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On my last layout I used two postwar ZWs for track power, one for my O gauge loop and one for my standard gauge loop. The loops weren't that big so these provided plenty of train running power.

On the accessory side, I used a Lionel ZW-C with four 180w bricks. The controller handles were set for the voltage I wanted and all I had to do was flip the on switch. The bricks ran cool and I never had an issue. I loved that set up for accessory power.

Now, on the new layout I decided to use the the postwar transformers for accessory power, and since I run mainly command control, I would use the four 180w bricks to power my tracks. Since I wasn't using the ZW-C controller, I sold it. The bricks connected directly to my MTH DCS system has worked very well.

On the accessory side my two postwar ZWs had been working fine. However, as I had more lights to the circuit, I have been having issues with one of the ZWs tripping it's breaker. Once it resets, then it's fine and doesn't trip again. I'm assuming it's breaker is getting weak.

Because of this issue and the fact that the ZWs do run warm after they've been on a while and that I will eventually exceed their capacity, I want to change them out with something else. My friend recently bought a train collection that came with a ZW-C and two 180w bricks, so I got it from him. However, the controller is not working. The bricks are fine but there is no voltage coming out of the controller.

So, now I have to decide what I want to do. I'm leaning towards finding a working ZW-C controller and another two 180W bricks. Since for accessory power I never use the handles this setup works great. I would never use this transformer for track power. The controller has too many issues to be constantly moving the handles. I thought about maybe using a MTH Z4000, but I don't like the fact that the handles have to be turned up each time it is powered up. The ZW-L price is way to high to use it for accessory power in my opinion.

Any thoughts, suggestion? Know of a cheap ZW-C controller? Thanks guys.

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Many years ago I was having a similar problem using pw transformers for lighting and accessories. I read about using low voltage lighting transformers for these applications so I purchased a 800 watt 12 volt AC output transformer that solved the issue. it handles all the lighting and 90 percent of the accessories and they are inexpensive. May be a little overkill but it never gets warm to the touch. I still use a ZW for variable voltage for switches.

Here is a copy of a post I made on another thread yesterday, Joe.

Hope it helps you:

UPDATE: I received the 10 screw base bulbs I ordered on the 'bay. They work like a charm. Just ordered 10 more from the same vendor as well as 10 bayonet based LED bulbs. $2.50 each when buying 10 or more. I put them in my street lights - with the tops on ya can't tell the diff between incandescent and LED

The original bulbs use 2W each, these only .6W. These 10 alone stopped the lighting overload on my lighting transformer (a ZW). the diff is great, 20W usage with the original  bulbs, only 6W with the LED's


Email me if you want the vendor's info.

I'm still waiting for the shipment from China with cheap (.85 each) bulbs to see how they work, and if they will work, with AC current, their ad said DC only

I use 28 VAC Center Tapped transformers for accessories and switches.    Each transformer makes two 14VAC supplies between the center tap and a leg.  The two 14 VAC supplies are 180 degrees out of phase.

I also had the problem of loading down my supplies with incandescent lamps.  I eliminated the excessive load by replacing the incandescent lamps with LEDs as suggested by Lionelski above.     

At the moment accessories are powered by the ZW for... tortoise machines & dwarf signals (rectified), buildings, flood lights, beacon, coal loader etc., on separate variable AC outputs.  I do like the ability to individually adjust the lighting to the desired effect at any given moment.   I may swap out the ZW for a couple of ancient Zs from the transformer pile at some point.

Last edited by Dennis-LaRock

I use three 36 to 40 watt, 12v transformers to control accessories like lights and switches.  They were purchased at garage sales for a few dollars.

The switch 12v, 40 watt transformer had some 110v primary windings removed to raise the output voltage to 14.5 v and is used only for track switches.  I have 31 Marx 1590 switches that only draw current when switching as they do not have lights on the switches or controllers (actually only a pair of mini push button switches each).  This transformer has zero current usage except when switching, mostly one track switch at a time or two at time where both switches have be worked as a pair.

My building lights are mostly mini Christmas tree bulbs drawing .96 watts.  You can see my two lights transformers are good for about 76 mini Christmas tree light bulbs in buildings and yard lights.  This number has to be reduced for the four, twin flood light towers.  Operating accessories are mostly operated off the track voltage but their lights are on the lighting transformers.

Good sources of accessory transformers are the mentioned Computer transformers and yard landscaping lighting transformers both real inexpensive at garage, estate and other sales used.


Last edited by Choo Choo Charlie

Power to run AC accessories needing 14VAC is nothing special.  Shorling mentioned using a center tapped 28 volt transformer to get 2 separate 14VAC circuits which is an excellent idea.  Any 117 to 14 or 16 VAC secondary of appropriate current rating will power lights, switches, operating accessories, either one big one or several smaller ones placed closer to their load to minimize having to run heavy wire busses.   A pair of 24 volt bell transformers with the primaries hooked in series will give you two separate  12VAC outputs, and those transformers are inexpensive.  Getting AC to the primary may be an issue for some folks.  Adding a diode as one person mentioned in lighting circuits will extend incandescent lamp life almost forever.  I have a 70 year old string of Christmas lights with the 7 1/2 volt candelabra base fluted bulbs that has not had a burnt out bulb for over 4 decades since I added a single rectifier in the plug on one side of the AC line.  Epay, Amazon, and parts houses carry many usable transformers in the 14 +/- VAC secondary range over a wide range of currents.  A Bud or similar clam shell style minibox to put the transformer in with line cord, fuse, and the low volt line out passing through rubber grommets, power switch if you want to cut them on/off individually, and it will be useful and safe.

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