Someone asked me how to estimate the required wattage for Marx accessories. Although I don’t recall Marx ever issuing any specific guidance, it’s easy to do yourself.
A frequent question I see is why the Lionel bulbs in any given accessory burn out quickly. I can sum up both the problem and the solution in a single word: voltage.
When you have too much voltage, bulbs burn out quickly–sometimes in minutes. When you have too little voltage, the bulbs will last decades.
The Aero Monorail was a futuristic monorail train first offered in 1932. Manufactured in St. Louis by the eponymously named Aero Monorail Company, it was designed to suspend over Lionel standard gauge track and run faster than the standard gauge train.
The stands came in two varieties: a pair of free standing towers, and a series of towers that slipped under Standard gauge track and used the same 42-inch diameter. The motor looked like an Erector motor and was intended to run on 6-8 volts, either DC or AC.
Train transformer starting voltage is a harder question than it necessarily needs to be–because it’s varied over the years. Part of that is because intent has changed over the years.
I found a video titled How to Lubricate with Labelle, and I thought I would elaborate on how to adapt Labelle’s advice to Marx trains. You don’t have to use Labelle oil and grease necessarily, though I do like their products.
Lubrication is a more controversial topic than it needs to be, but what I find is that when I follow the advice I’m about to present, the train runs cooler, more quietly, with more pulling power, and starts at a lower voltage. All of those are good things. With a single reduction motor, I can pull six of the metal 3/16 scale cars at 7-8 volts. An unlubricated motor might not even start at 7 volts.
The only thing I don’t like about Marx trains is that most of them don’t have a switch to lock the locomotive in one direction. Fortunately it’s not hard to add a reverse lockout switch for Marx.
It’s a cheap project–all you need is about a foot of wire, a toggle switch, some heat shrink tubing (1/4 inch or smaller) or electrical tape, and your soldering iron.
The CW-80, unlike postwar transformers, only has two accessory posts. To adjust the Lionel CW-80 fixed voltage, the posts are programmable. If you lost your manual, here’s how to do it.
The accessory voltage was set to 12 volts at the factory, which is usually a good setting, but sometimes they get adjusted, or sometimes you need something different. Here’s how to set it to what you want, in five steps.
I don’t come across burned-out light bulbs in Marx trains very often, but it can happen. When you need to replace a missing or dead bulb, you have some options.
Marx, like its competitors, used a standard E10 screw base in all of its trains and accessories that I know of. It’s best to never say never with Marx, but standardizing on E10 was cost-effective so I doubt there’s any variance. The question is what voltage.
The Lionel LW Trainmaster is a 125 watt transformer that Lionel produced from 1955 to 1966. They are reasonably durable and Lionel made them for a long time. That means you can find them easily on the secondary market. They can be expensive if they have their original box and paperwork. But if you just want to run a train and don’t care about the paper, you can get a serviced LW for $50-$60, and an as-is one for under $40. At 125 watts, it’s the most powerful single-handle transformer of the postwar era.
The LW is a quirky transformer so there are some things about if you need to be aware of if you have other Lionel transformers, but as long as you keep those in mind, it’s a fine transformer that will serve you well. The quirks have nothing at all to do with reliability. Lionel just designed its layout a bit differently than many of their other models. In some ways it’s the ideal accessory transformer. We’ll cover that later.
One thing to keep in mind: Unplug the LW when you’re not using it. It doesn’t have its own power switch. I plug my transformers into a power strip and turn all of them on and off with the strip’s on/off switch.
The Lionel Multi-control 1033 is a 90 watt transformer produced from 1948 to 1956. They are reasonably durable and were popular in their day, which means there are still a lot of them floating around so they tend to be inexpensive. I paid $70 for one about 15 years ago but the price has come way down; today you can get a serviced 1033 for about half that, and an as-is one for $20-$25.
Even someone who has a larger transformer or multiple larger transformers for the layout might be interested in a 1033 for the test bench, as it has all of the functionality someone would need for testing locomotives and whistling tenders.