Installing Digitrax DZ123 in Life Like FA1 and FB1

These Life Like engines are good split-frame mechanisms, and haul very well.

Preparing to Install

FA1 and FB1

The body shell of each type lifts off fairly easily; the chassis is the same for each version.
The chassis fills the shells nearly totally, and so some space has to be made for decoders. The A unit needed more work; the B uses the space above the chassis where the nose droops on the cab unit.

The decoder will go across the body

I found that Digitrax DZ123 or 143 decoders will fit across the width of these body shells, minimizing the space that has to be cut out.
subsequent note: newer, smaller decoders such as DZ125, TCS M1, Lenz mini, etc. will also fit these applications easily.

FB disassembled

Each unit needs to be totally disassembled, as they will need milling, cutting and filing, and you don't want metal filings anywhere near the moving parts.
Take care to record what went where, step by step; I use my digital camera to make the records.

FB milled frame

The FB chassis shows the grooves needed to route power connections; there is NO clearance between chassis and body sides or roof. One groove will house the red wire, which I soldered to the contact strip from the trucks, the other groove has the orange wire to the bottom of the motor.
The FA will need a significant notch cut at the rear of the unit to accomodate the decoder.

FA marked to mill


As you can see in these assembled views, with the decoder at the rear, lighting wires have to run across the top to the headlight. The right, red, power wire is soldered to the bronze pickup strip in the bottom of the chassis that picks up from the trucks. The left black power wire connects onto one of the small spring assemblies that position the worm gear bearings. This approach avoids trying to contact on the chassis blocks, and I chose not to use the light board (the FB doesn't have that anyway).

FA rear view

For the front light I replaced the original incandescent with an LED, and drive it from White FOF and yellow FOR wires through different value resistors to get a dim headlight when in reverse. The dimming function available from the decoder could also have been used, but this arrangement gave more control, by selecting resistor values, over the bright-to-dim ratio.
Various experiments with the incandescent and LED with the decoder features to implement this function did not yield satisfactory brightness setting for my choice.

FA front view

The body shell then slides back over this all.



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