Skip to main content

With the virus shutting down club meets, we are having parking lot tailgate meets. I am using a battery power unit to run trains. Just asking for opinions whether there is a major difference in the power consumption between a ZW or something more modern like a MRC Dual AH601. The train power consumption is one thing but what about the transformer itself. Just trying to extend the power unit.



Original Post

I have just used an extra car battery and diodes to drop volts on a few low volt runners.  Ran all day on it on my VW van cargo floor and in a pickup bed.

Another year I had a big converter and the battery in the truck, but had to run the truck motor to last all day. I forget if I finally used the KW or 1033s.

A deep cycle battery helps too (I used one for the VW.. a 69 camper)

Note: trucks use 24v batteries, or two -12v in series.

  I bet you have an old rheostat too

Ive been thinking you might be able to check with an inductive amp meter ("amp clamp", meter with the carabineer like hook)

Like a wallwartIwallwart,t the windings would have a vampire draw on both too. So wattage (which is input watts) would be the difference in use.  (unplug when off and using a battery to save the battery for more use).  I think the efficiency of the new one is in distribution, not draw, if both have pure sine windings. (the MRC pure sine as well, but not the other MRCs. Those may draw less at a low voltage/balf throttle.  

Kinda wiped out, gotta sleep on it.

I believe in the last 10 years the labeling on an appliance must advise the consumer of the power consumption of the appliance. (ZW-L) Older labeling advised the consumer of appliance output (ZW, ZW-C, MH, Z-4000)

So, the specifications on either of those two transformers wouldn't help.

Harbor Freight carries a "Kill a Watt" meter to measure usage between the power source and the appliance. That would be the tool to assist you in maximizing runtime by actually measuring any transformer while in use. This would permit selecting the most efficient.

Are you using an AC inverter attached to the battery?  

Like Adriatic mentioned, the deep cycle batteries would last longer.

Watts are watts, and transformers are not perfectly efficient - that's why my PW ZWs get hot under load.  I would expect a modern transformer or brick to deliver more of its input power to the track.  Pick whatever transformer runs coolest.  The efficiency of your inverter is another factor.

I'm curious.  How many amp-hours are you providing with the batteries?  For how many hours of running?

Depending on your situation and if possible, running your trains directly from a battery and leaving the inverter / transformer out of the equation could be better.

A few years ago I experienced very interesting situation at a show where the power went out. Obviously no power means no running trains right? Not really. I disconnected my AC power supplies and rigged up my Milwaukee 18v cordless batteries to keep the layout running. At the time these were the XC batteries which were about 5AH. The fully charged batteries easily ran my 4 trains for the two and half hours the power was out and still were at 50% juice when I switched the power back to AC. At the time I wasn't sure how long or how well this would work, so I took some precautions to extend battery life, like not running smoke and removing a few of the lighted cars to conserve power usage.

In my situation I was running a DCS command layout which allows for DC power to operate the engines.

I ran my 2037 or similar, w/smoke, freight, bulb lit caboose and Marx set on the batteries.

No whistles Nothing modern.

On ac it was a 700w(1400w peak) Vector or larger Colman (1000w cont. 1500w(?) peak)

The Vector actually worked better; cut out less if quickly overdrawn say by starting a hard drawing hand tool and batteries lasted longer. The Colman had a better continuous high amp nature. If using a grinder, Id use the vector to start it and quickly move the plug to the Colman before the grinder slowed. The Colman would trip on startup, the Vector under use(amp draw rises when the cut happens)     I don't trust much in spec sheets anymore because of things like that. Meters don't fudge to fill a label.

The converter is definitely a point of loss, but hard to say how much. So iz the transformer.    It all comes down to the sounds and whistles on whether to use battery or AC.  (does lionel command work with dc like MTH-modern? I don't think so, know Ive asked, but can't recall for sure)

That 1,000amp max peak.without more info is kinda scary. Id worry about reading the manual closely and following to a tee.  Likely has a HUGE capacitor in its design. Those 2lb caps are no joke.

Hook it up in the wrong order and no telling what could go wrong with electronics in the late ZW. Maybe nothing because its its amps, but that assumes everything is done a certain way and all is ok.

Some of my seemingly irrational thoughts are based on when something is wrong.. Of course it's ok when working  Hence, my overkill tendencies and baulking. I also had a building full of kids to worry about cooking so had to think "worst case scenario" as a constant.


This is what I’m using.



I just looked at the specs of the two transformers that you mentioned compared with a ZW-L. The ZW-L with new internals dynamically controls the output load.

I really don't think that you gain any greater time, only marginal gains. It is a math game with most of power usage constant against the internal battery in the unit that you have.

The battery is the variable - yours has 14 amp hour, a deep cycle marine can range from 35 amp hour to 75 amp hour which would increase your time by

2 1/2 to 5 times longer respectively.

I don't think you can change the battery in the unit - so - you have what you have unless you roll your own.

Still, you have a nice unit there and it is cool that you are out running trains. Keep chuggin', Steve!

Add Reply

OGR Publishing, Inc., 1310 Eastside Centre Ct, Suite 6, Mountain Home, AR 72653
Link copied to your clipboard.