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One last time here is a post written by a friend of mine some years ago on the other major three-rail forum. I re-post it here to try to help folks who wish to know the facts about the confusing Lionel "small black transformer with the orange handle on the side." You may encounter them on either the primary or secondary markets and need know what you have, are seeing, or are considering purchasing. Photos alone, especially those taken of the front only, can be very confusing.


I have taken the liberty of doing some editing and updating and attempted to remove all opinions.


Two things I would add to his 2008 post are that the newest production of the real CW-80 will now operate on both 60 Hz current (standard in the USA) and also on 50 Hz current (of the proper voltage) which is standard in much of Europe; and that the term VA equals Volt-Amps equals actual watts deliverable to the track.


-------------------Quote, with ammendments:


This post is intended to help owners and prospective buyers to distinguish among the several look-alike small transformers that Lionel® has produced in recent years. It is confined to the small "black ones with the orange handle on the side." (If you want responsible answers to questions on this subject, or desire to make you opinions known, you MUST specify which of the following models and/or versions you are discussing.) The term "specs" is used for "specifications" as transcribed from the official website as of July 21, 2008, and beyond.


These data are offered for reference only. I have minimized opinions here so for the most part these are verifiable facts. Volt-Amps (VA) may be read as as "watts" more of less. V means volts; A means amperes or amps. All specs are alternating current. Any of the following types may possibly be found in "sets" or offered for individual sale by dealers, auction houses or private citizens. There is no such thing as "The CW-80" There are several versions of CW-80 and even more look-alikes. You need to know exactly what you are buying or posting about:


1. CW-80, Revised. Product number 6-14198 Output Specs: 18 Volts, 80 Volt-Amps 5 Amperes. Has four output terminals on the back. In production since 2006; corrected the problems with he early version. Voltage of accessory output factory-set at 12 volts but can be changed by owner. Black posts marked "U" are "common;" Red posts marked "A" and "B" are "hot." "G" prefix to date code.  


Edit/Addendum: suggested by Phil (pmilazzo) and Nicole (N.Q.D.Y.) in posts below: Recent production of this device was modified to be able to run on either 60 Hz AC "house current" (standard in most of USA) or 50 hz AC current as used in many other parts of the world. This modification is indicated by a sticker that reads: QC50-OK. In the absence of this sticker use with 60 HZ current only!


2. CW-80, early version.. Product number and specs exactly the same as above, except that the Black posts marked "U" are hot; Red ones marked "A" and "B" are common.(Evidently all examples of this original version were factory miswired.) Considered to have been manufactured under poor quality control. Generally considered to  be prone to immediate or early failure. Owner's Manual confusing and inconstent. This version has an unusual rate of problems for a modern electronic device.


3. CW-30, aka PowerMax  6-14275 18V 30VA 1.8A. No accessory terminals. Evidently the  post marked "U" is common, "A" is hot. 


4. CW-40, aka PowerMax Plus,  6-24253 18V 40VA 2.4A. No accessory terminals. Posts as in 3, above. 




In addition to the four listed above, as of this update there are  two Lionel controllers that appear similar to the ones above, except that they use a separate power "brick":


5. BW-80 6-14003 18V 80VA 5A Has accessory terminals factory-set at 12 volts; cannot be changed by owner. Not known by author which terminals are common. Check with Owner's Manual or use ohmmeter. Predecessor to CW-80. Only produced for a year or so back around 2000. Relatively rare.


6. GW-180 6-37947  Brand new design (late 2012.) Much more power than any of the other "look-alikes."  Like the older BW, it also uses the familiar small "black case with the orange handle" and a separate power "brick." Input: 120 VAC 60 HZ ONLY. AC Output 18 V, 180 VA. (Specs taken directly from Owner's Manual.)


That's it --  to the best of my knowledge -- except for the general cautions to know exactly what you are looking at; don't expect to get perfectly accurate voltage readings on devices that utilize "chopped waveforms" from non-RMS meters; and don't believe everything you read on the forums. 


          Last edited by wolverine February 22, 2013, 5:16 AM, EST
Last edited by wolverine
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Thanks for the details. I too agree that recent CW-80 transformers are excellent products when used as intended. I have 4 of the little darlings, and would not wish to part with them. I have more powerful transformers to power my TPC units, but the CW-80s are used for running single conventional loops, and for backup power should one of my larger transformers or TPC units fail.

Originally Posted by wolverine:

2. CW-80, early version...  ...Black posts marked "U" are hot; Red ones marked "A" and "B" are common...

Lionel was so close on this, I still don't know if they realize that the revised version is still wrong by convention(unless you consider it a two-train transformer, which some do use the accessory posts for a trolley or motorized unit). 


The new practice of coloring the binding posts / banana jacks was and is throwing off a long standing policy at Lionel of using "A" as common and "U" as center rail power for 1 train transformers.  There never should have been two "U" posts on the CW, that was a big blunder.


The way they should have been built originally and forever is with two common black "A" posts(although only one is really needed), a red "U" post for track power, and a red "C" post for accessory power.  Even better, no colored posts at all, except the new upcoming FasTrack came with color coded track wires.


So the early version really only needed to be re-labeled, and the whistle/bell button functions switched.  There you go - a modern 1033(less one fixed voltage tap/setting).


And, how very true about the manual(s).  Lionel had to back-peddle and issue warnings that the CW was not compatible with common ground track activated accessories.  Yikes, to put it mildly.  Fortunately, the revised version is OK with this.

The most latest incarnation of the CW-80 may be starting around 2009 or 2010 (not sure) also support 50Hz as well as 60Hz power.  Previously, plugging the older CW-80s into a 50Hz system caused the whistle to blow continuously.  These newer models have a rating for 50Hz and 60Hz on the decal on the bottom along with a date code.



Thank all of you who posted above. I seldom get to make a post that doesn't buy me a wooden stake or two squarely in the ol' casket.


Rob, you get to carry the ball from now on. I'm old and tired and have been fighting this silly battle for almost ten years now. Thats enough. You are exactly right about the labeling of the red and black posts. I'd love to have been a fly on the wall at Lionel when they hashed that out prior to releasing the early CW-80s, or was it prior to the BW?


Paul, I am aware that there was a fairly recent (last couple of years) revision of the CW-80 that allows it's use on 50 Hz AC current, thus opening a market in many areas overseas. When I looked at the manual for the GW-180 I noticed that it has reverted back to 60Hz AC only, but I wouldn't take it as Gospel. Maybe you can find out for certain and post the results.


I am very unlikely to respond to posts regauding this subject again, except to correct any of my errors as may be pointed out. So if anyone finds this useful, they might print it out.


Thank you all again. Your comments are much appreciated.



I can confirm that the CW-80s that have a 'QC50-OK' sticker work fine on 50Hz power. Living in Europe, this is an important point to me. Most of the more recent offerings appear to be happy with 50Hz power, but there are still a few items that get somewhat upset. I always check for compatibility before I buy anything these days.

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