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In the future I will be moving into an apartment where I'll finally be able to build a layout.

Thinking ahead toward the purchase of a transformer to run the layout.

What are the pros/cons of the 2 different transformers mentioned in the Subject of this post?

I will have a choice of 2 different rooms to decide which one will be the train room (obviously the bigger would be nice, but not sure until I actually move in). One is 12 x 12; the other is 12x14.75.

I already have two CW-80 (80 watt; 6-14198) that I'm thinking about using to power switches and accessories. I also have a 1.8 amp (36-watt; 6-32923) transformer that I think I could also use for accessories and switches.

I have a few Menards buildings and some Lionel lighted accessories. Not sure how many switches I'll have.

Added info: I already have both the Lionel LEGACY system and the MTH DCS. While I have FasTrack and Lionel switches, I prefer the MTH DCS system.

Last edited by paulp575
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@NYC 428 posted:

MTH is going out of business this April/May and Z-4000 parts will no longer be available.  So go with the ZW-L

While MTH IS going out of business in April 2021, Mike Wolfe (CEO) has already said parts and service will continue - and according to an e-mail I saw, at least until spring 2022 since they will honor warranties for all their products sold - some of which won't be available until April 2021.

Hmmm, good question.  My take..............................

On a layout your size, a Lionel ZW-L is way overkill.  It will power your entire layout and do everything you want it to do, and not break a sweat.  You can throw your current little transformers in a box, stash them under your layout, and forget about them.  Chances are good that you would never need another transformer the rest of your like.  Plus there's the "cool" factor - nothing screams "Lionel" or "3-Rail" like a ZW-L does!  The only downfall - it's almost twice the cost of a Z-4000.

On the other hand, for a layout your size, an MTH Z-4000 would be above average.  It will power your entire layout and probably do most everything you want it to do, but may break a sweat occasionally.  Better keep your current little transformers handy, in case you need a little extra oomph for something or other.  Chances are good that you might need another large transformer sometime down the road, or maybe not.  Fortunately, since it's almost half the cost of a ZW-L, that would allow you to buy more power down the road if you do need more.  At which point in time you will have just as much money (or more) tied up in transformers than if you had bought a Lionel ZW-L to begin with.

After considerable research and sole-searching a few years ago, I sprang for a brand new Lionel ZW-L instead of an MTH Z-4000 for these exact reasons.  As of right now, the ZW-L is the single most expensive O-gauge item that I have purchased, and I'm entirely happy with it!

If I were you, I'd go with the ZWL simply because the company that produces it is still in business(at least for now), which lowers your risk of your transformer being transformed into a very expensive boat anchor in the event of a failure. I bought 2 brand-new Z4Ks in 2018 and am very happy with them--especially the wireless remote for conventional operation--but if I were shopping for a new large transformer today, I'd go with the ZWLs instead due to the uncertainty of MTHs future. We keep hearing stories about parts being available after they close, but in my opinion it's not worth the risk.

I love my ZW-L, however it recently experienced the failure described in this thread:

I shipped it off to Lionel and likely won't see it for two months since it's out of warranty (bought used).  Prior to that it I never had any issues and absolutely loved using it on my temporary floor layouts in my apartment.  Plenty of power for two trains and accessories and anything else you can think of.  The failure dampened my thoughts about it a little bit, but going forward when it returns I'll likely add some external circuit protection to prevent future issues.

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