ready version)

Life-Like's GP60 is a truly outstanding locomotive, both in terms of looks and performance. And although the original version's complete lack of DCC support was a bit disappointing for a 2004 release, Life-Like/Walthers did eventually come to their senses and release a new DCC-Ready version in 2012.

Apart from its DCC-Hostility, the original 2004 mechanism (above) sports all of the other features one normally associates with "state of the art" diesel models - IE, split-frame / all-metal chassis, five-pole / skew-wound "scale speed" motor, dual flywheels, low-friction drive, bi-directional LED lighting, all-wheel drive and pickup (no traction tires), blackened / low-profile wheels, shell-mounted Accurail� automatic couplers, all-plastic gearing, etc.

As noted above, the model was redesigned in 2012 for DCC support. The dual-lightboard chassis was changed such that it could accept a full-length lightboard with motor contacts (designed such that it could be swapped out in favor of a decoder) -

In addition to the chassis/lightboard changes, the couplers were changed to Micro-Trains with this release.

Regardless of the version, these may well be the sweetest running diesels I've ever had the pleasure of operating. They're absolutely smooth and responsive, they can creep slower than the eye can detect, and the sound they generate is, well, isn't. Seriously, these things make virtually no sound whatsoever. It's almost a mystical experience watching them glide around the rails. Better still, they're terrific pullers as well. And despite Life-Like's circa-2004 neo-luddite attitude towards DCC, it's nice to see that they did finally provide support for the DCC crowd.

The packaging for the two versions is virtually identical. However, the newer DCC-Ready version has a big "Micro-Trains" sticker on the lid and says "Walthers" on the bottom of the box insert (as opposed to the first version, which has a "Life-Like Trains" logo on the bottom). As far as what decoder to use in the new version, anything designed for Life-Like's DCC-Ready GP20 will work (IE a Digitrax DN163L0A or a TCS L1D4).

Trivia - this GP60 shell is reportedly a good fit for the Fox Valley GP60 chassis (although not vice versa).

To remove the shell, stick a couple of toothpicks (or small screwdrivers or whatever) between the shell and the chassis and spread the sides outwards a bit. The shell should lift up and off at that point. Unfortunately, the "just grab the shell and wiggle it up and off" method doesn't really work on these models - the shell is held in place pretty solidly by four dimples in the chassis.

Grade: A (either version)

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