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Hi, I have some old Lionel trains, witches, and miles of tracks  I received from a friend when he moved.  I believe that the trains and tracks are from the 50's and 60's.  Also recieved buildings that are not even put together still in boxes.  Anyway, I have purchased a MTH CSX 967 withe the MTH DCS TIU and the accessory controller.  My question is how do i get power to the track?  Also have an old ZW Lionel transformer that scares me when turning it on.  Reading all these articles confused me.  Would like to have it future proof also so if I get more stuff down the road I would be good on power.  Thanks and sorry if posted in wrong forum. 

Original Post

The ZW should be looked at inside, but is very usable most likely. Tons of folks use the exact combo here.

You just want to use a TVS here and there, and maybe fuse the lines or use a better breaker to help protect your modern trains better. (tvs and fuses are very cheap insurance, breakers more convenient than fuses, possibly cheaper long term. A tvs is mainly what saves boards (transient voltage suppression) by diverting volt spikes. Overvoltage from carpet static has the potential to wipe out electronics, but we worry mostly about derailments and high volt( even if low amp) surges that can happen.

Unplug the ZW. Now you are safe from shock. Remove the four screws on top. Lift top. Inspect the two arms for heat discoloration. At the end of each arm is a roller that ROLLS, it shouldn't slide at at all. Now look at the windings the rollers sit on. They are slightly flat, but look close for wear or sawing if the roller is broke.  Most parts are fairly easy to swap.

Every knick or loss of metal from any wire decreases it's amp ability.  Slight sawing/wear is ok, but your output is diminished some and should have a smaller breaker/fuse installed if bad or if you just like overkill.

Look for wire fray, cooked insulation, bad solder, etc.  

Once done do a breaker check by wiring U to ABC or D giving it power and counting to see how long it takes to trip the breaker. (a warm unit trips sooner than a warm one)  If it takes more than 12seconds , replace the breaker.

You can speed how fast a good ZW breaker trips by wrapping the feed wire to it around the breaker body once or twice. This will warm it faster when a short occurs. (done by Lionel for VW/KW using the same part # on lower watt units)

Clean up in there

A thorough summary for sure.  One minor thing, there are actually 4 arms/rollers to look at (inner handles too!).  And the part about the warm transformer, one of those I suspect should say cold ("warm unit trips sooner than a cold one") .

Not throwing stones, just pointing it out.  Kudos for taking the time to write a comprehensive list.


Last edited by Dave45681

Hum is kinda normal and could possibly be quieted with paper, wood, cardboard wedge, silicone, etc.   It is usually the metal plates being vibrated at 60 times per second (60hz is our normal ac rate stateside)

To put our voltage in a somewhat comparable perspective; 9v batteries tingle or sting your tounge, Your sweaty arm across live rails at 15v-25v has a similar effect, needles or pokes on the forearm, 50-75v is about what the doctors use for those muscle contracters in muscle rehab and where your fingers may begin to shock a little. Over that is painful.  Huge amps and lower volts can be an issue welding, etc, but not much concern to model RR folk.

Most folks are taught to fear it as a kid and never get over it.

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