Life-Like Little Joe Set

Discussion in 'N / Z Scale Model Trains' started by Cannonball, Apr 9, 2007.

  1. Cannonball

    Cannonball More Trains Than Brains

    Some of you may have read in the General Talk forum that I am considering dumping O/O27 gauge for N scale. After thinking about this for awhile, I decided I don't want to jump into the deep end until I've tested the waters first.

    With that being said, what is your opinion on the Little Joe set by Life-Like? Would it be a good set to start with and play around with to get a feel for N gauge? Is the loco a decent runner that will be at home on a large layout as much as a small starter set?

    I'm watching a couple on eBay so your input is appreciated. :)
  2. Cannonball

    Cannonball More Trains Than Brains

    *tumbleweeds roll by*

    Nobody? :confused:
  3. SeriousSam

    SeriousSam Member

    Its an ok runner. Those older LL engines are not the best but they are not the worse. Plus, its a cute little locomotive. It is a little loud, but that goes away after a while. Deffinetly give it a try.
  4. Cannonball

    Cannonball More Trains Than Brains

    Gonna see if I can sweet talk the wife tonight. ;)
  5. RC BOAT

    RC BOAT New Member

    I bought a Little Joe, a Bachman Prairie Flyer, and a Bachman Yard Boss Set. I would rate them in that same order. The Little Joe is the best runner of the three, but the transformer is the weakest of the three. The Prairie Flyer is also a good runner, and has the best transformer of the three. The Yard Boss is the worst loco of the lot. Doesn't want to run smoothly, no matter how long I try to run it in, it doesn't get any smoother.
    Overall i think you will like the Little Joe.
  6. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic


    Below a certain price-point, N-scale steamers are not very good runners.

    I'd look at spending the extra $20 or so and going for one of the LL sets with an SW9 or GP18 - they are both pretty good runners. The GP38's aren't too bad either - for train set locos.

    You could try the Bachmann Thunder Valley set with the GP40, or any of the sets with the F-units, they're both decent runners.

    In fact, I'd suggest that you make up your own train set. You can pick up DC powerpacks fairly cheap (I bet you've probably got one kicking around the basement somewhere), and just get a loop of EZ track, a decent loco and some cars. You'll wind up paying about the same, but getting better stuff.
  7. Cannonball

    Cannonball More Trains Than Brains

    What would you conisder that price-point to be?
    I'm not opposed to diesel and plan on the majority being BN/ATSF/BNSF stuff but I'd really like a steamer to be first.

    I may look into this option although something different for the track. I have a layout design half worked up in my head and a standard loop is a long way from it.... well it starts with a loop but gets loopier.
  8. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic

    In my opininon, you've got to spend at least $100 to get a decent-running steamer in N-scale, and they all tend to be large. The Spectrum steamers, Model Power Mike and Pacific,
    the Kato Mike, the Proto Berkshire are all good runners, but they're all over $100.

    Anything under $100 tends to be small, meaning a small, weak motor tucked into a tiny, lightweight shell - so lousy pickup and pulling power.

    The Bachmann small steamers based around their 0-6-0 mechanism are OK, but don't expect diesel-like smoothness or quiet out of them.

    OTOH, even the cheaper diesels run well, have decent pickup and power, and run fairly smoothly.

    I threw that out because it's a relatively cheap option to start, and I like the EZ-Track/Power-Loc/Uni-track for a table-top trainset that's going to be taken apart and put together frequently.

    If you've got a track plan in mind, look into the Atlas code 55 track. It looks 1000x better than the usual code 80 stuff. But then again, maybe coming from 027, realistic appearance isn't an issue for you, in which case any of the track systems should work for you (Atlas, Peco, MP, etc.)
  9. Cannonball

    Cannonball More Trains Than Brains

    What is the difference with all this code stuff I see with N scale?
    Code 80 Code 55..... etc. What does it mean? :confused:
  10. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic

    It's the same as in any scale - the height of the rail. Code 80 rail is 0.080" tall. So in N scale (1:160), code 80 rail works out to 0.080 x 160 = 12.8" - over 1 foot tall! Even the heaviest rail used is only 7" tall. So code 80 winds up looking "wrong" in N scale because the rail is so tall compared to everything else.

    Even code 55 is a little tall, since 150 lb rail scales out to be 0.048" tall... and that'd be rail from a heavy traffic corridor, like the Pennsylvania RR around horseshoe curve.

    Most modern railroads use 132 lb rail for the mainline, and lighter stuff (110-120 lb) for branchline/yard/industrial tracks.

    But it's all a matter of appearance. It doesn't affect how the trains run, just how they look. In my opinion, N scale trains running on unweathered code 80 track tend to look toylike. They remind me of the Tri-ang OO sets I had as a kid.
  11. Cannonball

    Cannonball More Trains Than Brains

    OK, makes sense now.
    Thanks! :)
  12. umtrr-author

    umtrr-author Member

    Sorry about the tumbleweeds.

    The Little Joe train set is definitely an "entry level" and a "low end" at that. The steamer in it doesn't run all that well and has a short wheelbase to boot which will stall or otherwise throw fits on many turnouts (switches).

    If you want a steamer but can't spend $100, look for some of the bargains on the Spectrum 2-8-0 from a reputable seller on eBay or elsewhere. They've gone as low as the $50s depending on the roadname. The most recent run of Bachmann regular line steamers-- in the hard plastic case only, don't buy them if they come in anything else-- are significantly better than what they've been offering. I bought an 0-6-0 with tender for about $30 and it runs fine on the "Starter Layout" I used to bring to shows.

    Check the Walthers website for clearance prices on the Life-Like sets with the SW or GP's. Around Christmastime they were selling for $40 on their site and one of my local shops matched that price as a Walthers Dealer. That was a very good deal.
  13. Cannonball

    Cannonball More Trains Than Brains

    I decided to pass on it. Enough people are dissatisfied with low end steamers that I figured I had better go diesel until I get ready to do a permanent layout. Then can justify $100+ on a steamer to the wife. ;)
  14. darkcurves

    darkcurves Member

    My first N scale trainset was a Little Joe trainset by LL and it was the best way to get into the N scale(atleast for me). I decided to go with N scale, once i saw N scale trains can be very detail and run as smooth. My Little Joe steamer is smooth, quiet and strong puller. When i couple him up with 6-10 50FT boxcars, he can pull them without any problem.

    Below is a video i took of my Little Joe sometime ago, even before i had any other N scale stuff.
  15. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic

    I don't know if you could clear it with the War Department ;) , but these Spectrum sets are excellent. Pricey, but excellent.
  16. Cannonball

    Cannonball More Trains Than Brains

    Wow.... I could get an O gauge set for that....
    I have to admit the Spectrums are nice, though.

    Maybe if I ever plan on going DCC.
  17. umtrr-author

    umtrr-author Member

    DC, nice video.

    Nothing is 100% certain in life as in model railroading, and it seems that you may have gotten one of the better copies of the Little Joe. You're lucky.

    I have one of the 0-6-0 steamers that Atlas distributed as part of its "First Generation". It was number 147 (the Little Joe is usually 497) and it was the first loco I owned as part of the first train set I owned, given to me as a Christmas present in 1969. I had a similar experience to yours-- it ran well, and pulled more cars than one would think it could. It lasted a number of years before it finally burned out and gave up the ghost. No replacement copies ever ran as well and although I still have two of these A1G pieces they are, unfortunately, "just for show and not for go".
  18. darkcurves

    darkcurves Member

    Yeah, i was probably lucky. There was one problem though, it had contact issues. That was solved by cleaning the contact points.

    I heard the new run even has headlight, too bad mine doesnt.

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