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I have a small collection of locomotives including Post War and into the early to mid 90's.  I am currently building a new layout and would like to know if it would be better if I purchased a Z4000 or a Post War ZW?  What one would be better for both new and older locomotives?  I also have no intentions on going into DCS,  TMCC or any other control systems.    Thanks in advance.

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I think its safe to say the Z4000 is better for the trains. Faster breakers, more power, can fire both whistle/horn and bell. The ZW can have those advantages added like meters, fast breakers, Spike suppressors, bell switches plus you can fix it yourself.

Long term service is still a question mark with MTH but I think for the most part current production should last a long time with routine maintenance Like making sure the fans are working and insides have the dust removed every few years.


The z4000 transformer or ZWL is best for new electronic engine Mth or Lionel! as far as post war engines ZW is better for accessories if there the older Lionel accessories as the older accessories require more voltage and the z4000 accessory output is only 14 volts where as the ZW transformer can be up to 20 volts output from accessory post! the ZWL is over $800. depending where you buy them the Z4000 is no longer made but mth is still selling them and you can also buy them on eBay or other train web sight@ !

depends what you need!


ZW's have a basic flaw for running more than one train at a time.  Both handles draw power from the same core, so if you start a second train, the first will actually slow down.  But they are great for accessories as there are four variable handles so you can fine tune the voltage for different accessories with each one.  Another advantage: ZW's are really cheap now.  In the BAD old days, they were going for a standard of $1 per watt, and I can remember asking prices of more than  $300!  Around here, they are going for about $75 now.

If it were me, I would either go for the Z4000 or Charlie's suggestion of a separate transformer for each loop, which is what I have done with a new, two loop "pandemic project" layout.

@CAPPilot posted:

The PW ZW puts out approximately 190 watts total, while the Z4000 does that per handle (400 watts total to include the 14 volt acc output).  If you plan on several loops, a single PW ZW will be too small.

I don't know about that.  He's running a single conventional locomotive on each loop, it's hard to imagine the PW-ZW can't handle almost any combination of those.  I top notch rebuilt PW-ZW can be had in the $150 range, where the Z-4000 will cost more than twice that.

Last edited by gunrunnerjohn

I've always liked the postwar ZW and consider it the gold standard for any transformer. The output is absolute PURE sine wave and all of the other features are not hard to add. That being said, the Z4000 has all of the features already added, and generates a sine wave that is about 97.34% pure. It has more than ample power to run two tracks.

The ZW is more affordable especially right now as the price tag on all of MTH's power and control systems seem to be sky rocketing.

Both are great, Which ever ever way you go you won't be unhappy.

On my 9 by 12 layout I have 3 independent loops plus a trolley line. I operate the entire layout with 1 post war ZW and 1 TW which was made especially to power accessories. The ZW more than easily powers the 3 loops as I run the engines with cars at the same time with no problem. I will experiment to see if bringing them online 1 at a time actually results in a slow down. I also use the ZW's 4th circuit to power a siding with multiple switches where I store passenger cars just to see them light up. The TW powers the trolley. I would conclude that the ZW is more than acceptable (and is more than 50 years old).


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