2 Lionchief questions!!

Alright these forums have been a great help to me so far, let's see if we can keep it going. I have 2 questions one should be easy, one, maybe a little harder. First a little background. Last year I built a "Christmas Tree train" for my grandson. A simple 4x4 board with 027 track in a double loop with a xover. To run on this I gave him a Lionchief Thomas set. It kinda sorta worked but not perfectly. This year I rebuilt it with 2 separate tracks an 036 with Fastrack and an inner loop with 031 MTH track all running real well to this point. I recently bought him (for his December birthday) a Lionchief Polar Express Berkshire.  I wired this for easy setup and operation. Here is the question what would be a good safe power supply to run both engines at once. Without getting crazy!! And here is the other question....the Lionchief Berkshire had died and I replaced the board curing her ills, is there anyone who might troubleshoot the old board?????????

One more note to this mess. He recently moved 1300 miles away so I want things as simple and trouble free as possible!!!!!

Thanks in advance.

Frank  

Original Post

Any quality AC train transformer will do the trick, LC or LC+ runs on AC or DC.

I don't know of anyone that would try to repair a LC board, they're so cheap it's not worth the trouble.

for the first question, as GRJ suggests, any of the major brand transformers will do fine for running two Lion chief engines, however I would lean toward buying a current or recent model as opposed to an older postwar style as the newer ones will offer a little more protection should you have a short from a derailment or some such.  

That said, if you want easy, and don't plan on running anything besides Lion Chief ever, Lionel sells a 72 watt DC wall pack that should be enough to power the two engines you mentioned, but not much more than that.  You can also use several of the wall packs that come in the sets together or power each loop from a separate one.  

For number two, if you have no other takers, I wouldn't mind taking a look at the board more out of curiosity than anything.  To be clear, I'm not a train tech, certified or otherwise, but only a hobby level electronics tinker, but I have torn apart a fair share of polar express engines for various projects. It could be something easy to fix, or it could be something not worth the trouble or for which finding a part proves difficult.  Email is in my profile.  Would also help to know what the damaged board does.  Is it completely dead?  do some things work and others not work?  etc.  

$ This is John Galt speaking.  $

“I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.” 

 

 

I've been doing a lot of question asking and research on powering LC and LC+ engines over the past year.  After hearing what I had from lionel techs, and techs at my local lionel repair shop, and other electronic folks, I say run them on DC.  More than likely (#1 failure in LC-LC+) capacitor, which cleans up the DC after the bridge rectifier (#2 failure)  converts it from AC to DC to run the DC motors, sound, and lights in the engine.   Even the Lionel folks that run their displays are turning the voltage down to between 6 and 9 volts AC to run the LC-LC+ engines.  Lionel also guided me NOT to buy a ZW to run them. To hold off and run them with a DC power source that at the time they didn't have.   I just ordered 2 of the 72 watt DC power sources for my layout.   I have two CW80s that I quit using, Had been using the 10.8 set power packs.  1 on each main of my 17x10 around the room layout.   But they were getting warm.   I think the 72s will do a great job seeing the 10.8s worked for me.  The engines may be cheap to fix if you are talented enough to do it yourself. But if it aint broke you dont have to fix it!

Jim

Anything can be accomplished, with proper funding. 

carsntrains posted:

I've been doing a lot of question asking and research on powering LC and LC+ engines over the past year.  After hearing what I had from lionel techs, and techs at my local lionel repair shop, and other electronic folks, I say run them on DC.  More than likely (#1 failure in LC-LC+) capacitor, which cleans up the DC after the bridge rectifier (#2 failure)  converts it from AC to DC to run the DC motors, sound, and lights in the engine.   Even the Lionel folks that run their displays are turning the voltage down to between 6 and 9 volts AC to run the LC-LC+ engines.  Lionel also guided me NOT to buy a ZW to run them. To hold off and run them with a DC power source that at the time they didn't have.   I just ordered 2 of the 72 watt DC power sources for my layout.   I have two CW80s that I quit using, Had been using the 10.8 set power packs.  1 on each main of my 17x10 around the room layout.   But they were getting warm.   I think the 72s will do a great job seeing the 10.8s worked for me.  The engines may be cheap to fix if you are talented enough to do it yourself. But if it aint broke you dont have to fix it!

Jim

While there is nothing wrong with running LC/LC+ engines on DC, or lower AC voltage, they should work fine on 18VAC without that causing any issues.  While the main filter capacitor in the only LC+ engine I have on hand (NW2) is from a very suspect, low end supplier, Chong, it is still rated for 35 volts which means it shouldn't have any trouble filtering a 60Hz rectified power line.  18VAC only produces about 25.5 VDC, so that's what the cap in question is going to see.  

In testing several years back I found that LC+ engines need at least 13VAC for the electro couplers to fire reliably, which equates to about 18VDC.  Proper smoke operation took just a little less at 11-12 VAC.  Without smoke or couplers, everything would work fine as low as 10VAC, however if the engine was under strain, ex pulling a heavy load, this voltage was not enough to reach maximum speed.  Once again 12VAC was needed for full functionality.  Additionally, running below 8VAC caused intermittent problems and blackouts and under 7VAC the engines would not turn on at all.  All this said, I recommend running on 18VDC or 14-16VAC if you have those options, for the engines to fully function.  18VAC shouldn't hurt anything, but running a little lower may help that cheap Chong capacitor last a little longer.  It's one of those things where they used a 35 cent part instead of a 99 cent one and it was a bad call.  On the other hand, even that cheap cap should be up to the task for many years of run time.  Remember this is a 60HZ signal it is filtering, not the tens or hundreds of kilohertz that cause failure of cheap caps in switching power supplies and computer motherboards.  

As for the CW or ZW,  The CW is perfectly suitable for running LC/+ engines.  They don't care about its output waveform, though full power from one would actually be easier on the LC's electronics than a reduced throttle.  The CW80 also has adequate short circuit protection.  As for the ZW, this needs some add-ons to be a good choice for any modern trains.  First, an inexpensive, quick tripping circuit breaker for each output as the internal breaker is designed only to protect the transformer from damaging its self and will easily melt the guts of anything on the track.  Next is at least a TVS on each output to suppress any voltage spikes.  Realistically these should also be added about your layout or inside your engines for maximum protection, but sticking them on the transformer outputs will make the ZW as safe as any other transformer.  Finally, the ZW is rated to output up to 20VAC, and I've seen more than that.  I wouldn't really recommend supplying LC/+ engines with more than 21 VAC for any sustained period as that will start pushing the edge of what the electronics can handle.  So, if you use a ZW, put a meter on the output and set it for something like 14 to 16 VAC and you'll be good.  

Linking this post to a similar thread as well.  

$ This is John Galt speaking.  $

“I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.” 

 

 

I can't imagine why AC at 18V or less would damage the LC/LC+ locomotives, they're rated to run on that voltage, and I haven't seen any issues with operation at that voltage.

Well guys the big capacitor is the number one failure in the LC and LC+.  The bridge rectifier is said to be number two.  What do they do? (yall know)  Convert AC to DC, and clean up the power input.  The DC after the rectifier is in no way as smooth and clean as the DC out of a power source.   Folks are changing the capacitors to gel filled higher grade and running them on DC. So the bridge rectifier is not being used, but is kept in case someone wants to use it.  Life expectancy on the factory capacitor is 3 to 5 years when used with converted AC and much longer if used with a DC power source. 

I don't pretend to understand the electronics.  But folks that do understand it have explained it to me in great detail.   I don't claim to know more than you folks about them either, but I do expect the techs at Lionel to know at least as much.   And that is where most of my information is coming from.  Along with many others that repair them. My local Lionel repair facility told me about it a year ago.   So I did a bit of study.  They also sell LC and LC+. They also say the capacitor is the number one failure and cause for sets to be returned during the warranty period.  And we know that's only a year!

What really got to me.      I was talking to a tech at Lionel about another issue.   Told them I was considering picking up one of the newer ZW transformers.   They asked if I would be running mostly LC and LC+ engines which I do.   Then I was told not to by the ZW to wait until a better DC power source was being offered.  And to run them on DC only if I could.  I see lots of other brand DC power sources, which I may try out.   For now I'm going to run mine on the Lionel 72 watt power sources.   One for each main.

Actually makes sense to run them on DC, everything in them is DC, even the electro-couplers on the newer stuff.  Mike Reagan says that they are quieter.   As far as what voltage Lionel runs their display trains at, this was told to me by someone that also runs a display at shows.   They run theirs the same as Lionel. Each set and consist dictates to voltage.   That's why its six to nine volts on LC.

I can see why Lionel and all other makers would change it all to DC.   And I can see why they don't, lots of lost sales on AC equipment. And some very upset customers!

Jim

Anything can be accomplished, with proper funding. 

Oh and really I was thinking.    It cant be only the LC and LC+ engines that have that same rectifier and capacitor in them.    And I have seen another repair person putting small ceramic units on the smaller ones.

 

Anything can be accomplished, with proper funding. 

GRJ tel me where they are wrong.   I'm just repeating what they have told me because it makes sense to me.   I don't agree with running them at lower AC watts will make a big difference.  But not using the bridge rectifier (which I have seen catch fire on strings of LED Christmas lights) makes sense as well as not taxing the capacitor.  I have many sets of these lights that have improved parts.  And still when they fail its not the LED, its the bridge rectifier.   Out of 26 sets that Ive replaced 24 of them were rectifiers, 2 had failed LEDs.  If they arent bad out of the box, it seems they have a 2 to 4 year life span. 

Jim

 

Anything can be accomplished, with proper funding. 

carsntrains posted:

GRJ tel me where they are wrong.   I'm just repeating what they have told me because it makes sense to me.   I don't agree with running them at lower AC watts will make a big difference.  But not using the bridge rectifier (which I have seen catch fire on strings of LED Christmas lights) makes sense as well as not taxing the capacitor.  I have many sets of these lights that have improved parts.  And still when they fail its not the LED, its the bridge rectifier.   Out of 26 sets that Ive replaced 24 of them were rectifiers, 2 had failed LEDs.  If they arent bad out of the box, it seems they have a 2 to 4 year life span. 

Jim

 

Jim there's a couple things to unpack here.  First, you don't run things at lower watts.  Engines will consume the same 'watts' of power no matter the rating of the transformer, assuming the transformer can supply at least enough to power the engine.  

Next, it doesn't matter if you run on AC or DC, the bridge rectifier still gets used.  It is the first part that power passes through inside the engine.  (talking LC/+ here). The reason that the parts fail on cheap Christmas lights is that they are under-rated or just on the line parts.  In normal engineering a little extra overhead will be worked in, and they will take heat into account. A lot of cheap products don't account for the fact that as the parts heat up, they have different characteristics than at room temperature.  A diode that is rated for 1 amp at 100F might only handle 750 mA at 150F, for example.  A lot of folks selling LED's don't really know much about electronics and don't think about it.  

Addressing some stuff from other posts, the main filter cap in the LC engines I've taken apart is a cheap brand and that would be a problem in a high strain application.  Fortunately filtering 60Hz is a pretty low strain task for it, and the part used is more than up for the task.  It's also worth noting that the exact same part is likely inside the 36 and 72 watt DC wall packs, as well as any other inexpensive DC wall pack.  

While I'm of the thinking that the parts in question are going to do just fine without any help, the Capacitor does actually work harder on AC, and especially on the 'chopped wave form' produced when modern transformers are run with the throttle turned down.  If you're concerned about it, any modern transformer such as a cw-80, ZW-L, Z1000, or similar  should be run at full throttle to cause the least strain on the LC/+ electronics.   

Lastly, an LC/+ engine can not operate on less than 7VAC, and at that you are starving it, actually making that cheap capacitor work extra hard.  I'm trying to think of a good analogy to what the capacitor is doing and this is the best I have.  Think of it as a large water pitcher with a valve on the bottom for filling glasses.  the engine needs a steady flow of water from that valve, and the rectifier is pouring water on the top.  With a full 18VAC , plenty of water gets poured in in an even, slowly on and of fashion.  The pitcher never runs out or even runs low.  with lower voltages, the pitcher  will run low and may even slow or stop pouring power into the rest of the engine.  The same happens with the chopped waveform of modern transformers when turned down, A full glass of water gets dumped into the pitcher, then nothing more until the pitcher is almost empty.  

Last thing.  when you say ZW, everyone thinks of a postwar ZW that actually outputs a pure sine wave at all voltages, not the modern ZW-L that does not.  

$ This is John Galt speaking.  $

“I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.” 

 

 

ZW-L is what I was speaking of, as I was going to buy a new one from Lionel on sale at the time. That was the kicker whe LIONEL told me to run them on DC instead of selling me a ZW-L!  If those parts are in a wall wart, its much easier to toss out a 40.00 wall wart than a 400.00 LC+ engine.   And as I said, I dont agree with running them at lower power, that is what I was told by a good source that lionel did, and heard them talk about it on a podcast.   What I was told about the rectifier is if it wasn't being worked converting AC that the DC just passes through.  Same with the capacitor that wont work nearly as hard with a clean DC passing through it.  Actually the service guy here locally calls the parts junk.  And some not only change the big capacitor but the small ones too! While fixing failure after failure after failure. Same parts.   Something aint right here lol  

Jim and Atlas shrugged!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anything can be accomplished, with proper funding. 

I have no idea what all the failures are in the caps, but I'd be more inclined to think they're using cheap substandard caps than the failures caused by running on AC.  If running on AC through a bridge rectifier and a cap to convert to DC is such a problem, every locomotive with a DC can motor we run would have the problem.  Of course, any electronic reverse unit and all the command stuff would be dropping like flies.  However, that simply isn't the case.  So, if the LC/LC+ is failing in less than a year, I'd have to presume that someone screwed up either designing the circuit (seems unlikely as it's dirt simple to make DC from AC), or they bought cheap floor sweepings with the capacitor order.

As far as the example of bridge rectifiers catching fire, that sure sounds like more design failures.  Millions, or maybe more like billions of bridge rectifiers are used all over the world in all sorts of electronic power circuits.  Once again, if they were so prone to catching on fire, there would be a lot more care in designing them, not to mention some protective shields.  I've personally shipped thousands of boards that use a bridge rectifier and a capacitor to rectify track power to DC.  As amazing as you might find it, none have ever caught fire, and I've never even heard of a bridge rectifier or capacitor failure.  A couple of bad solder joints pretty much describes the failures observed.

In any case, I'm not going to get into a wizzing contest over the failures of LC/LC+ capacitors or bridge rectifiers.  If it makes you feel better to run everything on DC, by all means, have at it.  I'll not even mention the fallacy of putting track power (even if it's DC) directly into electronic circuits with no filtering of voltage spikes. (Oh darn, there I did it and I did mention it)   I'll continue to use my tried and true AC transformers, and I won't lose any sleep worrying about premature capacitor failure.

I'm checking out here, I don't see that arguing this point is going to prove anything.  I'm arguing with a straw man with no means to discuss or refute what was supposedly stated.  Trying to discuss something like this through a middleman is a pointless exercise.

Who mentioned anything about not using a capacitor??   Hmmmmm : )

And I reckon the rectifier or capacitor is to blame for a popular store that sells lit buildings to pull all of their wall warts for some reason.    

Jim 

Anything can be accomplished, with proper funding. 

Here's a thought.  LGB made their high power transformer, #50111 that puts out 18 VAC.  A separate throttle is needed to convert the AC to DC and control the speed of the train.  Anyway LGB's 50111 is known for putting out clean AC power, if there is such a thing.   Couldn't the LGB transformer, power supply only, be used to power the track for our LC+ locos ?

f:0" target="_blank">https://www.ebay.com/itm/LGB-5...wtvZcAcfQ:rk:20f:0

Dan Padova

 

"In the course of my life I have had to eat my words, and I must confess it was a wholesome diet"..........Winston Churchill

                                                                                                                                        

Dan Padova posted:

Here's a thought.  LGB made their high power transformer, #50111 that puts out 18 VAC.  A separate throttle is needed to convert the AC to DC and control the speed of the train.  Anyway LGB's 50111 is known for putting out clean AC power, if there is such a thing.   Couldn't the LGB transformer, power supply only, be used to power the track for our LC+ locos ?

f:0" target="_blank">https://www.ebay.com/itm/LGB-5...wtvZcAcfQ:rk:20f:0

That would be cool!    There are DC power supplies available for about 150.00 that has an adjustable output also.   Another option. I hope my 2 72 watt 4 amp Lionel power sources work out.   Supposed to be here Saturday.  I think there is something to all of this if Lionel tells me to run them on DC.  I just want to run trains and learn things! 

Jim 

Anything can be accomplished, with proper funding. 

Jim, I was asking if the LGB power supply used alone would work to provide 18 VAC power to the rails, instead of using a standard Lionel transformer.  

Dan Padova

 

"In the course of my life I have had to eat my words, and I must confess it was a wholesome diet"..........Winston Churchill

                                                                                                                                        

Dan yep looks like it is a good power source.     Anything 18v DC will be fine.   If you look at amazon they have quite a few in the 150.00 price range.    I'm trying to stick with a Lionel power source,  no good reason for it.  Depending on how big your layout is.  I was running my LC and LC+ on the standard 10.8 units that come in the set.  One on each main on my 17x10 around the room track (wouldn't call it a layout yet).   

Jim 

 

Anything can be accomplished, with proper funding. 

Yes, but the LGB transformer puts out 18 Volts AC not DC.  In my mind it would be the same as a post-war ZW putting out 18 VAC to the track.  

Dan Padova

 

"In the course of my life I have had to eat my words, and I must confess it was a wholesome diet"..........Winston Churchill

                                                                                                                                        

Ah I see you are talking about using just the power supply at 18V AC and not the throttle that changes it to DC.   Cleaner is better but your still converting AC to DC in the train instead of at the power source.  Its probably nothing to worry about. 

Jim

 

 

Anything can be accomplished, with proper funding. 

We have penetration.....LOL    That's what I figured, Jim.  What's the difference between the power coming from an old ZW or from an 18 VAC power source, whatever it may be.  

As I have discovered, running LC+ has some side benefits.  There's no need to use the fixed voltage plugs on O22 switch tracks as they're now getting plenty of power from track voltage.  Eighteen volts may be a bit on the high side for the lamps in the switch tracks, but maybe another type could be used, like an LED with a screw or bayonet base, depending on what type of socket the switch track has.  Even UCS and RCS remote tracks would benefit, thus making wiring them simpler, i.e. you wouldn't have to run one wire to a fixed voltage tap on the transformer.  

As much as I like post-war, I am seeing pros in the LC+ system.  

Dan Padova

 

"In the course of my life I have had to eat my words, and I must confess it was a wholesome diet"..........Winston Churchill

                                                                                                                                        

I really like the LC and LC+.  I hope to see it grow by leaps and bounds!  Will be interesting to see the technology evolve with them!    I wonder if MTH will build something thats comparable to LC/LC+?

Jim

 

Anything can be accomplished, with proper funding. 

Frank H posted:

Guys thanks for all the help in the end I opted for the 72 watt lc powerpack and my grandson loves it.

Model train stuff has them for 39.99.   I got the two I ordered today!   Haven't got to fool with them yet.   Outside working on my Christmas display!   

Jim 

Anything can be accomplished, with proper funding. 

Assuming proper phasing if two 72 watt transformers are  connected to the same track segment does that mean 8 amps are avaialble to the train(s)?

Frank Ventura

choochoo@technologynation.us

 

 

... Another dedicated member of the model railroad quality control department. whenever I see quality, I try to control it...

 

You're playing with fire connecting multiple transformers in parallel.  If they're plain transformers and they're identical, you can do it, but the breakers sometimes don't function properly.  If they're electronic units, don't do it!

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