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PXL_20220123_020319610PXL_20220123_020307424PXL_20220123_020329535I am planning on using my father's Lionel KW transformer to power a simple O-27, elevated loop measuring approx 11x 3 feet.

I will power accessories off the B terminal on the KW to be able to have a variable power for lights and a few accessories that will also have individual on/off switches.

I have a separate Fastrack layout with a 9x6 foot fold down table that connects to the ground level of the 11x3 foot part of the layout, beneath the O-27 line.  Hope you're all following me.

My question is what transformer for the Fastrack?  I plan to run two LionChief Plus 2.O locomotives and possibly a third simulataneously on the Fastrack.

I understand the need for TVS installation. I have them. Just wondering if the CW80 would be sufficient for running two to three locomotives simultaneously on the Fastrack.

Photos attached.


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Very nice layout.

I don't think a CW80 will be enough for 2 let alone 3 engines, especially if any are lighted passenger cars. By comparison, I have my outer mainline of about 80' of track broken into 2 blocks with each block powered by a PW LW transformer (1 LW per block).  I had my inner main of about 75' connected to 2 RWs, but once I connected my yard and switches to them, they crapped out and started dropping voltage, such I upped the inner main and yard to 2 Lionel 180W powerhouses.

I'd look at a PW ZW or a couple of LWs if you want to go conventional. If you're sticking with LC+ and don't need throttles, a single 180W powerhouse might be a better choice. 

So a GW-180 may be the better option for the LC+ over a Post Wat ZW.

Yes, I forgot about the GW180. That gets you the 180W with a throttle and horn and bell buttons, perfect if you're ever going to run conventional. But, if you're going strictly LC+, you don't need the throttle, just the fixed 18V coming out of the powerhouse. They can be connected directly to the track and simply switched off/on as needed. Then use the LC+ handhelds to control the locomotives. That'll save you $100-$150.

Sean, when you had the ZW's rebuilt, did they add fast acting fuses? Is that the hang up some people have about the older transformers and the new locomotives? I'm contemplating buying a used ZW and maybe restoring it and seeing if I can add in fast acting fuses.

Fast acting fuses are cheap (under $10 each, often a lot less).  IMO, easier to just install them inline than to try to install them in the transformer - perhaps in the control panel or fascia.  But definitely add circuit breaker protection if you plan to run a modern engine with a postwar transformer.

raising4daughters, thanks, I got confused between the Lionel 180 Watt Powerhouse and the Lionel 6-37947, GW-180, 180 Watt Transformer. I understand now. I may run a conventional on the Fastrack as well so the GW-180 may be good.

Final question, would a Post War ZW simply need a quick acting circuit breaker from the A post in series prior to the track?

Yes, the PW ZW and any other PW transformer should have a fast-blow fuse or circuit breaker between the hot and the track. Folks here gave me the right part number for fuses and fuse holder, so I went that route.

There's one other strong recommendation here regardless of using modern transformers with built-in circuit protection or PW transformers with additional external fuses or breakers. That is to add transient voltage suppression (TVS) diodes across the hot and common terminals of each transformer (or at each lock-on, etc.).  I can't explain the process they protect against, but many guys here much smarter than me say to use them, so I do.

Were you an A-10 pilot?

@Warthog_Driver Personally I really like the postwar ZWs.  I have two on my layout. But if using any postwar transformer to power modern engines with electronics, external Airpax Instant Breakers are IMO ideal along with Transient Voltage Suppression Diodes (TVS).  The above link to another OGR thread, provides more information about how to select, order, and install them.

In the event of a derailment, the combination of these two types of devices instantly removes power from the tracks and clamps down on the high voltage spikes that are generated by the currents of collapsing electromagnetic fields in the motor and transformer coils and the repeated bouncing of the train wheels on and off the track, especially at turnouts .

By their nature, coils resist changes in current flow.  So when the voltage source is abruptly removed and redirected, the coils keep pushing the current flow until the energy is dissipated, generating high voltage spikes in the process.  When that high voltage energy makes it to the sensitive electronic circuitry in a modern locomotive, it can be quickly toasted.

These instant breakers stop the current flow in less than 100miliseconds (much faster than fast acting fuses) and the TVS diodes short circuit (clamp) the high voltage spikes.  This is how they help protect modern electronics.

Last edited by SteveH

As mentioned by others I would go the post-war ZW and add the TVS and fast blow relays to each of the four outputs.  Just check the ZW for new rollers, new power cord, check the rivets on the screw posts and see if the old disk rectifier has been replaced with a diode.

I have four ZWs including mine from 1948.  Like the KW they are hard to beat.

Post war zw and others are so cheap now compared to 20 years ago that is almost a no brainer. As stated previously replace or check a few things and you are good to go. If you are mechanical(or electrical ) they are easy to work on and bullet proof. You can buy them restored by others for a little more money if not interested in doing it yourself. Still a real good deal . About 20 years ago I purchased a new Lionel remake of a zw. It was and is complete junk. I did a bunch of upgrades on it and still more problems. I junked it. Should have purchased a postwar zw back then even at a higher price and I would have been better off. Postwar zw made in USA as well which I prefer.

Last edited by dogdoc
I purchased a Lionel ZW-R and it has new rollers, new cord, and has been thoroughly tested.
For the fast acting breakers. I'm still a little confused about the amperage to order.  I did test the Fastrack layout with my KW transformer. I placed two Post War Lionel 2026s, a Post War Lionel 6520 Light Car, and I did not see anything over 1 amp.
Should I go with the 5 amp, 7.5 amp or 10 amp?

It really depends on your planned load on the layout. The nice part is the breakers are not prohibitively expensive, so for example you could start with a 5, and if that can't handle what you are doing, move up to the next higher value. My rule of thumb is to use the lowest breaker that can handle expected load, so I would go with the 5 and see. Given that the PW engines with the pullmors draw a lot more power than a modern can motored engine in general, that 5 amps should be fine.

Is one sufficient per power line?

One per power district minimum. Ideally, you would want the TVS diode located as close to the device you are protecting as possible, or optionally between the source of the transients and the device... which can be difficult as the devices roll around on the layout. When I use them, I put them trackside, like at a lockon, or connected to switches(track terminals) where derailments are more likely or have happened.

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