Life Like Proto 2000 engine performance

This activity has provided the opportunity to examine several engines from the Proto 2000 series of engines. These actually include Proto 1000 as well because in DC mode, the differences are in the shell details. This post will be restricted to those Proto engines produced by Life Like. The versions produced by Walthers appear to be fundamentally different and will be discussed in a separate post.


The details of these engines are included in the list of engines tested post. This post will graphically document the results of these various tests.

All but two of these engines suffered from cracked axle gears. These engines used Athearn clone trucks. In all cases, these gears and wheels were exchanged for Athearn RTR nickle Silver wheels with new axle gears. The engines that were not changed are the fifth and sixth from the left in the bar charts. One is an SD model and the other is an SW model. The ramifications of this choice may not favor the engines performance as will show in the charts.

One of these engines is a P1K F3A engine. This data for this engine is shown in green on the charts. One of the GP18 engines had a DCC decoder installed. The test was done with DC power, but the decoder will pulse the motor. This engine is shown in purple on the following charts.

P2K FM H10-44 DCC n sound Engine

Nine basic functions will be presented:

1- current draw vs voltage with the engine operating on rollers
This will give a stable current level at any voltage. It will imply the engine health variation.

2- current draw vs voltage for the engine only operating on straight and level track.

3- scale speed vs voltage for the engine only operating on straight and level track.

4- maximum pull force for each engine tested.

5- voltage at minimum sustained velocity.
This is the voltage setting that is required to start the engine from dead stop and achieve sustained movement. This is a constant DC voltage, no pulse wave at all. This is a bar chart, one bar per engine.

6- the minimum sustained velocity, SMPH

7- the variation in the minimum sustained velocity, as defined
from three runs.

8- the current level at the minimum sustained velocity.

And based on the discussions in the Engine a Health post a critical chart is:

9- the Performance criteria parameter for each engine.

The scales of all of the charts are maintained the same with the cumulative and other specific posts. This implicitly will help with how these compare with the others tests.

P2K BL2 CnO Engine

Chart 1 is shown in the following figure:
p2kaor1315

The scale on this chart shows the wide range of current draw exhibited in HO model train engines. The Life Like Proto engines all fall near the bottom of this scale. This is interesting, because some of these engines were produced in the early 1990’s. On a couple of these engines, the six volt current is higher than the four or the nine volt levels. This results in a peculiar hump in the curves

P2K Southern E7A Engine

Chart 2 is shown in the following figure:
p2kaot1315

As has been the case with all of these tests, when the engine is put on the track, the current draw increases. The two engines with the unusual shaped curve are still stand outs. One of these has an excessive level relative to the rest of these. The implication is that it likely has an ailing motor.

Another thing to notice from this chart is that four of the seven engines tested do no run at four volts. This appears to be a common trait for used Life Like P2K engines. The question is can the operating voltage be reduced? Three of the tested engines do run at low voltage, so it could be something that can be improved.

P2K WM FA2 Engine

Chart 3 is shown in the following figure:
p2kvel1315

The velocity variation is quite interesting. There seems to be two slopes in these data. The steeper one moves the speed close to the desired range that would run the engine only at 80 SMPH at the 12 volt setting. The second slope is much shallower. The low power speed is nearly the same for most of the engines. So the second set are falling well below the desired speed range. The details need to be further examined to see if there is a common denominator in the data.

P2K Soo Line F7A-B Engine set

Chart 4 is shown in the following figure:
p2kpf1315

The maximum pull force shows a large variation the units. The first bar from the left is actually a P1K F3A engine and the third is a GP18 engine with a decoder installed. Two of these engines have very good draw bar force. The others produce considerably less force, approximately half the amount of the good pullers. Would they pull better with the original wheels in place? This variation is worrisome. What makes the two so much stronger than the rest? What does the decoder have to do with it? Again more understanding of the details is in order.

P2K Santa Fe F3A-B Engine set

Chart 5 is shown in the following figure:
p2ksvolt1315

As implied earlier, the minimum voltage to achieve a sustainable velocity for all of these units is larger than expected. Even the engine with the decoder installed would not run at four volts. As has been said in other posts, these tests are run with a Classic DC power signal. The decoder converts this signal to a pulse wave. This may be the reason that the starting voltage is higher for this engine. The average that the motor is seeing a lower average, but the decoder can not increase it above the incoming level.
One of the units is over six volts and two others are over five volts. Again are they sick or can they be improved.

P2K Suzie GP18 Engine

Chart 6 is shown in the following figure:
p2ksvel1315

The minimum sustainable velocity for all of these units tends to follow the earlier parameters. Being generally worse, higher, than would be expected of a good engine. Four exceed 5 SMPH and two of those are approaching 10 SMPH. Are these levels due to sick motors?
Interestingly, the engine with the decoder achieved the lowest sustained average starting velocity of any engine tested so far.

P2K Rock SW8 Engine

Chart 7 is shown in the following figure:
p2kdsvel1315

The variation in starting velocity shows that the all of the P2K engines achieve a very low-level of variation. Based on the other parameters, these may not be significant to the engine health.

P2K BnO SW900 Engine

Chart 8 is shown in the following figure:
(Plot is currently not available.)

P2K NYC GP20 Engine

Chart 9 is shown in the following figure:
p2kpc21315

This chart uses the second performance criteria defined in that posting. Even with this adjustment, most of the units are in the adequate zone. Two of the engines have to be considered suspect and likely sick. Perhaps not surprising, the engine with the decoder installed is the only engine that this parameter would say is in the excellent zone. Based on the various results, the suspect region may need to start higher than previously thought.

To this point, these Life Like P2K units are erratic and have to be rated as questionable engines for the requirements of an HO model. The engine with the decoder is a good choice. This begs the question relative to the value of the decoder in general.

P2K PENN E7A Engine

As has been indicated, a number of questions still exist. Since my collection has a number of these engines more testing and tuning activities are in order. As this work progresses, this post will be updated to reflect what is learned.

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