Life-Like's HO Scale Union Pacific Proto 1000 Erie-built Locomotive
By Don Strack
(This article is an updated and expanded version of text used in a review published in The Streamliner, Volume 15, Number 2, Spring 2001)
Life-Like has just released its model of the Fairbanks- Morse Erie-built passenger locomotive. These are in the lower cost Proto 1000 series, but are still fine examples of accurate railroad models. To keep the selling price down to an easier-to-afford cost, Life-Like chose to use the drive components from its previous Alco PA/PB models, with cast truck sideframes. The cast truck used on the Alco units differed from the Erie-built cast truck in two areas. First is the truck frame itself. The F-M truck had a flat top, and the Alco truck had an arched top. Second, the F-M truck had a third brake cylinder on the middle axle, while the Alco truck did not.
For the actual locomotive carbody, the particular prototype that Life-Like chose to model is accurate for the second group delivered to UP, with final numbers of 652, 653, 652B, and 653B, except that these four units had the earlier fabricated trucks. Like the prototype units, these models have the single headlight, smooth cab roof, smooth nose mounting for classification lights, ladder at the rear of fuel tanks, and recessed area at the rear of the carbody side for handrails.
To model the later four cab units and two booster units delivered to UP with cast trucks, with final numbers of 654-657 and 654B-656B, a modeler would have to add the second headlight in the nose door (making the top light an emergency light), and fill in the handrail recesses at the carbody rear.
As to modeling accurate cast trucks, a modeler could remove the sideframes from the model and carefully remove the arched portion of the Alco truck, and add a third brake cylinder. A truly adventurous soul could model the fabricated truck from sheet styrene, using photographs and drawings published in the October 1975 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman. One positive note is that the model truck's wheelbase measures 7 feet, 8 inches, right on the money, based on data from UP's own locomotive diagram sheet for the Erie-built units.
To make the models fully accurate for UP, the horn would have to be changed, and all of the proper handrails and grabirons added, using photographs for guidance. There are numerous photos that show UP's units equipped with large spark arrestors. There appear to be two designs, both being made from heavy wire netting, with openings of approximately 1/2 to 3/4 inch. The earlier design is simply an arch, with what appears to be a radius of approximately 30 inches, and a width of 12 inches. The later design appears to have the same radius, but is raised about 12 inches. Use photos as a guide to ensure that the finished models match the desired prototype.
Overall, these are excellent models, with the factory paint and lettering being nicely applied, using the 700-series numbers that these units carried between 1948-1953. Several active modelers of Union Pacific have regularly voiced their concern over Life-Like's continuing variations in the shades of Armour Yellow and Harbor Mist Gray. The colors used on these models are sure to continue the debate, but overall, they look accurate, and they run well, all at a very affordable price.