Vintage N Scale B&M Motive Power #3
Bev-Bel (Life-Like) GP38-2 212 –
The Life-Like GP38-2 was originally released in 1988 and continued to be available until Walthers bought out Life-Like’s model train business and terminated most of the N scale product line. My third N scale locomotive was an undecorated Life-Like plastic frame GP38-2; it ran like a top and probably kept me in N scale (1). I had always wanted to paint it up in B&M colors but didn’t have the skill at the time so it remained solid black until I sloppily painted it gray, many paint jobs later that very locomotive sits in my project box painted “Vermont Green”. Had I known that Bev-Bel had a repaint available in B&M I probably would have tried to track one down, but I didn’t even know Bev-Bel existed until years later when I began working for a hobby shop. At any rate it doesn’t take a lot of work to hunt one of these down nowadays. They commonly pop up on eBay and sell for reasonable prices considering how well they run, I picked up my “new in box” example for around $25.00 if I recall correctly.
As I mentioned above, these Life-Like GP38s run like tops, sure they suffer some long-ish out of scale trucks and a few detail problems but they are great as beginner locomotives, runners for modular club layouts, and for train shows. I used my first one for switching operations without any issues on Atlas Snap-Track code 80 switches and it continues to run well to this day. The one hang-up with these is that the long trucks might cause running problems running on tight corners like those found on my current layout. Interestingly, while the road number of 212 is correct for a B&M GP38-2, it should be pointed out that this model represents a GP38-2 with dynamic brakes but B&M didn’t own any GP38s with dynamic brakes. Not really a big deal but, as you may remember, Bev-Bel also used a dynamic brake equipped Bachmann GP40-2 to represent B&M’s non-dynamic brake equipped models. So close but no cigar. Frankly, back when nothing else was available decorated for B&M, either would have been welcome on my layout.
Unlike the Bev-Bel (Bachmann GP40), I would definitely recommend picking one of these GP38s up for operation. They are normally reasonably priced and run great so it would be an inexpensive route to take if you wanted to get a basic B&M layout up and operating. You could always upgrade your motive power at a later date but, just as a warning, these are normally found with the original Rapido couplers in-place so you would either need a conversion kit or use Rapido equipped rolling stock.
B&M rostered 12 EMD (Electro Motive Division) GP38-2 B-B locomotives numbered 201-212 (212 was apparently renumbered 200 and repainted for the 1976 bicentennial). The real B&M GP38-2 units were also not equipped with dynamic brakes but the Life-Like shell is, so there is another discrepancy for rivet counters. Many original B&M GP38s continue to serve on North American railroads and some remain in everyday use in the North-East… some on former B&M rails.