This installation is for N Scale Life-Like F40PH uses TCS Z2 Decoder and was performed by Dan Janda

About 5 years ago, my wife gave me this locomotive set, which contains a powered F40PH, a dummy F40PH, and an AMTRAK caboose. I interpreted this gift as permission to get back into model railroad work. Note this locomotive was built before Walthers took over the LifeLike models, so it is possible a later production model might be different.

Obviously only the powered F40PH needs to have an encoder installed. I attempt to illustrate the process I used with the following pictures and text. Captions and descriptive text are below each picture.

Here is the beginning -- the locomotive and its box.

The first step is to remove the body shell. The shell is secured to the frame by two clips located in the middle of the two sides of the body. I used my fingers to pull the body away from the frame clip, and a small knife to hold the body away once one of the clips was released.

The shell is off, and we can see the frame, motor and two weights.

The weights are actually secured only by a small piece of foam squeezed between the top of the weight and the inside of the body shell. The front weight covers the headlight bulb and its wiring. The rear weight is larger and thicker at the top. That's the better place to cut a small notch that will accommodate the small dimensions of the TCS Z2 encoder.

This is the rear weight with the frame above and the decoder below. The top center of the weight can be cut away -- as you see, only a small amount needs to be cut because of the very small size of the Z2 decoder.

After a couple cuts with my Dremel tool and a fine grinding bit, I have removed enough weight material.

Test fit the decoder. Leave room for a small piece of vinyl or kapton tape.

I lined the carving in the weight with a small piece of vinyl tape (if I'd had kapton, I'd have used it, as it is thinner than vinyl).

A small strip cut from the tape was placed over the decoder to keep it in place.

This locomotive has a simple electrical system. Two blue wires connect one side of the wheels to one of the motor solder lugs, where one headlight lead is also connected. Two red wires connect the other side of the wheels to the other motor solder lug, and the second headlight lead.

The headlight hides under the front weight, so I lifted it off to connect the light and decoder. Since it is an incandescent bulb, lead polarity doesn't matter, so I just connected the two red leads from the light bulb to the decoder's blue and white leads. I stripped, twisted, and soldered the leads. Ideally, a couple small pieces of heat-shrink tubing would be ideal, but I used small pieces of the vinyl tape for insulation around the solder joints.


Orange and gray decoder leads are simply connected to the two motor solder lugs on the motor. Originally, I had connected the wires and motor backwards. I chose to reverse the motor wires after testing to correct this, but could easily have programmed the decoder to compensate for this.

This view also shows more of the original wiring having been disconnected from the motor solder lugs, and inside the body shell, you can see the small foam pieces that keep the weights from moving about.

Decoder red and black leads were connected to the red and blue power pickup wires. Strip 1/4 inch (or 6 mm), twist securely, and touch with a bit of solder.

Two small pieces of tape were used to insulate these two solder joints. The yellow decoder lead normally goes to the locomotive's rear light, but that is unused in this application. I cut the yellow wire short enough to keep out of the way and put another bit of tape on it.

After tucking the wires out of the way of moving parts, it was simple to press the locomotive body back onto the frame.

Here is the end -- the modified locomotive and its box.

It looks just like the beginning, but that's because I used this end picture for the beginning too, as it had a good picture of the end of the box.


Dan Janda

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