Skip to main content

Hello all, I am currently building a 20x10 O Gauge Layout with roughly 4 main lines and a 1st and 3rd level as well with reverse loops and yards. I am currently switching from a 5x9 layout so I am sure my small lionel 80 transformer will come nowhere close to being capable. I am also running Legacy if that effect's power draw. Thanks!

Influencer for the commitment to the big layout is JDSTUCKS.

Original Post

Replies sorted oldest to newest

I’m starting to build a similarly sized layout from similarly smaller beginnings.  So very interested in this thread.  I will run Legacy and install LCS to control the many switches.  How much power am I likely to need?   I have an MTH Z4000 but assume I’m going to need more. 3 mainlines and a yard.  

Also, I want to run Legacy and DCS as I do now  (I have a lot of PS2 and PS3 in my fleet).  Does that create power/wiring issues I need to be aware of?  I’ve read about needing “blocks” for DCS but not Legacy.  

How many engines do you want to run at once?

My layout will be a double folded main with passing sidings, a little over 300'. Two levels and roughly 10.5 x 23 feet. I will be using two PH 180 bricks to run 4 to 6 engines in lashups at the same time. I am running DCS now with plans to add Legacy when the Cab3 comes out.

I did wire following the recommended practices with blocks but using long flex pieces it doesn't take more than a couple of blocks to work for layouts of our size. I purposely created a few extra because it is easy to do with the plastic isolators as I lay the track.

Power does not run through a Legacy base so there is no additional draw. Most people, myself included, use DCS in active mode and so the track power does pass through the TIU. I use a separate DC power supply to power my TIU so there is no draw on track power from the TIU.

Least expensive approach is Lionel Powerhouses (180 watts each), which have good built in circuit breakers.  But this doesn't allow for conventional running, and are suitable for command only layouts (e.g., PS2/3, Legacy/TMCC, LionChief/Bluetooth).  If you need conventional capability, something like the Lionel GW (180 watts) or ZW-L (620 watts) will provide plenty of power for most layouts.  These are relatively expensive, but most people who have them are pleased.

Another approach if you feel comfortable with things electric is to buy older transformers that have been reconditioned or recondition them yourself such as the old (as in 70 or so years) ZW, and add modern circuit breakers to the wiring. I don't recommend that unless you are really, really comfortable with electricity and circuitry.  I would also add transient voltage suppressors to the wiring for any older transformers.

My own choice would be Powerhouses for command only layouts and the ZW-L for large layouts with conventional.

You an also buy used MTH transformers (e.g., Z4000) but these will be without warranty and are older designs for which repair parts may or may not be available in the future. The MTH spin-off company has promised continued development of the Z4000, but right now they don't have a customer service function, email address or website, so there is uncertainty.

@chall77 posted:

Hello all, I am currently building a 20x10 O Gauge Layout with roughly 4 main lines and a 1st and 3rd level as well with reverse loops and yards. I am currently switching from a 5x9 layout so I am sure my small lionel 80 transformer will come nowhere close to being capable. I am also running Legacy if that effect's power draw. Thanks!

Influencer for the commitment to the big layout is JDSTUCKS.

I have an S gauge layout that is 8' by approximately 36'. I have two separate loops, one an oval around the outside of the layout. The other loop is a dog-bone laid over itself with two reversing loops, this loop has two blocks. I run Legacy, TMCC, and conventional trains. Some of the TMCC locomotives have the old pulmor motors but most are can-motored. I use three 180 Powerhouses for track power. I have a forth Powerhouse that I use for my turnouts (switches), they are the old Gilbert switches which draw quite a bit of power. When I had my lights and turnouts on the same Powerhouse the lights would dim when a switch was thrown, so I added one for turnouts. I have installed digital ammeters and voltmeters for each block, when running two trains on each loop my ammeter has rarely gone over two amps so I feel if I would eliminate the blocks on the dog-bone two of the 180 Powerhouses one for each track would be sufficient.

For running of conventional trains I use Powermasters for the ability to run those from my handset.

Ray

Last edited by Rayin"S"

You need both an adequate power source and adequate wiring.  Since voltages are in the teens, wire sizes need to be uprated from code ampacities.  Following boat and RV 12V "best practices" is advised.  I will be using 3 x 180W Powerhouse units on my 28x15/20 layout (dual-track main), with a vintage Lionel KW as a switched alternate for the few conventional locos I have.  I don't have any MTH PS2 or PS3 locos, so no TIU considerations ... yet.

It depends how many trains your running at the same time. As already mentioned the Lionel bricks are a good way to go.

One 180w powerhouse will run 2 or 3 trains. This is a rough estimate. Long passenger trains with lights use more power. Obviously any trains where several locos are Mu'ed will use more power as well.

I run 2 trains passenger or freight along with a switching operation at the same time on 1 180w powerhouse on my 10'x16' layout without issue.

As  Karl stated above. Good wiring is key. I recommend 14ga wire for bus and feeders and feeders at least every 10 feet.

Last edited by RickO
@chall77 posted:

How do I know how many 180 lionel powerhouses I will need? With these powerhouses do I even need a traditional transformer? How will I know how much power is needed. I plan to have a bus bar on either side of the board in order to run my jumpers alot more neatly.

As has been stated "It depends on how many trains you run, also the vintage of the trains and how much power they draw. My thoughts if you  run post war Lionel trains you could likely run two  on one 180 Powerhouse. If your trains are later/ powered by can motors you might run three or more on a single 180 Powerhouse. Note what John said above,

"One big favor you can do yourself for passenger trains is upgrade them to LED lighting.  Better lighting, no flicker, and it'll chop the power usage down 90% or more. " John has made boards available to do those conversions, he also has posted a schematic and parts list so you could build your own.

If you use the Powerhouses, no, you will not need a traditional transformer but you will need one of the Command sets, Legacy Cab1L or the Legacy 990 Command set, or you might find a used Cab1 TMCC set.

A lot depends on what you want to do, do you want to run all from the place where you have your transformer set, if so purchase the transformer. would you like to run from anywhere in the layout room, then purchase the Command set along with Powermasters if your trains are the conventional type.

I myself have gone the command route with the Powermasters, I can run any of my trains from anywhere around the layout.

Ray

Add Reply

Post
The Track Planning and Layout Design Forum is sponsored by

AN OGR FORUM CHARTER SPONSOR
OGR Publishing, Inc., 1310 Eastside Centre Ct, Suite 6, Mountain Home, AR 72653
330-757-3020

www.ogaugerr.com
×
×
×
×
Link copied to your clipboard.
×
×