It was founded in the 1950s by a company that pioneered extruded foam ice chests under the Lifoam trademark. Because ice chests are a summer seasonal item, the company needed a way to keep the factory operating year round. As model railroading was becoming popular in the post-war years, they saw this as an opportunity and so manufactured extruded foam tunnels for model trains. Over the years, Life-Like expanded into other scenery items, finally manufacturing rolling stock beginning in the late 1960s.
In 2005, the company, now known as Lifoam Industries, LLC, decided to concentrate on their core products of extruded foam and sold their model railroad operations to Wm. K. Walthers.
Proto 2000 line of products
The company was well known and highly regarded by hobbyists for its Proto 1000 and Proto 2000 line. These locomotives and freight cars were the best detailed for their price class, and even older, used examples are in high demand by hobbyists. Parts are readily available as the earlier drive systems are clones of Athearn drives and later drives are Kato clones.
Some early Proto examples such as the EMD BL2, GP18, and GP20, and Alco FA-2 were plagued with the axle gears cracking, causing the unit to run erratically or with loud "crunching" sounds. The company honored its lifetime warranty on these units; one needed only to contact the company to obtain free replacements. With Walthers' purchase of the company, the warranty continues to be honored and as before, contacting their Customer Service Department will yield free replacements.