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I am a Lionel amateur to say the least.  Mostly for my grandkids, I have collected several basic conventional train sets, a bunch of track and a moderate number of accessories.  My power is an older ZW and 2 PH-1 powerhouses.  Have decided to add the CAB-1 because of all the young kids, so purchased that and a powermaster PM-1.  Three questions.  Is the correct method of adding the PM-1 to connect it via the adapter cable to the ZW?  Would I have any need for the command base if I don’t add command control locomotives?  And, what would be the best way to connect the several accessories to the layout.  Appreciate the advice.

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The user manuals will help with many of your connectivity and Command Base requirement questions and are available from Lionel:

Basically, the PowerMaster takes the input voltage of a nominal 18VAC and listens to the CAB-1 remote to vary its output voltage. The PowerMaster in essence works like a single remote control throttle handle.

In general, PowerMasters are not connected to accessories. To add accessory control to your TMCC setup, there are many products out there such as these:

Lionel TMCC Accessory Switch Controller

Lionel TMCC Accessory Motor Controller


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I'm no expert in this but I have a bunch of conventional engines I was looking to control with a cab-2. What I have settled on is that the easiest, and probably most expensive, route is to buy a ZW - L. Then you can connect the legacy base to that and address the tracks to control via the remote.

That doesn't help you since you have a cab-1 already but thought I'd chime in. I'm interested in what others say since I'd like to make this switch too. I'm hoping others have cheaper alternatives.

Hi Rod, yes the PM-1 Power Adapter cable (6-12893) will enable you to connect a PM-1 to your older ZW. Or you can connect a PM-1 directly to  PH-1 Powerhouse without purchasing the Power Adapter Cable which may be a challenge finding. The Command Base is needed as it is what allows  the Cab 1 to "talk" to the PM-1. additionally, to control various accessories the SC-2 Controller and Operating Track Controller's manuals come with instructions for wiring many of the Lionel accessories, switches, uncoupling tracks, etc in Command Control. Its fairly easy. I am in process of making basically the same switch for my Grandkids who are more oriented to hand held devices than grabbing hold of the throttle. You can use the ZW to power accessories , switches and lights with the PM's used for track power. The advantage in connecting the PM-1 to the ZW for track power is that you can limit the voltage (for maximum speed) if your Grandkids are younger. And if you like you can have two Cab-1's so both yourself and kids can operate different trains and accessories at the same time. Only one Command Base is needed as both CAB 1's 'talk through it. The above components are available, though some are listed at above retail because they are no longer produced. be patient and ones priced reasonably do appear. In my experience, I have had no reliability issues with NOS.

@Rod S - Since you have an older ZW and powerhouses and one powermaster, if you you want to do is run locomotives in conventional mode, you have all you need for ONE THROTTLE on the ZW or one powerhouse. If you want to run multiple loops, you'll need another powermaster or two, but they're relatively cheap.  I bought several for $20-$30 a few years back. That's still your cheapest option for running conventional trains as compared to upgrading to Legacy, a ZW-L, etc.  The powermaster cables also come with a fast-blow fuse which provides the protection you'd need for any modern engines with electronics. Remember, this enables you to control track voltage, not the engine in command mode.

I saw that you mentioned command control of accessories. That route will require the Legacy or older TMCC command base and an accessory controller.

I bought several for $20-$30 a few years back.

Unfortunately they're now three or four times that.

I'd stick with @gunrunnerjohn's suggestion and invest in a Cab-1L to use with Legacy PowerMasters.  This would give you better reliability and a nice degree of future-proofing.

You can still use the one TMCC PowerMaster you have, but you'll need to add a PowerMaster Bridge to use it with the Cab-1L.


Hi Rod,

I don't want to throw a curve ball to this conversation, but if your primary goal is to engage the grandkids, I would seriously consider a Lionel Chief motorized unit operated by its hand held remote.  I also have a PW ZW and use it to power all my motorized units.  These include some conventional units using the throttles, some TMCC units using the Command Base and CAB-1, and several Lionel Chief (LC) units using a hand held remote (each unit comes with its own designated remote, but you can also get a universal remote to operate up to 3 LC units; see photo the includes both types).  The LC hand held remote is far easier for a child to operate than the CAB-1.  The most modern LC units can even be operated by a cell phone using bluetooth...another plus for the tech savvy kids.  It does not provide all the features of the CAB-1, but the kids love it.  It does require a LC motorized unit, so that adds to your cost.

Just a thought.

Enjoy the trains with your grandkids!




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I appreciate the responses, several of which will help me in the future.  Unfortunately I have a current problem that I am not solving.  I have only conventional locomotives.  My power supply is a PW ZW with two attached 135W Powerhouses in A & C position.  I wanted remote control so purchased a PM-1 Powermaster and connected it to the ZW A/U posts with the fused adapter cable (with the 2 PH-1s still attached to ZW).  And I purchased a CAB-1.  
I can still drive the locomotive via the ZW lever, but can’t get my CAB-1 to control the loco.  
What am I doing wrong with my connections?  

@Rod S posted:

My power supply is a PW ZW with two attached 135W Powerhouses in A & C position.

This is not logical. A postwar ZW does has an internal transformer and should not be connected to PowerHouses in such a manner. What is described seems like a 6-32930 ZW-C. Now, if that is indeed what you have, the ZW-C does not need a PM-1 PowerMaster as it is essentially a collection of PowerMasters in one housing (however, you can use the PM-1 externally anyways...)

To use the internal ZW-C PowerMaster-like capabilities, that is all covered in the user manual, particular interest on page 9:

The manual for the PowerMaster is here and can help you double check your wiring and ensure you are issueing the right commands:

Last edited by bmoran4
@bmoran4 posted:

@Jetsafl, you can think of the ZW-L as being four Legacy PowerMasters in one housing.

I have the ZW-L but there is no mention of the built in PowerMasters being Legacy PowerMasters.  If In fact if they were they would be better able to control MTH PS engines.  The TPC’s control MTH PS engines better.

in addition the instruction on controlling MTH engines are rather incomplete and vague.

@WaynePa posted:

I have the ZW-L but there is no mention of the built in PowerMasters being Legacy PowerMasters.  If In fact if they were they would be better able to control MTH PS engines.  The TPC’s control MTH PS engines better.

in addition the instruction on controlling MTH engines are rather incomplete and vague.

Context is everything, which was scoped to Lionel Legacy power distribution. Getting to your tangent of MTH control - Even if certain macro features are not present or deemed inadequate, they are documented as being accessible from any power setup as shown in any MTH PS2/3 user guide. I personally use Legacy PowerMasters and the builtin MTH Macros are very effective, but so is manually keying. Some example excerpts:

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