“Vintage” N Scale B&M Motive Power #5
Life-Like GP18 1750 –
Life-Like appears to have released this little gem around 1996 which is admittedly a little late to fit within the definition of “Vintage” or even “Early” but, given the fact that the chassis is a direct descendent of the early Mehano N scale locomotives, I think it’s okay to talk about it here. To be honest, I had run out of early B&M N scale locomotives to talk about anyway, so you may have to hear about more modern B&M motive power in the future (1). Pricewise, I ended up paying in the mid-$30’s for my example… perhaps a tad high but I wasn’t interested in letting another auction get away.
I think many, perhaps most, N scale modelers are familiar with the plastic frame Life-Like GP-18. For a bit over a decade Life-Like held a firm grip on the “better than trainset”, mid-range, N scale locomotive market. Because of this a model railroader could acquire decent motive power, without breaking the bank, though perhaps at the expense of some finer details. Most of these offerings didn’t include a flywheel but they still tended to run smoothly and could easily be used for operations. My second powered locomotive was a plastic frame Life-Like GP38-2, function was good enough to keep me in N scale. Beyond that I won’t go into much detail about the mechanical nature of these pretty decent locomotives… if you are really interested in more detail you can consult Spookshow at http://www.spookshow.net/llgp18.html
So, I’m not overly familiar with what does and does not qualify a GP18 to be a Phase __ (fill in the blank), whatever. The shells on these locomotives certainly appear to resemble a GP18 to my untrained eye. What I can say is that B&M traded in their BL2 locomotives and a wrecked F7 (4267A) for parts towards their GP-18s, as such all but 1755 had four smaller roof fans similar to a GP9 (2). In that regard Life-Like got it wrong with their model of 1750, however they also released this locomotive as 1755 so the two large fans would be correct for that unit. While it is my goal to track down a copy of 1755, I will remain happy to have finally acquired my 1750. The paint is a little unusual, Life-Like bucked the trend and went with the Blue Bird scheme these locomotives were delivered in. Now, other than a limited edition Atlas GP9, this stands as the only locomotive that I am aware of which was factory decorated in the Blue Bird scheme. My other posts about early B&M N scale motive power show that Bev-Bel remained committed to the Blue Dip scheme for some time, until releasing their F7A in the 1990s. Atlas and Life-Like have otherwise busied themselves cranking out Blue Dip and Minute Man paint since getting into the game with their GP7 and BL2 locomotives respectively. That makes this GP18 an especially interesting piece of my collection; I like the Blue Bird look and am not particularly fond of any variation of the Blue Dip scheme. As mentioned early 1750 is a correct road number for a B&M GP18 (as is 1755 which was also available), but by the 1990s Life-Like was increasing the accuracy of their models so a correct road number is something I would expect.
I have no need to operate this locomotive, for anything other than entertainment, but I am certain it would perform just as well as any of the other Life-Like offerings from this time period. It doesn’t appear that Life-Like ever re-released the low nose version of the GP18 so, if you want a factory decorated B&M GP18, you are going to need to pick one of these up and track down a Micro-Trains pilot conversion… that is unless you operate with Rapidos, in which case you are all set.
B&M rostered 6 EMD (Electro Motive Division) GP18 B-B locomotives numbered 1750-1755. The real B&M GP18 units were all equipped with dynamic brakes and low noses (short hoods), so the Life-Like shell is close. As mentioned above, as the model sits the shell is only correct for 1755 which was a new-build and didn’t contain reused 36” fans from trade-ins. Eventually B&M transferred their GP18s to Springfield Terminal (ST) to avoid labor union rules and cut costs, in ST service they were renumbered in the 40-series. I must admit that I really don’t know if any ex-B&M GP18s are still in operation, or even still exist. If you have any information on that please put it in the comments.
(1) I’m actively trying to track down a plastic frame B&M BL2 and, since I am using plastic frames as a loophole, I suppose the Life-Like E7 needs to be discussed as well.
(2) A few years ago I ended up modeling a four-fan B&M GP18 using an undec Life-Like model and the long hood from an Atlas GP9 (yes, I know there are some differences from the prototype… I really don’t care that much). I chose the Blue Bird scheme for my model and I think my results compare favorably with the Life-Like factory paint. In fact, Life-Like chose blue for the base color of their handrails (black paint is added on the front and rear railings) which looks a little out of place given that the real B&M units had black handrails with white where appropriate for safety.