The Lionel KW transformer

The Lionel KW transformer

The Lionel KW transformer was the second largest transformer Lionel made in the postwar era. It delivered 190 watts of power and provided two handles to control two trains. Internally, the design is very similar to the ZW. If the ZW was Lionel’s Cadillac transformer, the KW was the Buick. I always thought Lionels were overrated until I ran a 675 locomotive with a KW.

There was a time when nobody made modern transformers the size of a KW or ZW. Now that they do, the ZW and especially the KW cost a lot less. I remember when a reconditioned KW cost $200. Today you can get one for under $100. An as-is KW with minor issues will cost half that. These days, the KW is a bargain.

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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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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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Which Lionel transformer do I need?

Which Lionel transformer do I need?

“Which Lionel transformer do I need?” you ask? Obviously, for a lot of people, the $700 Lionel ZW-L transformer is overkill. If you have to ask, your needs are a lot more modest than that. The good news is, Lionel made a lot of good transformers over the years. That means there are lots of them. And that means they’re affordable. If you’re looking for Lionel transformer comparisons, you’ve come to the right place.

All Lionel transformer comparisons should include the common 1033, RW, LW, KW and ZW transformers. These are all good, dependable transformers from the postwar era that are easy to find today, have adequate wattages ranging from 90-270 watts, have a circuit breaker for safety and have a whistle controller. They have everything you need for a basic setup, and the larger ones are capable of running the smaller layouts you see in the train magazines, so they have some room for growth.

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All about the Lionel RW transformer

All about the Lionel RW transformer

The Lionel Multi-control Trainmaster RW is a sturdy tin box of a transformer from early in the postwar era. The presence of a whistle controller is the only thing that really distinguishes it from a prewar transformer. Lionel made it from 1948 to 1954. If you want to know all about the Lionel RW transformer, you’ve come to the right place. You probably won’t find a copy of the original instruction manual online but this will tell you all you need to know.

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All about the Lionel KW

All about the Lionel KW

The Lionel KW is the second most powerful, and second most popular Lionel transformer of the 1950s and 1960s. If the Lionel ZW was Lionel’s Cadillac, the KW was Lionel’s Buick. It was a 190-watt transformer and Lionel sold it from 1950 to 1965. It replaced Lionel’s 150-watt ZW lookalike, the VW.

Finding original KW instructions or an original KW manual online is a bit difficult, but there’s plenty the original instructions don’t mention.

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All about the Lionel ZW

All about the Lionel ZW

The Lionel ZW is Lionel’s most iconic transformer of the 1950s and 1960s, and perhaps one of its most iconic products, period. Everyone wanted the two-handled, football-shaped, 275-watt powerhouse that was the ZW. It was one of Lionel’s more venerable postwar products, lasting on the market for 18 years from 1948 to 1966. It replaced Lionel’s former top-of-the-line transformer, the Z.

Finding original ZW instructions or an original ZW manual online is a bit difficult, but there’s plenty the original instructions don’t mention.

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Lionel KW diode installation

Lionel KW diode installation

Lionel transformers use a selenium rectifier disc to produce a jolt of DC voltage to activate their train whistle. These discs degrade over time, so a decades-old transformer often produces a pretty anemic whistle–even one of the bigger transformers like the 190-watt Lionel KW. Replace the disc with a diode for a cost effective and reliable fix for that wimpy whistle. Here’s a step by step guide to a Lionel KW diode upgrade.

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