Hi all, Newbie to the forum and kinda sorta new to O gauge trains. As a kid I only had access to HO trains but recently was handed down my Uncle's collections of O Gauge trains which includes Lionel, MTH, K-Line, Atlas and William's lines plus some HO stuff. While I was boxing up some Marklin HO stuff he mentioned that it ran on AC which he preferred over DC - frankly it had never occurred to me before that there that some brands would use AC instead of DC. I purchased an MTH RailKing set around 20 years ago and having looked at the transformer (Z-750) saw where it was rated at 21VAC. The problem I'm having is being unable to run other lines on the the RailKing track. I've tested Williams and Lionel and found that both engines light up, though the Williams looks weak at full power and I'm coming to the conclusion that the Z-750 isn't delivering enough power for either of these brands to actually move their engines on the track. 

I have a Lionel power supply but now wondering if I rig it up to the MTH track could it over power the MTH engine? I've searched around but it seems that most threads and site these days are all talking about RC which I plan on implementing once I finish my shelf layout plan but in the meantime would like to make sure I'm not running the risk of blowing up some of these engines that have been handed down and want to separate out any of the trains that don't run as I may be putting some pieces up for sale.

Thanks for any advice you can provide.

Bill

Original Post

I'll take a crack. Yes O Gauge is AC. In general volts are volts. When you power the track there is nothing "special" about the brand of the transformer.  There is a Lionel transformer (CW80) that has an electronically chopped sine wave that doesn't work well with MTH engines. That is an exception. I cannot recall any discussion of where a Brand X locomotive won't run with a MTH transformer.

Is it possible that the Z750 is inadequate? Yes, depending upon how much track you have. There are several other things that you could be dealing with. Dirty track, pickups, or wheels.  If the engines have been sitting unused for a prolonged period of time they may need a good cleaning and lubrication. 

Tom is definitely pointing you in the right direction. If I may add to his advice, take your track apart and clean the connectors and rails with denatured Alcohol. As you stated they have been used before.

Also clean you wheels and pick up rollers dirty contacts and rails will act like a dropping resistor to your voltage.

O-gauge trains may take AC from the transformer but it gets converted in the engine to DC to drive the motors. This is true for all modern engines.

In the Post War Lionel they did use AC motors in the engines. The arcing of the brushes created the ozone smell that brings such found memories back to us older kids.

IN short Bill, have fun. There is much to be learned about our hobby and on this site there are plenty who love to share their knowledge.

Please keep us posted on how your layout develops.   

 

Keep Your Rails Polished!

Best thing you can do is by an inexpensive multimeter and check the voltage output of the transformer/s you are using.  The 750 is a good unit. If you track is clean, your pick up rollers are clean, and the loco is lubricated, Yout MTH locos should fire up.  Likewise, the Lionel transformer will also run the MTH engines, but not all the accessories in them.  Also make sure you have power going completely to all of your track.  

Any transformer needs to put out at least 10 Volts AC to move most older engines. You will need at least that much voltage.  The lights will operate on 4 volts and up. So just a head light on is not an indication of  the correct power going through the track....  Check all your connections, and get back to us'..

 

 

  Ted 

 

A problem I have come across with modern digital voltmeters is the input resistance is so high, you can't see that there is a weak connection. A (say) 10 ohm resistance inserted between the transformer and the meter with 10,000,000 ohms won't be seen, but it will wreck havoc on the power delivered to an engine. I find a caboose or passenger car with one or more working incandescent light bulbs can solve that problem, or, use them together. Put the caboose at the furthest point from the transformer attachment and start measuring voltage along the way.

Michael T.

Thanks all for the feedback and the warm welcome. I realize now I could have provided a little more detail in my original post. What I meant by vendor compatibility had specifically to with electrical compatibility between brands. Most of what I was looking for has already been answered. If I understand correctly the volts being delivered to the track are in AC and then get converted in the engine to DC and this is consistent through all of the O gauge brands.

In my test scenario I have a small oval MTH Realtrax layout (10 pieces of track) with the MTH Z-750 power supply connected. According to my multimeter the rails are getting about 19.7 volts max with the MTH remote cranked to full. One of the trains I inherited was a 4-6-0 steamer MTH Protosound 2.0 that does run but is slow to start and needs a lot of power delivered to the track before it will get going. I'll revisit the track cleaning effort tomorrow with some denatured alchohol and see if that improves things. I figured if the steamer runs with a lot of power then the Lionel and Williams should run as well but perhaps the wheels need some attention or maybe the MTH is more forgiving, not sure but will perform due diligence. Also while on the topic I have a pair of prewar Lionel Lines 4-4-2 steamers that I would like to test - is there anything I should be concerned about here?

Wyseguy posted:

One of the trains I inherited was a 4-6-0 steamer MTH Protosound 2.0 that does run but is slow to start and needs a lot of power delivered to the track before it will get going. 

With ten pieces of track you should have zero power issues. 

MTH PS 2 locomotives do go through a startup sequence. Part of the sequence the locomotive is looking for the watchdog signal from the Track Interface Unit (TIU). If it doesn't see it, it powers up in conventional (running with just the transformer). Yes, PS2 engines do need more throttle to run. There's much more electronics inside.

Many of us have "Shelf Queens". An engine that used to run but for whatever reason needs repair. It is possible that you're doing everything right, but an engine isn't running because at some point in its past something broke. Good news, Williams engines are simple to fix and parts are available.

Old Lionel engines, I'd say a good cleaning is in order. The motor needs to be taken apart and the brushes checked/replaced. 

All good stuff above and we just scrached the surface. That said you should be able to get you trains running in convetional at this point.

Also, please check your batteries as stated above. You can pick up a battery tester at any electronic store for less money than a cheap multi meter cost. 

 

Keep Your Rails Polished!

Gilly@N&W posted:

I'll take a crack. Yes O Gauge is AC. In general volts are volts. When you power the track there is nothing "special" about the brand of the transformer.  There is a Lionel transformer (CW80) that has an electronically chopped sine wave that doesn't work well with MTH engines. That is an exception. I cannot recall any discussion of where a Brand X locomotive won't run with a MTH transformer.

Is it possible that the Z750 is inadequate? Yes, depending upon how much track you have. There are several other things that you could be dealing with. Dirty track, pickups, or wheels.  If the engines have been sitting unused for a prolonged period of time they may need a good cleaning and lubrication. 

The CW80 is hardly unique in its chopped wave output. In fact, MTH’s Z-500, Z-750 and Z-1000 also have chopped sine wave outputs.

The MTH Z-4000 is pure wave, as is Atlas’ Pure Power and all postwar transformers.

Jim R. 

riki posted:

Do these MTH have batteries?. Yes you do have batteries.

You have sound..

Pull the shell. If you have a white battery toss it.  Get a 9v. That one if these guys will suggest.

Or ask your uncle about the battery.

Hold on there! You can’t replace the white rechargeable battery with a regular 9-volt battery. Terrible advice. You need a rechargeable battery rated at 8.4 volts to maintain the circuit as designed.

The advice you see here is usually to replace the white battery with MTH’s green battery.

The other option is to install a BCR (Battery Component Replacement), a capacitor circuit designed in the shape of a 9-volt battery.

Jim R. 

Wyseguy posted:

. While I was boxing up some Marklin HO stuff he mentioned that it ran on AC which he preferred over DC - frankly it had never occurred to me before that there that some brands would use AC instead of DC.

To my knowledge, all DCC systems (all scales) need AC to the track. AC has some advantages in the real RR world of "electric trains" - AC will travel over a greater distance without a need for a booster substation.

I do not believe that the above characteristic applies to our little world, but DCC uses AC for some reason. Don't know what. 

Jim R. posted:

Hold on there! You can’t replace the white rechargeable battery with a regular 9-volt battery. Terrible advice. You need a rechargeable battery rated at 8.4 volts to maintain the circuit as designed.

The on-board circuitry will not care if the battery has an "extra" 6/10 of a volt. A RECHARGEABLE 9-volt battery will work fine.

A BCR is even better.

Rich Melvin

D500 posted:
Wyseguy posted:

. While I was boxing up some Marklin HO stuff he mentioned that it ran on AC which he preferred over DC - frankly it had never occurred to me before that there that some brands would use AC instead of DC.

To my knowledge, all DCC systems (all scales) need AC to the track. AC has some advantages in the real RR world of "electric trains" - AC will travel over a greater distance without a need for a booster substation.

I do not believe that the above characteristic applies to our little world, but DCC uses AC for some reason. Don't know what. 

Standard  (non command control) Marklin still uses good old traditional variable sine wave AC, just like traditional Lionel.  Except Marklin uses a higher pulse of AC to activate their reverse units.

AC in DCC is a different matter, it's not a fixed frequency like traditional AC and it is a square wave.  The width of the AC pulses of the square wave IS the data.  DC is a fixed (although variable) level.  You cannot use a fixed DC level as data.

Rusty

Hey all, This has been very helpful and I've beeIn able to figure out what's working and what's not. I actually have more MTH units not running properly than anything else, but two of these are a bit unusual. One is a Pennsylvania F3 ABA set missing the B unit and the other is a UP gas turbine diesel. In the case of the Penn set I can connect the two A units together and get sounds to come up but the units will not got anywhere - the manual was included and this is trying to get it running through my MTH PS2 remote. My best guess tells me that I need the B unit to make this work, can anyone confirm?

With the UP there are no connecting wires/sockets between any of the three units and the engine will also sound but never goes anywhere, I am at a loss for why this set doesn't work and why it has no connecting wires. Anyone know the history on this set?

If you can get the PRODUCT NUMBER from the box, that would be helpful.  If you don't have the boxes, then post some photos showing the locomotives with the numbers visible on the side of the cab, and maybe the underside too.  MTH made several different versions of the 4-6-0, and F-units too.

Creep, coast, and pull.  We're not talking about cold fusion here.

Hi Ted, The road numbers are 8970 and 8971, there's nothing distinguishing on the bottom of the units. I should have added that I don't have the box but I have the square styrofoam packaging that the units fit into and the B unit is clearly missing. I have the manual as well.

So this is your Diesel set:  https://mthtrains.com/30-2312-1

I'm not an expert regarding the electronics.  Personally, I thought the B-unit only contained a tether to pass power for the headlight through to the other A unit.  So therefore, the two A-units could be connected back-to-back and the B-unit's absence would not affect operation.

What about the 4-6-0?  Is it the "old-timey" one, or the train set loco?  No Proto-2 loco will move very fast in conventional mode without at least 10 volts on the rails. That's normal.  The old-time 4-6-0 is geared pretty low and they aren't fast runners; that's a good thing!  How about some pics?

Creep, coast, and pull.  We're not talking about cold fusion here.

Bill,

All of the advise given thus far is very good but I can tell from your postings that you still unsure of what you have and how its supposed to work. 

My humble advice would be to find someone locally knowable in O gauge trains to help you sort out which engines may need repair and which ones simply need a good cleaning and lubrication.   Should you have a good local train store that sells O gauge trains and has a layout, take a few of your engines to them for assistance.  I'm certain they'd be happy to assist you and they will be able to answer all of your concerns.

Inheriting modern O gauge trains can be dauting at first, as there are many variants due to evolution of a brands product.  This is why I'm suggesting you seek advice from local experts who you can establish a working relationship with to help clear-up the confusion you are experiencing.

Kazar

C&O H8 Allegheny: The heaviest & most powerful bad boy to ever traverse any rail.

All three O-gauge track powered trains, apart from a select few run on AC. Among the AC crowd there are basically two variants, max 14 too 16 volts and max 18 volts. Marx and early MPC are in the max 14 to 16 volt range, while all others are in the 18 volt range. The few that are DC and are not common, all modern 3-rail are AC 18 volt.

Controls are a different matter. There is conventional, TMCC/Legacy, Lionchief and DCS, DCC is rare and mostly 2-rail. All can run in conventional mode except low end Lionchief. Lionchief in remote mode works with all control systems as it only uses the track for power. DCS, and TMCC/Legacy, need a more complicated set up, but work together.

It sounds like the e-units could be locked to neutral if of a certain age, or your engines are set to command mode. Their manuals should have directions on how to correct this and have them running in conventional mode.

There is always something new to learn and greater understanding in the quest for wisdom.

MTH also has a history of boards failing out of the blue. I had to rebuild my brand new 2-8-0 from the myriad of lose contacts. If you have the TV style remote it may not be able to dress the engines since if they have been on layout they will have had their addresses changed from the default. You will need a DCS Explorer or higher to check that.

Please post a picture of what type of controls you have, since there are three that work with the z-750.

There is always something new to learn and greater understanding in the quest for wisdom.

Thanks Allin for the info, now that I've had a chance to evaluate and inventory the condition of the engines, I'll spend some time getting up to speed on the different controls available. The short answer for those keeping track is that cleaning the track (center rail was black) with a Scotchbright pad helped some and then wheel cleaning by jumpering w alligator clips off of an American Flyer PS attached to the roller and ground on the engines using isopropyl alchohol with q-tips to clean wheels allowed me to grade the running condition of each engine, most engines are running fair to excellent.

I do have the TV style MTH remote (see pic) and tried resetting the engine to factory defaults (got the two horn blasts) but that didn't resolve the issue. All that aside I opened up both A units and the dummy A unit does not have a battery compartment which seems to run counter to everything else I've learned thus far about MTH w PS2 so my best guess tells me that the B unit is the one that has the battery compartment. I closed on an auction last night for the matching B unit which has the 4 pin socket on one end and the cable extending out on the other, I'll be able to get to the bottom of this once the unit arrives.

I don't think there's an issue with the remote addressing the engines because the 4-6-0 steamer that I mentioned at the beginning of the thread runs fine since cleaning the track and that engine did not come with the MTH set. The original engine (a Pennsy steam turbine) died several years ago - seeing as this thread has caused some confusion along the way I was going to start a separate post for how to get that one fixed - PS2 board replacement is most likely what needs to happen. But since we're here now is that something I can purchase and replace myself?

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If i recall right, the reset for PS2 sets the features to factory default, but not the address. PS3 the address is reset. Been a while since I read the manual.

There is always something new to learn and greater understanding in the quest for wisdom.

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