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Hi, All.  Life time 3 Railer, long time forum lurker, first time poster.    I'm going to post more of an intro in the layout section about my past, current, and future layouts, but for now I had a few questions I hope to get some help with.  Or at least pointed in the right direction.

My last layout (in 2006, basement layout approximately 25'x15') was all conventional control with blocks and that was pretty straight forward compared to the options that are out there today.

I've been researching the Lionel Legacy control system and I'm still trying to digest all the info.  I've poured over the archives here on the forums and watched YouTube videos 'til my eye glazed over but I'm unsure of what I need.

I've attached my layout for reference.

I want conventional control on both loops so the crossovers between the loops and the sidings will need to be insulated but I have Legacy engines as well so I want to run them on all loops when not using the conventional engines. 



I'd love to get suggestions on what pieces would make the most sense to power and control the layout.  I know I need the Legacy Command set to start with but that's as far as I am.   I'm not sure what combination of other pieces will get me where I want to go.  I don't think I need the Block Power Controller just yet - I'd be OK with using a simple toggle switch set up for the sidings.  Do I need a Powerhouse for each isolated section?  What's the difference between the 180W Powerhouse and 180WPowermaster?  (I think the Powermaster will give me the conventional control through the CAB remote.)

Any input on equipment & wiring or suggestions on reading materials would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks!

Vin

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@BobbyD is correct.  PowerHouse is a fixed 18V AC output transformer.  The Legacy PowerMaster receives commands from the Legacy Base (sent from a Cab2 remote).  Powermaster can either pass that Voltage straight thru in Command mode or provide a variable  AC voltage output in Conventional mode, controlled by the Legacy Cab2.

@VJandP  One more thing of note in the 3-rail electrical lexicon, there is a distinction between insulated and isolated.  When it comes to electrically separating track blocks, you'd be wanting isolation (an electrical gap in the center rail power).

Insulated rails typically refer to separation of the ground between two outside rails on a track section, and is often used in operating accessories.  In that Insulated track section, there is also a gap in one of the outside rails at each end of that insulated section.  When the metal train wheels/axles enter that section they complete the ground circuit to the accessory.

Last edited by SteveH

Vin,

Everyone above is correct so far.  Here's more detail.

1.) Track Connections -- Assuming you're intending to control the conventional locos on the two loops independently, and by using a CAB-x handheld, you'll need two PowerMasters, or the non-Lionel equivalent of them from back in the day, IC Controls' TPCs.  Since Lionel later bought the rights the TPC design from IC Controls there are also Lionel TPCs available on the used market.  For your layout you could use the same make and model on both loops for sake of convenience.  On the other hand if you want to be frugal you can use two different ones of either type, and even mix types, assuming you can used ones at a good discount.  Each one will need to be set up with an independent address or ID# as part of firing everything up.

2.) Power Source -- A PowerMaster or TPC is a only a throttle.  It needs an AC power source to provide power to it, which it then controls and feeds to the track to run the train.  This source can be of many types.  One is a PowerHouse, like a PH-180, or the older and less powerful PH-135, which are fixed AC power supplies of approximately 18 VAC.  Another could be an old-fashioned transformer like a KW or ZW, with its handle turned all the way up, or nearly so, to get the 18 VAC.

3.) Handheld Controller -- It also needs a handheld controller (CAB-1, 1L, or 2) from which to receive the instructions for control.  CAB-1 only works with Base-1; CAB-1L works with Base-1L or Base-2; CAB-2 works with Base-2.

4.)Operating Conventional Equipment -- With this setup when you put a conventional locomotive on either loop use the CAB-x's knob to vary the voltage to the track and run the train just like you would by using the lever on a old-fashioned transformer, but now in the palm of your hand.  Just make sure that you select the proper PowerMaster or TPC device by entering it's Address/ID No. on the CAB-x before attempting to control it.

5.)Operating Command-Control Equipment -- Because command locomotives run on fixed voltage, and not variable, with this setup when you put a command control locomotive on either loop you must first issue a command to your PowerMaster, or TPC, on that loop to go to full voltage output for that loop, one way is by turning the knob on the CAB-x to maximum, and you're ready to run it.  You'll run it by next selecting the engine, by pushing the ENG button on the CAB-x and then typing the ID Number for that engine.  Afterward the knob will control its speed and not the PowerMaster/TPC (until you reselect it).

6.) Sidings -- Your suggestion of using toggle switches for the sidings will be OK.  These switches simply need to connect the siding's center rail to that of the loop track to which they connect.  Turn one on to pull a train into or out of a siding.  Turn it off once fully in, or fully out.  Be sure to remove the track pin for the center rail at the point the siding connects to its loop.

7.) Power Protection -- Fuses, Circuit Breakers, or Electronic Overload Protection.  This is big topic with several threads on this forum dedicated to it.

See, for example:

    Airpax Snapac Hydraulic-Magnetic Circuit Breaker Internal Mechanisms - Updated 5/12/2021 | SteveH

    or

    ZW to PowerMaster to PSX1-AC to legacy BPC2 to track | RMMorrow



All seven steps above work for either TMCC or Legacy or both, but using a CAB-2, instead of a CAB-1 or 1L, in Step 3 works best for Legacy.

Let us know if you have any more questions.

Mike

Last edited by Mellow Hudson Mike

@VJandP  Regarding your SCARM track plan:

1) Uploading the actual SCARM file to this topic would be helpful to see more detail and for others to make suggestions.

2) I noticed in your plan that the track appears to be FasTrack and that none of the switches have 1-3/8" isolated sections attached.  These isolated sections have removable jumpers underneath that allow you to create isolated track sections when removed.  They come in three varieties: 1) Full Roadbed (roadbed on both sides, 2) Half-roadbed (roadbed on only one side), and No Roadbed.  O-60 and O-72 switches each come with two 1-3/8" half roadbed sections and one 1-3/8" no roadbed section.  The way FasTrack O-60 and O-72 switches are made at their diverging ends, they either require these pieces or to cut off part of the roadbed from the adjoining track.  [EDIT SCARM doesn't autocratically include these isolated pieces when adding O-60 and O-72 switches to the plan.  It relies on you to add them or not.] Even though O31, O36, and O48 switches don't have this 1-3/8" requirement, using the full roadbed isolated sections, allows easy isolation of the connected block(s).

Here's what the O-72 looks like with one of the half-roadbed pieces removed. The Blue circle is the jumper that can be removed to isolate adjacent track sections.

O-72 Switch end - removable jumper

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  • O-72 Switch end - removable jumper
Last edited by SteveH

Just a thought, but you might want to also consider a Lionel ZW-L transformer.  It's similar to having 4 powerhouse 180s and 4 powermasters, but all in one unit.  Lots of flexibility for both conventional and command control, powering accessories, etc. Might be nice if you plan to expand from your original plan above (thinking of the 2006 25x15 layout you mentioned).

I can't begin to describe all it's features so the manual is attached below.

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Last edited by rtr12
@rtr12 posted:

Just a thought, but you might want to also consider a Lionel ZW-L transformer.  It's similar to having 4 powerhouse 180s and 4 powermasters, but all in one unit.  Lots of flexibility for both conventional and command control, powering accessories, etc. Might be nice if you plan to expand from your original plan above (thinking of the 2006 25x15 layout you mentioned).

I can't begin to describe all it's features so the manual is attached below.

I strongly recommend the ZW-L as well.  Formidable transformer ... and more.

To demonstrate the use of 1-3/8" isolation pieces (and to play with the new version of SCARM a bit) I took the liberty of re-creating your basic plan including these.

I also thought you may want to consider using O60 curves instead of O48 on the lower passing siding since the rest of the outer loop is O72.  This substitution takes up essentially the same space and would allow you to run trains with a minimum O-54 curve spec on that siding.

The SCARM file and image are attached.

V2alt

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  • V2alt
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Last edited by SteveH

All - Thank you so much for the responses.  I understand more after reading through this thread than I did after all the reading and videos over the past months.

@SteveH - Thank you for the multiple, detailed responses and in particular reworking the track plan to include the insulated pieces. You guessed correctly it's Fastrack and that also that I wanted to leave my options open for larger engines.  Just to pull the edge of the layout in an inch or two, I purposely used 048.  But you're right, there are engines that are 054 min and the 060 would allow me to consider those and be able to park them on the siding. I was going to attach the SCARM file to my upcoming post in the layout section but see it would have added some value here.  As I've seen in other threads .. Rule #1 .. attach your files!!!  I'm going to rework my track plan and will share it.

@Mellow Hudson Mike - Your post is a mini-Wikipedia.  The break down of the difference pieces is fantastic.  Thank you!

@rtr12 Going for the big guns ZW might not be a bad idea.  It might be a little overkill for this layout, but I would grow into when I can build my future layout.  Thank you for the link to the manual.

The hobby has changed so much in the past 10 years.  I have a lot to learn.

I appreciate all the responses and will take everything into consideration for my next steps.  I'm going to rework the track plan, reconsider my wants and priorities for this "temporary layout" (2 - 3 years), and take a stab at choosing some equipment - which I'll post here before I do anything. 

- Vin

Last edited by VJandP

FYI - I had been tinkering with my track plan and decided to add a reversing loop and a few more sidings.  This is my latest file and does NOT reflect what I learned tonight.  I'll be working on the updates over the next few days to share.

As an FYI, I'm not concerned with scenery or prototypical operations on this layout.  My goal with this layout is specifically to learn about Lionel Legacy.  I thought I'd spend the next couple of years working with these new systems and all the accessories so once the opportunity comes to build my next layout, I'll have these basics down.   

Look for an upcoming thread in the Layout Forum. I'm anxious to share my past layouts, what I'm doing today, and what my future goals are.

Thanks!

- Vin

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Last edited by VJandP
@Craftech posted:

It looks like you can only reverse direction once from CCW travel and that's it.  None from CW travel.

John

Good point John.  I would point out that sometimes in limited space with other requirements (yard), having only one reversing loop is a trade-off.

In which case, one can back the locomotive thru the "reverse" to change the orientation of the locomotive.  Whether the rest of the train needs to be disconnected first depends on the length of that train and weights of the cars, among other things.

Good call out on the single reverse loop.   As I mentioned, this layout is more about learning how to use the Legacy system with all it's accessories and add ons.  I'm not 100% concerned with prototypical operations or having to pick up the occasional engine.  There's block controllers and all sorts of things I want to learn about and sort out if I'll need them when I get to my next layout.  I thought it would be easier to learn on a smaller layout.

@SteveH - Quick question about the 072 and 060 turn outs ....  Is that small extension required ALWAYS when using these particular turn outs or only when an insulated extension is needed?

Thanks!

- Vin

On the subject of uncoupling, one of the great advantages of Legacy, TMCC, LionChief Plus and LC 2.0 locomotives is that they typically have electrocouplers that can be operated from their respective handheld remotes.  For Conventional locomotives and most cars though, they need to be uncoupled either by hand, or with electromagnets in a 5" Uncoupling track (6-12020) or 10" Operating Track (6-12054).  You may want to consider including some of those in strategic locations throughout your track plan.

@BobbyD posted:

It may be required to duplicate a full curved track section of that radius.

It does with O36 switches, they need the 1/4 curve to equal the whole curve (45 degree) piece.  That's not the case but with O60 and O72 switches.  Their curved side has the same 22.5 degree arc as their full curve counterparts.  The 1-3/8" isolated sections are completely straight.

Last edited by SteveH
@SteveH posted:

Not including either the Half Roadbed or the No roadbed pieces means that you'd need to cut off part of the roadbed from the normal piece that would go in its place at the divergent end of the switch.  Maybe this picture will help make this clearer.

O72


Well daaaaaamn ….  I’ve seen that little piece between the tracks in pictures and wasn’t sure what that was about.  This totally helps.  Thank you!

@SteveH posted:

It does with O36 switches, they need the 1/4 curve to equal the whole curve (45 degree) piece.  That's not the case but with O60 and O72 switches.  Their curved side has the same 22.5 degree arc as their full curve counterparts.  The 1-3/8" isolated sections are completely straight.

Yeah, sadly FasTrak is way too expensive to be cutting pieces up just to fit rather than use the segment. Unfortunately it adds another track joint and we've had center pins loosen.

Hey All - I've attached an updated layout plan using @SteveH's suggestion to use larger curves on the outer passing siding.  But then I thought, why not just use 060 on the inner loop, too?  054 min curve engines for everyone!  I posted in the layout forum as well for input about SCARM and the overall design.

Also, I decided to skip the conventional engines and will add an elevated loop that I'll use my current transformers to power.

So now I can be more focused on what I'd like to accomplish. 

My question now is, how many power sources would I need for this layout?  If each of the two yards is it's own block, as well as the outer passing siding, and each loop ... do I need 5 (five) separate bricks?  Or would one brick power the entire layout?  I'm imagining I could cut power to the siding by insulating it with a toggle switch.

As always, the input would be appreciated.

- Vin

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Based on this plan:

Double Loop w Reverse and Sidings V1balt

If you want to use PH 180 Powerhouse Bricks, and you also decide to include PowerMasters to allow Conventional locomotive control, and you're not also planning on a ZW-L, I would think that:

If you're only using Legacy, one PowerMaster 180 may be enough. Conventionally, 2wo of each PH 180 and PM 180 would be more than plenty to run two or more trains simultaneously.  One PH/PM for the Blue track and the other pair for Grey and Orange tracks. With Legacy, it's a matter or having enough current on demand to run the trains, not how many tracks you want to control.  The control occurs in the Legacy electronics.  With the added circuit protection outlined by @Mellow Hudson Mike you could use one or more of your existing transformers instead of or in combination with a brick.

For conventional control the orange track would be isolated by the removal of the jumpers under the 1-3/8" isolated track sections. Same for the yard spurs.  As you mentioned, if you have Conventional locomotives parked in these places, while running other trains on the 2 main loops, they could be disconnected by a switch or other means while running other trains on the main lines.

If you only want to use PH bricks, two are plenty and no track disconnects and isolation are necessary.

P.S.  As I was finishing typing this I re-read your last post and noticed the part about you deciding not to include Conventional control.  I would recommend that you include the option for Conventional in your track plan.  As you're learning Legacy, you may decide to add some PowerMasters.  If you plan ahead a little with the track layout (including isolating sections at switches), it's should be an easy addition.

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  • Double Loop w Reverse and Sidings V1balt
Last edited by SteveH
@SteveH posted:


If you only want to use PH bricks, two are plenty and no track disconnects and isolation are necessary.

To confirm, if I go this route does it mean the PHs would both be connected to the same set of tracks? One hot from each to the center rail on the same section, ditto the ground?   If that’s the case I did not realize you could double up power like that. Do they need to be wired in series?

Yes, you can wire multiple powerhouse supplies in parallel (and in phase - note some early powerhouses are not properly in phase with the polarized wall plug and require the Lionel 6SP-2983-010 that Lionel released to correct this). Some of the larger wattage rated TPCs, PowerMasters, and Lionel "transformers" do this internally from the multiple input terminals. However, it is much more advantageous, in my well experienced opinion, to have multiple power districts with common ground to spread the load. Also, be sure not to overlook proper over current and over voltage protections regardless of your power setup.

Furthermore, if you have, with consideration, split your track plan into blocks and power districs, you can then assign a PowerMasterr to a series of blocks for conventional operation while leaving other blocks available to be assigned to another PowerMaster for another conventional train or to be assigned full voltage for command operations. Add in rotary block switches and whatnot and you can get extremely dynamic with power distribution and block assignments. Or you can keep it simple and track/loop 1 is one power district with one PowerHouse and one PowerMaster and track 2/loop 2 is another power district with one PowerHouse and one PowerMaster.

Last edited by bmoran4

Agreeing with @bmoran4 and adding to that, you could also power each of the two loops independently, with one brick each (with or without a PowerMaster) to limit each loop to 10Amps max.  In which case you'd still want to ensure correct phasing throughout and would need to isolate the two power districts.

If the bricks were wired in parallel, then you'd have 20Amps available.  Personally, I prefer to limit the current to 10Amps max, even with fast circuit breakers.

Last edited by SteveH

Personally, I would not parallel two PH-180s. I would do as SteveH says above and isolate my loops of track limiting each to 10 amps. Or one PH-180 per isolated loop of track.  However, if you do choose to parallel two PH-180s then I would highly recommend using a Powermaster 360, that is what the PM-360s were designed to do, safely.

Attached is a manual for the Legacy PM-360.

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I'd go with the ZW-L, personally, for something of this size. You can get away with something smaller, but if you're planning to eventually build a bigger layout, you might want more power later, and it allows you to run command and conventional all from your legacy remote. I don't think you can get 4 power house/power master combos for the cost of the ZW-L.

My layout is 9x12 with 2 loops and some turntable whisker tracks and sidings. I'm currently using 3 of the ZW-L outputs: 1 for each loop and one for the sidings & whisker tracks. I have SPST toggle switches wired to the whisker tracks so I can turn them each off individually. It's nice to have individual control over the different "regions" when derailments happen - it allows the rest of the layout to keep on running.

You guys are awesome.  Thank you for the informative discussion.


I’m leaning towards the ZW-L.   I’ll def grow into it over the next couple of years.  And it feels like the “simpler” but right way to go.   I’ll isolate each loop (2 separate blocks), the 2 inner yards together (each with its own toggle), and outer passing siding for a total of 4 blocks.    

The other thought is to keep the outer loop and passing siding in the same block and use the 4th output for accessories or to power the switches   Thoughts on that?

If I’m understanding correctly, I would only need the ZW-L and the Legacy Control and I’m good to go…. relatively speaking. I’ll also need a few dozen hours and lots of wire

Think of the ZW-L as 4 channels or banks of power, each having a PowerHouse and a PowerMaster.

The plan really only has two Power Districts: 1) The Outer Loop with Passing Siding;  and 2) The Inner Loop, Reverse Loop and Yards.

These only require 2 channels of the ZW-L because you probably wouldn't want to run more than 2 Conventional trains at any given time.  Alternatively, you could potentially run 4-6 Legacy locomotives simultaneously with 2 ZW-L channels connected in this way. You can even mix and match, Conventional in one Power District and Legacy in the other.

These two Power Districts can be further divided into Power Blocks as follows:

1a) Outer loop Mainline

1b) Outer loop Passing Siding

2a) Inner loop Mainline and Reverse loop

2b, c, d, e, f, and g) each Yard Spur individually

If you look at the suggested changes I made to your track plan closely, you'll notice that each of these locations has a 1-3/8" isolation piece.

If you're only using Legacy, all of these Power Blocks can remain powered all the time.

If you also want to have Conventional Loco on the layout, then each of the Power Blocks can be turned on or off individually with switches as needed.

This leaves you with two remaining Channels on the ZW-L that you could use for Switches and other track accessories.

Last edited by SteveH
@VJandP posted:

You guys are awesome.  Thank you for the informative discussion.


I’m leaning towards the ZW-L.   I’ll def grow into it over the next couple of years.  And it feels like the “simpler” but right way to go.   I’ll isolate each loop (2 separate blocks), the 2 inner yards together (each with its own toggle), and outer passing siding for a total of 4 blocks.

Seems reasonable - I definitely think separating the mainlines is wise (and essential for conventional running). Depending on what you plan to park in the yards, toggles might not even be worth the effort. I only put toggles on the whisker tracks coming off my turntable and one longer siding where I sometimes park lash-ups or my Big Boy which is too long for the TT.  My sidings typically only host freight cars, so toggles on those tracks don't really gain me anything.

The other thought is to keep the outer loop and passing siding in the same block and use the 4th output for accessories or to power the switches   Thoughts on that?

I think that would be fine, but it's ultimately your call. Definitely worth having a spare output if you decide to add uncoupling/operating tracks or accessories later on.

If you're using Fastrack with the Remote/Command switches, they can pull their power directly from the track. I can say from personal experience they work great in a constant voltage command environment. This may not work as well in conventional environment with variable voltage - from the manual "The switch operates best at 5-18 volts (AC)."

If I’m understanding correctly, I would only need the ZW-L and the Legacy Control and I’m good to go…. relatively speaking. I’ll also need a few dozen hours and lots of wire

Yep, trade your large wad of cash for a ZW-L and a Legacy #990 set and you'll be all set!

Ach! @SteveH beat me to it

Last edited by Mike0289

Thank you @SteveH and @Mike0289 for the additional detail. Can’t tell you how much I appreciate your help in understanding all this.

One last point of clarification… I had read somewhere that I also need a “command base”.   if I understand correctly, the Legacy module is the command base and that’s what sends the control signals to the via a direct connection to the track.  

@VJandP posted:

Thank you @SteveH and @Mike0289 for the additional detail. Can’t tell you how much I appreciate your help in understanding all this.

One last point of clarification… I had read somewhere that I also need a “command base”.   if I understand correctly, the Legacy module is the command base and that’s what sends the control signals to the via a direct connection to the track.  

Yup, the Legacy base is your command base. Its single wire output should be connected to the common post on each of your transformers that will power track/trains. The Legacy base and ZW-L make this easy - both have a port for a speaker style banana plug, so you just have to make one connection to get the command signal to everything the ZW-L powers. I have about a 12" length of 16 gauge wire with these banana plugs on each end that I use to connect my Legacy base output to the ZW-L command input. I've attached a couple photos for your reference - you want to connect the "U" port on the Legacy base to the "BASE" port on the ZW-L.

6A541745-E378-4944-BF33-EAB0F7329BA7

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  • 6A541745-E378-4944-BF33-EAB0F7329BA7
@SteveH posted:

This 2012 video from Mike Regan (then at Lionel) indicates that the Legacy base is required with the ZW-L.  If this has changed, hopefully someone else here will note that.

Lionel ZW-L Product Overview Video

I suspect that may be true if you want to take advantage of the PowerMaster capability the ZW-L has built in and run conventional locomotives via a Legacy remote. Although these days maybe the CAB1-L and its command base would work as well. But can't think of a reason why you couldn't use a standalone ZW-L to run any type of AC locomotive conventionally just using the ZW-L handles...

Last edited by Mike0289

@Mike0289 Thanks for the info and the pic.  I’ll pick up some of the banana plugs.

What gauge wiring are you using between the Legacy base and the ZW?  From the ZW to the tracks? I’ve read that 16 is optimal for track power and running a bus around the layout to tap into, as well.  

Are the tabs built in under the Fastrack sufficient for connections or should I use the factory “Lock On House”  or terminal track?  Soldering?

@VJandP posted:

@Mike0289 Thanks for the info and the pic.  I’ll pick up some of the banana plugs.

What gauge wiring are you using between the Legacy base and the ZW?  From the ZW to the tracks? I’ve read that 16 is optimal for track power and running a bus around the layout to tap into, as well.

I'm using 16 gauge speaker wire all over my U-shaped 9x12 layout and haven't had any issues. My ZW-L and Legacy base are in the center walk-in area of the layout and I have terminal blocks for each ZW-L output located in the center of each side of the layout with drops to the track running from them. This is approximately a "star" wiring setup, if I'm not mistaken.

Are the tabs built in under the Fastrack sufficient for connections or should I use the factory “Lock On House”  or terminal track?  Soldering?

I crimp and solder these connectors to the speaker wire for easy connection to the tabs on the bottom of Lionel Fastrack. This method is OK for a semi-temporary layout like mine, but I started crimping AND soldering because a few times when changing up my track plan I found the speaker wire had pulled out of the connector when I had only crimped them (could be bad crimping too). If you're building something permanent, I'd consider soldering short wire drops right to the Fastrack and then using suitcase connectors to tap them into a bus running around the layout. Or soldering longer drops to the track and routing them back to terminal blocks if the "star" wiring method.

Which wiring method you use depends mainly on what control systems you want to use. I only use Legacy, which is pretty forgiving, but I've read/heard from others that MTH DCS works better when the layout is wired in the "star" pattern.

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