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Getting close to building a 11x14 layout with command control. There will be two loops that connect and my goal is to be able to have three trains running at once. One passenger train with madison cars on each loop and then one switching inside the 2nd loop. I would like to stick to Lionel products as I'm going for a Postwar feel with TMCC/Legacy postwar equipment. Can you recommend what it would take to safely run such a layout?  Was looking at a Postwar Celebration ZW 6-22982 but I'm completely out of my element here. Appreciate the guidance.

Last edited by Fireball RR
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Wrong transformer control. That's known as a ZW-C and no, unless you got it for free or had one already, not recommended.

Now the power house power bricks if they are 180 watt versions, fine, those are good, but that specific control has a number of issues, lack of parts available for repair and so on that make it highly undesirable. Especially when you mention Legacy as there was a known firmware issue that needed corrected and those processor chips for that ZW-C are not available.

Basically, there are a few schools of thought here.

If going only command control and no conventional ever, then use the 180 watt power house bricks and a lot of people do that.

If you need variable voltage and conventional whistle and bell controls:

180 Bricks with Legacy Powermasters is one way.

A ZW-L- personally not my favorite but if you want the big "L" this is the flagship.

My personal opinion is the Z4000 is better suited, gives you 2 variable channels, nice voltage and amperage meters and is compatible should you ever get some MTH in your fleet of trains. There is supposed to be another new batch of them coming in. Yes, I know, not the big "L", but for the most part, I'm not impressed with many of the Lionel controls (example GW-180 or CW-80).

Again, if you want remote control capability and variable channels over Legacy, then Legacy Powermaster(s) or ZW-L meets those requirements.

The flipside is, again, if ZW-L is out of your budget, but you want the look of Postwar, then go postwar with some refurbished original ZW transformers that have been serviced and professionally gone through.

Then you still have 2 problems- power protection and bell and whistle commands (ZW only have Whistle).

You need to provide good external fast acting current protection on each channel, and also should provide voltage protection in the form of TVS (Transient Voltage Suppression).

Great example here

@CAPPilot posted:

Here is my set up for PW transformers.


For PW transformers or any transformer that can put out 20 VAC or more, the TVS model 1.5KE36Ca is recommended.  If you only use PH180 or PH135 that have a maximum of 18 VAC then you could get by with 1.5KE33Ca models.

Per Gunrunnerjohn it is best to have the TVS as close to the board you want protected as possible, so he recommends in each engine.  I put mine at the track connection.  Because the TVS has a failure mode that is not detectable I also put one at the transformer as a backup.  I'm also thinking about adding them at the terminal block.  They don't impact operations and the are cheap.

My only comment, and I still stand by it, was to place the TVS after the fuse or circuit breaker. This is because they tend to fail shorted and so putting it after causes a failure to trip the breaker or fuse rather than the TVS just fully shorting the transformer output.

Last edited by Vernon Barry

Generally second the comments above, but I'm more favorable to the Lionel ZW-L as this transformer is likely to remain their top of the line, with parts and repair reasonably certain to be available.  ZW-L also a good choice if you need conventional control or just like the look and having meters.  If you don't need conventional, the 180 watt Powerhouses alone are a good choice and cost effective.  Reconditioned (by someone who knows what they are doing ) ZW is a reasonable choice after adding a modern circuit breaker and a TVS as mentioned above. 

Would stay away from the Z4000, at present, personally,  as the future availability of parts and repairs at this point is less certain given MTH's transformation from a full line train company to three separate entities with minimal staffing.  If you like the looks of the Z4000 and it's available to you at a good price and with repair capabilities, that's a different story and certainly worth considering.

ZW-L will be plenty of power for a layout of that size and description, but that's a good thing. It's better to have some headroom for the times you want to lash up 6 locomotives or run a 12-car passenger train. And if your layout grows, you've still got enough power. Buying 2 or 3 of the 180W powerhouse bricks gets you pretty close to the cost of a ZW-L, especially if you can find one in the $600-$700 range like I did about 18 months ago.

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