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This post is intended to offer some assistance to newcomers to the O Gauge hobby wishing to expand a Lion Chief set with Accessories and explain why certain Lionel Accessories may cause Locomotives to stall and offer some suggestions for how to resolve these issues.  The information in this Topic is for a Locomotive set that works correctly without any accessories attached.  If yours isn't, then there are many other topics on this forum to help with that.

If you're using the DC Power wall transformer that came with a Lion Chief set, it may not have enough electrical power to provide the wattage [Volts times Amps (current)] required to simultaneously run a Train and accessories with higher electrical current demands.  Some of these accessories include the 6-12020 Uncoupling Track, 6-12054 Operating Track (using the uncoupler), and the 6-62162 Auto Crossing Gate (image below).   Lighted passenger cars also draw additional power. This list of accessories is not all inclusive, but these are some of the most commonly added ones when first expanding a Lion Chief starter set.

The transformers included with many LC (Lion Chief) sets is 18Volts DC, either 36 or 54 Watts (images below).  Lionel recommends operating most of its accessories with AC voltage, even though they might sometimes work ok on DC.  Check the accessory's manual to make certain and also note their recommended voltage might be less than 18VAC.  Most Owner's Manuals can be found on Lionel's support site at https://www.lionelsupport.com/service-documents/  Presently, Lion Chief Locomotives are the only new Lionel locos designed to work on either 18Volts AC or DC.  Most other stock locomotives are designed to only work on AC.



Symptoms:

Uncoupler and Operating Track - If your locomotive is running as expected but then suddenly stalls when the Uncoupler is activated AND if the Uncoupler works correctly without the Locomotive running, then you probably need additional electrical power in your layout.

Crossing Gate - If the answer to ALL 3 of the next questions is yes, then you probably need additional electrical power in your layout.

1. Is your locomotive running as expected, but then suddenly stalls when the Gate is triggered?

2. If you remove either one of the wires (doesn't matter which) from the crossing gate, does the Locomotive run all the way around the track without issues?

3. Reattach the wire to the Gate (removed for question 2) and remove the Locomotive from the tracks. With your hand, push one of the train cars with metal wheels and axles into the Activation section of Isolated track.  When you do this, does the Gate now work correctly?

If you decide you do need more power, you have options.  One option would be to continue using the power pack you have now to run just the trains on the track and use a second AC transformer, set to the recommended voltage, to provide Auxiliary power just to the accessories.  The next step up would be to buy a more powerful AC transformer with one or more outputs to run everything.  Eventually, if you continue learning and spending more time with this hobby, you might consider one of the more sophisticated control and power systems such as TMCC/Legacy and DCS.  There is lots more to read about all this if you search this forum for what interests you.

If you still have questions about your specific issue, please start a new Topic on the Forum.  You will get faster and more helpful answers if you include as much information about the issue including model numbers for each Set/Locomotive and accessory within your initial post.  Describe in detail what you've already done to try finding the cause of the problem.  Also attaching an overview horizontal/landscape orientation picture of your layout showing all the accessories in place and trains on the track, says more than 1000 words.

Good Luck!

P.S. If someone on this forum helps you, please consider thanking them.  They're probably not getting paid for it. 

Power pack specsCrossing GatePower Pack - Front

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  • Crossing Gate
  • Power Pack - Front
  • Power pack specs
Last edited by SteveH
Original Post

Replies sorted oldest to newest

First off. Thanks for your willingness to help out others Steve, its what makes this forum go round

I have no suggestions, but IMO it seems silly the way Lionel offers these starter sets with "just enough" power.

While I'm no fan of the CW-80, at least they had some extra wattage to support layout growth and a few accessories.

Newby " train"parents and kids alike will just become frustrated when "the darn thing doesn't work".

Billy will go back to playing on his cell phone.

My impression of Lionels Lionchief stuff is for the quick sale, to unsure younger toy train operators, rather than the long time hobbyist.

Maybe thats just as well.  These days toy trains aren't as sought after by kids like they were decades ago.

We are fortunate to have this forum to fill in all of the blanks left by any of the manufacturers. The average person has no clue it exists.

Last edited by RickO
@RickO posted:

First off. Thanks for your willingness to help out others Steve, its what makes this forum go round...

We are fortunate to have this forum to fill in all of the blanks left by any of the manufacturers. The average person has no clue it exists.

Rick, we are fortunate to have this forum.  The way I discovered it was, most every time I &**gled a question about O Gauge, I found the answer here.  Those of you who have been helping others here inspired me to join and pitch in.

I just went through this myself and ended up buying the MTH Z-1000 for $129.  AT that price, the power pack was a significant percentage of the cost of a starter set.  The Z-1000 provides more than enough power to the track as well as fixed accessory power at 14v, which was exactly what I needed to resolve the type of issues you described.  It also obviously supports conventional operation, which I didn't have.

The Lionel DC wall wart pack had its benefits for newbies, even over the Z-1000:

  • Super affordable
  • Extremely small and light
  • Simple disconnection of track power via barrel plug
  • No screw terminals/no soldering
  • No need to reset circuit breakers
  • Very quick and intuitive to set up and operate
  • No "control panel" - everything was on the wall outlet or on the bluetooth controller
  • No wires/no busses/no different voltages - all power ran through the Fastrack
  • Power light was on the track
  • Enough power to run two engines through a 4x8 layout with very modest accessories


The issue as I see it is that the newbie will buy a few upgrades and not understand why their stuff fails to work.  There ought to be some sort of idiot light in the Fastrack for "Need to upgrade power pack".

I had posted previously about the uncoupling track button stalling the loco without actually having the setup in my possession (my 5 year old grandson got the 0-8-0 LionChief RTR with bluetooth remote for Christmas).   I only went by what they were telling me on the telephone.

In that thread a few forum members said the small DC wall power pack (pictured above) worked and others said it didn't have enough power to operate the uncoupler track.

They finally came to our house and brought it along with my grandson.  I am testing it.

1.  Press the uncoupler and the loco stalls anywhere on the track (it doesn't have to be over the uncoupler track).

2.  Following Steve H's suggestion I removed the engine and tender and put a few cars on the circular layout.  It barely uncouples the cars and every time you press the uncouple button the pilot light on the power track goes out then comes back on.   Remove all cars.  Press button.  Pilot light goes out.

Is this just a lack of adequate power?

Thanks,

John

Last edited by Craftech
@Craftech posted:

I had posted previously about the uncoupling track button stalling the loco without actually having the setup in my possession (my 5 year old grandson got the 0-8-0 LionChief RTR with bluetooth remote for Christmas).   I only went by what they were telling me on the telephone.

In that thread a few forum members said the small DC wall power pack (pictured above) worked and others said it didn't have enough power to operate the uncoupler track.

They finally came to our house and brought it along with my grandson.  I am testing it.

1.  Press the uncoupler and the loco stalls anywhere on the track (it doesn't have to be over the uncoupler track).

2.  Following Steve H's suggestion I removed the engine and tender and put a few cars on the circular layout.  It barely uncouples the cars and every time you press the uncouple button the pilot light on the power track goes out then comes back on.   Remove all cars.  Press button.  Pilot light goes out.

Is this just a lack of adequate power?

Thanks,

John

Yes, probably a lack of power.  Without knowing the current draw of the Uncoupling track at 18VDC (which is what the LC transformer you're using puts out) and the wattage of your power supply it's difficult for me to say yes with absolute certainty.

When I connected my 36Watt 18VDC LC transformer to the FasTrack Uncoupling track, the LED on the Power lock-on track goes out when the Uncouple button is pressed, indicating a over-current situation.  The LED comes back on after releasing the button.

Do you have another AC transformer, with a higher wattage than the LC wall transformer, that can be adjusted to the 10-12VAC recommended for the Uncoupling track?  This would be better for the longevity of the Uncoupler's electromagnet.  The Uncoupler will overheat much faster at higher voltages and risks warping the plastic and worse, permanently burning out the coil.

I can give them an older 1011 transformer adjusted to 12 volts or so and move the red spade connector under the track from TRK PWR  to AUX PWR  There was another thread about the AC portion not interfering with the DC portion. with the common ground.

Or get a 1033 to do the same and the train with the Bluetooth remote and hook up the uncoupler track to the auxiliary terminals on it.  Or I can get him a new AC transformer for his birthday.

John

@Craftech posted:

I can give them an older 1011 transformer adjusted to 12 volts or so and move the red spade connector under the track from TRK PWR  to AUX PWR  There was another thread about the AC portion not interfering with the DC portion. with the common ground.

Or get a 1033 to do the same and the train with the Bluetooth remote and hook up the uncoupler track to the auxiliary terminals on it.  Or I can get him a new AC transformer for his birthday.

John

At 25 watts the 1011 may not be enough.  The 1033 certainly should be sufficient to run the Uncoupler.  You'll probably want to test these while it's all still at your house.   Based on you connection plan description, it sounds like you've got that figured right.

Good Luck!

Last edited by SteveH

I think part of the confusion here lies in different users have different experiences of what the phrase "run the uncoupler" means.  On the starter set DC transformer, I have seen mine uncouple cars daintily as they slowly roll across.  On AC and more power (but less voltage), I've also seen them buzz loudly like electric doorbells and uncouple much more assertively.  No word in the manual either about how much performance or buzzing to expect.

@Long Hair posted:

I think part of the confusion here lies in different users have different experiences of what the phrase "run the uncoupler" means.  On the starter set DC transformer, I have seen mine uncouple cars daintily as they slowly roll across.  On AC and more power (but less voltage), I've also seen them buzz loudly like electric doorbells and uncouple much more assertively.  No word in the manual either about how much performance or buzzing to expect.

These don't uncouple at all.  With the train on the track and the button pressed the train stops no matter where it is located because the power quits momentarily on the entire circle.  Then it will start up again in a second or so.

With no locomotive on the tracks at all you can manually slowly drag a few cars across it with the button pressed and sometimes it will uncouple, but it will cause the pilot light on the power track to go out every time you press it.  Again - only with no engine on the circle at all.  Manually dragging cars across it.

John

Last edited by Craftech
@Long Hair posted:

I think part of the confusion here lies in different users have different experiences of what the phrase "run the uncoupler" means.  On the starter set DC transformer, I have seen mine uncouple cars daintily as they slowly roll across.  On AC and more power (but less voltage), I've also seen them buzz loudly like electric doorbells and uncouple much more assertively.  No word in the manual either about how much performance or buzzing to expect.

@Craftech posted:

These don't uncouple at all.  With the train on the track and the button pressed the train stops no matter where it is located because the power quits momentarily on the entire circle.  Then it will start up again in a second or so.

With no locomotive on the tracks at all you can manually slowly drag a few cars across it with the button pressed and sometimes it will uncouple, but it will cause the pilot light on the power track to go out every time you press it.  Again - only with no engine on the circle at all.  Manually dragging cars across it.

John

John and Long Hair, will you please post the current ratings of your Lion Chief 18VDC wall transformers?  This will help eliminate some confusion from the conversation.  This information can be found on the back of the transformer beside the Output:18V---xxxxmA (or maybe just x.xA)  See pic in original Post at top.

@Long Hair posted:

I think part of the confusion here lies in different users have different experiences of what the phrase "run the uncoupler" means.  On the starter set DC transformer, I have seen mine uncouple cars daintily as they slowly roll across.  On AC and more power (but less voltage), I've also seen them buzz loudly like electric doorbells and uncouple much more assertively.  No word in the manual either about how much performance or buzzing to expect.

To hopefully clear up some confusion, in addition to knowing the current ratings of the other LC Transformers being mentioned in this Topic (in John's case its 18VDC x 2300MA = 41.4Watts; thank you @Craftech John), here is some additional information that may be helpful.

Long Hair, the dainty vs. buzzing operation of the uncoupler you refer to has to do with the magnetic fields generated by Direct Current versus Alternating Current.

When powered by DC voltage the field polarity (North South) of a electromagnetic coil is constant, it always points in the same direction (given the same positive and negative electrical connection).

When powered by AC voltage, the field polarity of an electromagnetic coil reverses 60 times per second (in the US at the Utility power frequency of 60Hz). Even though it exerts an overall pulling force, this oscillating magnetic field also vibrates any ferrous metal in close proximity to the coil (like the uncoupling thumb tack or plate under our train cars' couplers) creating the buzzing sound you hear.

Maybe you already know this, but there are two different things having to do with power here, and as we know, Power(in Watts) = Volts x Current (In Amps, also referred to as "I").  

Transformer power Output is the Volts times Amps it's capable of delivering to an electrical load before the transformer either overloads and overheats melting the internal wire insulation or (in the case of modern UL Approved transformers) cuts off due to internal protection when its capacity is exceeded.

From Ohm's Law and Watt's Law, we know that the power the uncoupler (coil) draws (actually uses from the transformer) is dependent upon the applied voltage and the coil impedance (resistance and inductance).  This impedance varies with frequency. DC=0Hz.  AC=60Hz.  This means that a coil will draw different amounts of current at different voltages and frequencies and with an AC or DC source.


Below is a quote from the following website that gives a simplified explanation of current draw by an AC coil (like the Uncoupler) when operating on DC voltage.  The discussion is about solenoids, but the AC/DC principle is the same because they are both AC Coils.

https://tameson.com/choosing-a...-solenoid-valve.html

"Using a coil rated for AC current with a DC supply is possible, but the voltage (and the current) must be limited or else the solenoid (coil) might burn out. The reason for this is that in AC regime, coils have an inductive reactance that adds up with the electrical resistivity of the coil. As a result, the impedance of a coil is several times higher in AC regime than in DC regime. As an example, using a 24 VAC rated solenoid valve with a 24 V DC power supply would most likely damage the solenoid because the effective current flowing through the solenoid would be much higher with DC voltage."

I find it fascinating that John's starter set transformer is rated for 20% less current than mine.  Mine at 3000mA will run two small trains and uncouple cars at the same time.  I would post a video but I must admit that I upgraded mine to an AC pack and have attached the DC pack another layout.

As a side note, comparing AC to DC voltage is challenging and (in my opinion) incorrectly done by many model railroaders.  DC voltage is simple - a difference in electrical potential.  On the other hand, AC wall current hits 0 potential just as often as it hits peak voltage one way or the other.  To further confuse things, some modern AC power sources, such as cheaper power inverters and fancy modern train transformers produce AC current without the characteristic sine wave.

@Long Hair posted:

3000 mA

Ok then to summarize operation of the LionChief 18VDC transformers mentioned previously in this topic with FasTrack Uncoupler 6-12020:

36Watt (2000mA) doesn't work at all

41.4Watt (2300mA) usually doesn't work even without any other Locos or powered cars and accessories

54 Watt (3000mA) may sometimes work depending on what else is also drawing power at the same time.

@Long Hair posted:

I find it fascinating that John's starter set transformer is rated for 20% less current than mine.  Mine at 3000mA will run two small trains and uncouple cars at the same time.  I would post a video but I must admit that I upgraded mine to an AC pack and have attached the DC pack another layout.

My daughter purchased it for her son around Thanksgiving time for Christmas 2020.

Steve's has to be older than that and his is rated lower.

When was yours made?  And which AC pack did you upgrade to?

John

Last edited by Craftech

Steve,

Thanks for all your help and this post. My circa 2017 or 18 LC Polar Express wall wart has a lot of power — DC as I’ve recently learned.
  It successfully runs the LC PE steam engine, LC+ NW2 switcher, 5 lighted PE cars, 2 VL freightsound cars, uncoupling track, 5 lighted buildings, and 4 remote/command switches all at once. And does it without a hitch — except for the AC requirements of the VL freight cars.

Surprisingly even holding the uncoupler track activation for 5+ seconds didn’t slow down the train on the main line.

Still, a lot to learn and the more experienced here willing to share are saving me from a lot of frustration. Thank you.

John -

I don't have a date of manufacture for my power supply.  It came with the Hot Wheels ready to run set introduced about three years ago.  It may be significant that this set included 14 pieces of track as compared to the more usual twelve.  One of those track pieces was a power connector for Lionel plug and play accessories.  All the track is orange.

I upgraded to the MTH Z-1000.  This offered ample and adjustable AC power as well as a separate constant 14v AC accessory power for the uncoupler tracks for $129 out the door.

https://www.mariostrains.com/i...emart_category_id=15



I would sign my name here but it is the same name as a long-standing member.  When we hosted the OGR birthday party at NJ Highrailers a couple of years ago, we all had nametags.  People from all over the country were coming up to me like I was the buddy they never actually met.  I couldn't answer their questions, either.  Really weird.

@JackO posted:

Steve,

Thanks for all your help and this post. My circa 2017 or 18 LC Polar Express wall wart has a lot of power — DC as I’ve recently learned.
  It successfully runs the LC PE steam engine, LC+ NW2 switcher, 5 lighted PE cars, 2 VL freightsound cars, uncoupling track, 5 lighted buildings, and 4 remote/command switches all at once. And does it without a hitch — except for the AC requirements of the VL freight cars.

Surprisingly even holding the uncoupler track activation for 5+ seconds didn’t slow down the train on the main line.

Still, a lot to learn and the more experienced here willing to share are saving me from a lot of frustration. Thank you.

JackO, you're welcome.  I'm glad you found this information helpful.

To further help others with this topic by way of transformer comparison, would you please consider posting the Current Output rating in mA (or Amps) of your wall transformer and also the set number it came with (ie. :6-xxxxx) ?

Since we're talking transformer upgrades from stock LC, I'm partial to the Postwar Lionel ZW (not to be confused with the ZW controller, aka ZW-C, which looks very similar, but in reality very different).  If you go with a PW ZW, external over current protection is highly recommended either from a fast acting breaker ~$5-10 or a 135/180W Legacy Powermaster.

Postwar ZW features: 275Watts* ; 4 simultaneous and independent 6-20VAC variable pure sine wave outputs.  *actual output is ~200-220W

Ones that have been professionally refurbished (replacing the original whistle rectifier with a modern one) can be found for about $130.

I have two PW ZWs and really like the flexibility they offer in powering independent tracks for operating conventional , LionChief, and TMCC/Legacy locos.

I also have ZW outputs dedicated to: 10V for Uncouplers, brightness control on scenery Lights, speed control of conveyor belts, and 16V to FasTrack remote, Command, etc switches.

A word of caution when choosing a suitable transformer to use with a Legacy Powermaster.  According the the PM Owner's Manual "Transformers with a chopped sine wave output such as the Lionel CW-80, MTH Z-750, Z-1000, and MRC DualPower027 or similar transformers will result in unpredictable operation."

Last edited by SteveH

If your train and accessories operate on DC, and the problem is an undersized power pack, a low-cost option is a laptop charger.  For about $10 shipped you can get a 90 Watt DC output "brick" with a choice of plug/barrel tips.  These are all recycled photos from previous OGR discussions:

90w dc output for about ten bucks ebay shipped us seller

Technology is such that at the power levels under discussion a DC-output power pack will be much more compact/lighter and less expensive than an AC-output power pack.

ac dc brick comparison with inset

As shown in the inset above, a Universal laptop charger will typically have a slide selector switch to set the voltage.  The one shown has 18V DC as an option:

universal laptop DC output brick

On a separate note.  I have no knowledge about marketing/sales of O-gauge Starter Sets and the "typical" user and their technical/wiring ability.  That said, I wonder if the discussion about AC vs. DC simply causes them to head for the hills.  Likewise, I wonder if the typical Starter Set user even has a pair of wire strippers or suitable wire lying around to hook up a 2nd transformer.  Somewhere in this discussion is the success (or not) of the "plug-and-play" concept including from other accessory manufacturers - specifically building lights.

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  • 90w dc output for about ten bucks ebay shipped us seller
  • ac dc brick comparison with inset
  • universal laptop DC output brick

Got this idea from another forum. [Didn't see Stan's post above before I posted this]

A laptop power supply.  An old Toshiba laptop I had that no longer worked has a power supply with the same size barrel connector.  It puts out around 19 volts.  I tried it and it works just fine.  It is rated at 1.5A.

The voltage isn't as steady as the Lionel, but it uncouples and handles the Lion Chief engine very well.  I don't think my daughter and her husband want a large transformer in their apartment.  As it is they stand the Fastrack layout against the wall (using small office clips to held the sections together.  Even if I pick up a new laptop power supply rated at closer to 18V it is still smaller and cheaper.

Also, I have an HP laptop power supply rated at 18.5V and 3.5A with the wrong size barrel connector.  I could solder an appropriate connector on it if you think that is better.

EDIT:  Are the couplers on those new sets awful?  They don't uncouple and couple very well.  But they do separate.

SORRY STAN:  I actually didn't see your post before I posted this.  I saw it on another forum, tried it, and posted.  Thanks for the suggestion (and every one as well).

John

Last edited by Craftech
@stan2004 posted:

If your train and accessories operate on DC, and the problem is an undersized power pack, a low-cost option is a laptop charger.  For about $10 shipped you can get a 90 Watt DC output "brick" with a choice of plug/barrel tips.  These are all recycled photos from previous OGR discussions:

Technology is such that at the power levels under discussion a DC-output power pack will be much more compact/lighter and less expensive than an AC-output power pack.

As shown in the inset above, a Universal laptop charger will typically have a slide selector switch to set the voltage.  The one shown has 18V DC as an option:

On a separate note.  I have no knowledge about marketing/sales of O-gauge Starter Sets and the "typical" user and their technical/wiring ability.  That said, I wonder if the discussion about AC vs. DC simply causes them to head for the hills.  Likewise, I wonder if the typical Starter Set user even has a pair of wire strippers or suitable wire lying around to hook up a 2nd transformer.  Somewhere in this discussion is the success (or not) of the "plug-and-play" concept including from other accessory manufacturers - specifically building lights.

Stan, First, I want to say that I really appreciate your numerous contributions to this forum.  I look forward to your posts and regard your knowledge of electrical engineering to be deeper than mine.

I briefly considered recommending a laptop power supply as an easy and quick alternative to the stock under-powered LC transformers that come with Lionel starter sets.  Even though I'm not a medical professional and model trains aren't life and death, I do like the philosophy of "Do no harm."  In my opinion, recommending a laptop power supply could lead to damage of many of Lionel's coil based accessories (like those identified above in the OP), especially when used by kids who might not understand that if you operate these accessories on 18VDC for too long these accys. can be fried in a much shorter period of time than the recommended max operation of 10 seconds when operated on the recommended 10-12 VAC.

Also from another recent Forum Topic electro-couplers reportedly don't work on DC.

https://ogrforum.ogaugerr.com/...ting-electro-coupler

Regarding a discussion of AC vs. DC, maybe it is more than some may want to know, but for others (myself included) building and expanding layouts as a kid is what sparked my lifelong interest in electricity, electronics, and signal flow.  By sharing some of this knowledge, I hope to offer this resource to those who might be interested.  As far as owning wire and a pair of wire strippers, they're less expensive than most everything else in this hobby ( and certainly less than fixing a chipped tooth ).

Lastly, it's unclear what you mean about success of Plug & play, accessories, and lights.  Would you please elaborate?

@SteveH posted:

...

In my opinion, recommending a laptop power supply could lead to damage of many of Lionel's coil based accessories (like those identified above in the OP), especially when used by kids who might not understand that if you operate these accessories on 18VDC for too long these accys. can be fried in a much shorter period of time than the recommended max operation of 10 seconds when operated on the recommended 10-12 VAC.

No argument here.  It's just that I thought we were talking about DC-output adapters/bricks/power packs as that's what apparently comes with the LC Starter Set?  That is, to the "topic" of this thread, I thought the discussion was about expanding an O Gauge LC Starter Set?  I have no insight into "what were they thinking" by introducing an undersized DC-output adapter.

What I do believe is that no one wants to be a Chump.

chump

Again, I have no idea who the "typical" LC Starter Set buyer is, but it seems to me they might have purchased the Set from a mass-merchandise store rather than a train hobby shop.  And I think there is great fear and trepidation of becoming a chump when walking into a specialty store...like when the salespeople at a car dealer size you up for chump-ness when you walk in the front door.

To wit, a 72 Watt LC DC-output adapter is $55 MSRP.  Presumably this is an 18V DC-output adapter since 18V x 4 AMP = 72 Watts.

lionchief 72W 4 Amp DC-output adapter

But wait!  I can buy a 90 Watt DC-output adapter for $10 on eBay shipped to my front door!

@SteveH posted:


...

Also from another recent Forum Topic electro-couplers reportedly don't work on DC.

https://ogrforum.ogaugerr.com/...ting-electro-coupler



But this is exactly what I mean!  I reviewed the linked thread but it seems that there is small subset of Lionel cars where the electro-couplers do NOT work with DC on the track.  Electro-couplers themselves are essentially agnostic with respect to AC vs. DC.  It's the electronics in the cars that did not behave well with DC vs. AC.  Imagine the eyes glazing over trying to explain this to the "typical" LC Starter Set buyer!

@SteveH posted:


...

Lastly, it's unclear what you mean about success of Plug & play, accessories, and lights.  Would you please elaborate?

Not so long ago, and I've NOT been a student of history in this matter, it seemed Lionel made a big push in plug-expand-play accessories.  As of right now, if you do a Search, it appears they have a respectable 201 products in this family:

lionel plug expand play

I don't have any myself and am ignorant as to the details, but as I recall this system uses a proprietary connector which can make things simple (no Wire Stripper, no Soldering, etc.).  OTOH it seems that the majority of OGR threads on this family is to complain about the proprietary connector and ask about how replace, adapt, or alter it!

Similarly, there's a recently introduced "system" for lighting from Woodland Scenics called Just Plug.

just plug

Again, the idea is you can put together a somewhat elaborate lighting system with NO soldering, NO wire-stripper, etc.  But it seems the most common complaint is the price and the ability (or lack thereof) to practically adapt this plug-and-play system to one's specific lighting application.

@Craftech posted:


...

The voltage isn't as steady as the Lionel, but it uncouples and handles the Lion Chief engine very well.  I don't think my daughter and her husband want a large transformer in their apartment.  As it is they stand the Fastrack layout against the wall (using small office clips to held the sections together.  Even if I pick up a new laptop power supply rated at closer to 18V it is still smaller and cheaper.

...

I think John's daughter is a case-in-point.  And I know there are Christmas around-the-tree layouts where having two transformers would be a non-starter!

So, in the spirit of OGR being a discussion forum to exchange ideas or what not, for new applications or those just getting into the hobby, I wonder if there's a path forward where DC is used exclusively?  Yes, there are accessories that require AC voltage to operate...but I'm guessing the percentage is much less than half and shrinking with time. And while a drop-in-the-bucket right now, I think you'll see more battery powered (i.e., DC) layouts going forward.

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  • chump
  • lionchief 72W 4 Amp DC-output adapter
  • lionel plug expand play
  • just plug
Last edited by stan2004
@stan2004 posted:

I thought the discussion was about expanding an O Gauge LC Starter Set?

SteveH - Yes, that is the Topic.  And my best Advice at this point in time is to upgrade to a higher wattage multi-ouput sine wave AC transformer as they begin upgrading the other aspects of their layouts.  These better AC transformers are compatible with most, if not all, 3 rail O-Gauge accessories and will allow future expansion without having to replace them every time a few more accessories are added.

Again, I have no idea who the "typical" LC Starter Set buyer is,...

SteveH - Based on the subject matter (Thomas, Polar Express, Harry Potter) of most RTR LC starter sets, Lionel seems to be mostly trying to attract customers with children.  IMO, buyers of these starter sets are typically parents and grandparents who have or have had trains in their past and want to encourage their youngsters to get involved in the same hobby the adults enjoy.  Often a second LC set is purchased for a second kid and/or for the "adult", so that each can remotely control their own train at the same time.

But wait!  I can buy a 90 Watt DC-output adapter for $10 on eBay shipped to my front door!

SteveH - If people decide to go that route, that is their choice.  It may solve a short term problem and potentially lead to more frustration down the road when they discover that certain accessories have problems with DC.

So, in the spirit of OGR being a discussion forum to exchange ideas or what not, for new applications or those just getting into the hobby, I wonder if there's a path forward where DC is used exclusively?  Yes, there are accessories that require AC voltage to operate...but I'm guessing the percentage is much less than half and shrinking with time. And while a drop-in-the-bucket right now, I think you'll see more battery powered (i.e., DC) layouts going forward.

SteveH - Discussion is of course welcome.  Battery operated Locomotives are certainly becoming more feasible with continual improvements in battery storage density.  I think you're right that we'll see more of this in the coming years.  For right now, this type of Locomotive conversion is IMO likely beyond what most new O Gauge hobbyists would be comfortable doing (and it would void the warranty ).  This type of battery conversion would definitely be a bit more challenging than wiring an AC transformer to the track.

At this point in time there have been (some multiple of) millions of O Gauge Locomotives and accessories manufactured in the last 100 years that work on AC.  If you want to assure you can operate any one of them, having a reliable O Gauge (sine wave) AC transformer is, in my opinion, the BEST way to go if you're upgrading your starter set and want lots of options down the road.

Stan -

With regard to your point about being a "chump" - If I worked at a hobby shop, I would sell those overpriced adapters all day long with a clear conscience - "It costs more because it is designed specifically to run model trains.  One of the things that makes these packs special is the overcurrent protection designed into them.  These use technology to protect you from electric shock and fire, as well as to protect the circuitry inside your locomotives.  Cheaper packs you can buy elsewhere probably won't have the same overcurrent protection and may lead to unnecessary tripping, longer resets, or even danger from excess current."

With regard to your point about a path forward for new users using DC exclusively, that certainly exists and is called Lionchief combined with Plug-Expand-Play.

With regard to your final point about battery powered DC layouts - only on the simple loop stuff like Lionel Ready to Play.  No hobbyist is going to put batteries in all their locomotives, all their passenger cars, all their cabooses, all their switches, all their accessories, all their signals, all their buildings, etc.

Battery operated trains are all over the place, especially at Christmas.  They are the ones that have the plastic tracks that break when you put them together the first time.   They are the ones that take 5-6 D cells plus batteries for the remote.  They are throw aways.  Bachmann, Lionel, and a hundred no name's all make them.   My daughter decided that she wanted to get her five year old "trains like pop pop has".  So she bought the starter set I referenced.  Make no mistake.  That kid can run my O Gauge layout perfectly as well as handle tiny N Scale trains without breaking them.  He can run the DCC equipped N Scale with the Engine Driver App as well as his RTR LC set with the LionChief Blue Tooth App.  The only thing he would break would be battery operated sets (especially the track) not to mention having to have boxes of batteries to feed it constantly.



John

@SteveH posted:

JackO, you're welcome.  I'm glad you found this information helpful.

To further help others with this topic by way of transformer comparison, would you please consider posting the Current Output rating in mA (or Amps) of your wall transformer and also the set number it came with (ie. :6-xxxxx) ?

The Polar Express Set was 6-84328, purchased late 2017. It came with a 54 Watt power supply. (3000mA x 18v DC)

See attached photos. We have not had any issues with it, with the significant additions we've powered with it.

The power supply is fast acting, in my opinion, and resets quickly. This has been tested (unfortunately) A LOT and we have not noticed any adverse affects yet.

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  • 54 Watt DC Power Supply
  • Polar Express Set 6-84328

After re-reading this thread, I think it is well suited for this forum membership, but also for guests that visit via their Google search. I give them credit. For example, if my wife was a single grandma, and she found this thread she would say "Okay, I'll get that bigger Lionel version that plugs right in." Whereas, my daughter that would be on a tighter budget would give the laptop charger a try.

Luckily both of them would probably go directly to the "old man at the hobby shop" (my daughter's words) and take his advice, instead. Luckily all of our shops are good ones.

I ended up changing the barrel connector on the HP laptop P/S I mentioned above.  So now they have two more than adequate DC supplies for the kid's LionChief BlueTooth Loco set.

For the heck of it before he goes back home with his train set I thought I would maybe try to run it on my layout.

Knowing the track needs 18v AC I measured the voltage at the tracks with the KW at full throttle.  It only measures a little over 16v.  Too low.  The only other option is the fixed accessory terminal which says 20v and measures 19.5v.

Bad idea?

John

Last edited by Craftech

I can only give an educated guess, but I think you will be perfectly fine at 16-17VAC.  I think 19.5VAC would probably be ok for a short test, but I would feel much better at 16-17VAC.  I never bothered to check the AC voltage on any transformer before running Lionchief trains (unless it was obviously displayed).  We always just put it near the top.

A word of warning - some Lionchief engines perform dramatically differently on AC current.  I mean in terms of acceleration and where you put the throttle on the hand controller to get a given speed.  The engines go faster on AC.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ctOEdqs7irM

@Long Hair posted:

I can only give an educated guess, but I think you will be perfectly fine at 16-17VAC.  I think 19.5VAC would probably be ok for a short test, but I would feel much better at 16-17VAC.  I never bothered to check the AC voltage on any transformer before running Lionchief trains (unless it was obviously displayed).  We always just put it near the top.

A word of warning - some Lionchief engines perform dramatically differently on AC current.  I mean in terms of acceleration and where you put the throttle on the hand controller to get a given speed.  The engines go faster on AC.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ctOEdqs7irM

In the video they basically said, turn the CW80 up FULL and control the locos with the wireless remote.  Later in the video they stated that the CW80 was 18v at full throttle.  They didn't measure it though.

Right now I am giving my daughter two DC laptop power supplies with new appropriate sized barrel connectors.  One measures 18.5v DC and the other 19.3v DC.  Both work.

Maybe the voltage isn't that critical.  I can't imagine the CW80 puts out a dead on 18v at full throttle.

John

John -

Congratulations.  It sounds like you have been a great dad/granddad and solved the problem twice over.  You did something nice and small and convenient without spending a pile of cash.  Also, kids kind of hate AC transformers because they don't understand why they are forbidden to ever turn the enticing big knob on the transformer.  Good luck.

I have to imagine, based on the video and common sense, that Lionel designed Lionchief to work on a variety of widely available power supplies.  They do give you guidance, but the voltage is not critical.

Worst case scenario - even if your high voltage power solution does eventually burn out their locomotive, it seems like it will take a good long while.

Also, I would just reiterate to anyone reading that you can't really compare volts AC to volts DC.  It's an apple to oranges comparison between two very different animals - for a variety of reasons.

@stan2004 posted:

If your train and accessories operate on DC, and the problem is an undersized power pack, a low-cost option is a laptop charger.  For about $10 shipped you can get a 90 Watt DC output "brick" with a choice of plug/barrel tips.  These are all recycled photos from previous OGR discussions:

90w dc output for about ten bucks ebay shipped us seller



Stan, brace yourself for a dumb question. Do these universal laptop power supplies typically have an internal circuit breaker, if so, what type/speed?  Also, do these typically have TVS diodes built-in?

My gut says they should since they are designed to power computer components, but not sure...



Thanks!

I've never seen a laptop charger brick that has a "circuit breaker" in the traditional sense of a button you press to "reset" it.  Modern DC-output bricks, wall-warts, adapters or whatever you want to call them use a standard/cookbook circuit which provides a inherent wide-ranging circuit protection features for "free" that includes current/voltage protection.  For example, the first eBay listing that came up on a search for universal laptop charger:

Untitled

That's a very insightful question/point about "speed" of the circuit protection.  You read many OGR threads about fault response time for different train transformers.

I acknowledge my ignorance and welcome anyone who has specific technical details on fault response time requirements for DC-output power supplies, adapters, bricks, or whatever as used in O-gauge TRAIN applications.  Frankly, if Lionel or any other train supplier designed their DC-output sources differently because of unique requirements in O-gauge DC trains I'd like to educate myself on what those are so please share your knowledge!

Your question about TVS protection is likewise very insightful.  When the bricks talk about "overvoltage" protection, this is NOT the same as the transient over-voltage protection offered by TVS (Transient Voltage Suppressor) component.  Again, speaking from ignorance, I'd be pleasantly surprised if the typical DC-output adapter has a transient voltage protection component.  Again, if Lionel or any other train supplier includes transient overvoltage protection you'd think they would advertise this capability to distinguish/market their power supplies as better suited for O-gauge train applications.  Please educate me!

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