Wiring a Lionel LW transformer

Wiring a Lionel LW transformer

When it comes to wiring a Lionel LW transformer, there’s more to consider than just which posts to use. The size of the wires also matters. If you derail a train, 5.5 amps of power can run through the wire for 10-15 seconds before the circuit breaker kicks in. An LW has enough power to melt wire and make it smoke or even catch fire.

Proper wiring for the LW transformer is a bit of a safety issue. It’s not just about preventing voltage drop to keep your train running smoothly. A smooth running train is nice, but safety is a must.

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Wiring a Lionel KW transformer

Wiring a Lionel KW transformer

When it comes to wiring a Lionel KW transformer, there’s more to consider than just which posts to use. The size of the wires also matters. If you derail a train 8 amps of power can run through the wire for 10-15 seconds before the circuit breaker kicks in. You don’t want the insulation to melt and catch fire.

Proper wiring for the KW transformer is a bit of a safety issue.

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Wiring a Lionel 1033 transformer

Wiring a Lionel 1033 transformer

When it comes to wiring a Lionel 1033 transformer or its brothers, the Lionel 1044 and 4090, there’s more to consider than just which posts to use. The size of the wires also matters. If you derail a train 4 amps of power can run through the wire for 10-15 seconds before the circuit breaker kicks in. Although this is less of an issue than with Lionel’s larger transformers, a 1033, 1044 or 4090 still has enough power to melt wire and make it smoke or even catch fire.

Proper wiring for the 1033 transformer is a bit of a safety issue. It’s not just about preventing voltage drop to keep your train running smoothly. A smooth running train is nice, but safety is a must.

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Wire a Lionel ZW transformer

Wire a Lionel ZW transformer

When it comes time to wire a Lionel ZW transformer, there’s more to think about than just which posts to use. The size of the wires also matters. If you derail a train 12 amps of power can run through the wire for 10-15 seconds before the circuit breaker kicks in. You don’t want the insulation to melt and catch fire.

Proper wiring for the ZW transformer is a bit of a safety issue.

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Fight voltage drop with copper anti-seize lubricant

If you have issues with your trains slowing down on the far reaches of your layout–and judging from my website hits, many people do–there are a couple of things to do about it. The first thing is to run additional feeder wires. Going by the book, you should go every third track section. Do I push it a little? Sure. Sometimes I can get away with a little less than that, and sometimes every three sections isn’t quite enough.

But over time, the conductivity between track sections can wane a bit, as moisture and oxidation creep in. Coating track pins with copper anti-seize lubricant keeps the moisture out, which keeps oxidation out, which makes the layout more reliable, especially if the layout is outdoors, in the garage, or in the basement. Read more

Model railroading with your Droid: Solving electrical issues

Electrodroid is an Android app designed for electronics hobbyists, but it has uses for model railroaders too. Its LED calculator is invaluable when using LEDs to light buildings, cars, locomotive cabs or headlights, or for other projects. Knowing the input voltage, you can then determine what resistors to use to protect the LED.

The voltage drop calculator is useful too, if less obvious. Read more

Measuring the voltage and amperage of your train transformer’s output

Sometimes you want to know how many volts your train transformer is feeding your trains, in order to avoid damaging the motors. And it’s also helpful to know how many amps you’re pulling from your electric train transformer, so you don’t damage the transformer.

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Fifteen minutes a day

I’ve been spending entirely too much time on train forums lately. So have a lot of other people. Places that used to be good for learning things have turned into cliques, or worse yet, hateful arguments over stupid things like whether Lionel O gauge is more popular than HO scale (something that hasn’t been true since about 1957, and I’m shocked anyone has believed otherwise since about 1960).

A few months ago, someone actually posted something helpful: a suggestion that you spend 15 minutes a day working on your hobby instead of talking about it.

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Scheming towards a solderless train layout

I’m rewiring my train layout. You’re supposed to wire every third track section back to the transformer to prevent voltage drop, which presents a challenge when you’re using traditional Lionel lockons that clip onto the track.

A lot of people just solder a pair of wires to the track. But that’s a lot of soldering. And soldering under a table exposes yourself to lots of nasty chemicals (such as, oh, lead) that you don’t want to be breathing in. Read more

Power supply secrets

A good question came up here yesterday: How do you know when your power supply is causing problems? There may be many power supply secrets, but that’s the one most important to know.

There are lots of symptoms of an under-rated power supply: frequent BSODs, spontaneous reboots for no reason, and the screen going black and the system crashing. A failing power supply can also cause other components in the system to fail much more frequently than they should. But generally you’ll see those other symptoms earlier.

Have you ever heard those horror stories about a lemon PC that’s had virtually every component inside it replaced at least once and it still doesn’t work right? Usually you can head off those kinds of problems. The trick is to replace the power supply after seeing two components fail.

In the previous story here, reader Glaurung asked if his IBM Aptiva’s 100-watt power supply might be causing him problems. He observed that two CD-ROM drives died in the system. I think it is.

IBM had a bad habit of skimping too much on the power supplies in its Aptiva and PS/1 lines. The business-class IBM PC line, in my experience, is good quality.

I don’t want to claim to know more about building a PC than IBM. But in that case I’d be replacing that power supply with something bigger. First check to make sure factory power supply doesn’t have any funky auxiliary connectors on it. A small few, especially those that mount their expansion slots on riser boards, do. Assuming yours doesn’t, a 400W unit from a reputable maker like Antec or Sparkle should only run $35 and prevent future peripheral death.

Usually, a low-power power supply becomes a problem when you start expanding. If you start with a system from a reputable maker (particularly a business-class system), the power supply ought to have enough juice to power everything they put in the box. You’re more likely to run into problems once you add a second hard drive and a CD burner. Some clone shops skimp on the power supply to save costs. The consumer machines you see in retail stores (like Compaq Presarios) typically have skimpier power supplies than business desktops (like Compaq Deskpros).

Whitebox systems built by your friendly neighborhood local clone shop vary. A lot of clone shops pride themselves on quality and build better computers than any of the big name brands. Other clone shops pride themselves on being cheap and cut every corner imaginable. The power supply is usually first.

While there are some really nasty motherboards out they aren’t as bad as they were in the past. Most causes of poor reliability in recent systems are due to cheap, commodity power supplies or cheap, commodity memory. PC Chips is notorious for making bottom-feeder motherboards. But given the choice between a computer with a PC Chips board and a quality power supply and quality memory or a computer with an Asus board with a no-name power supply and memory, I’d take my chances with the PC Chips.

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