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.
“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.
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.
Vintage Lionel transformers activated the whistle using a rectifier disc. These discs tend to degrade over time. You can expect to pay about $5 for a replacement disc. But a modern diode is much cheaper, works better, and is more reliable. Here’s how to replace a Lionel RW rectifier disc with a diode.
When wiring a Lionel layout with multiple transformers, it helps to know the pinouts, or what posts output what voltages. Lionel published a few lists over the years but none were complete. Here is my list of 33 different Lionel transformer pinouts.
Someone asked me recently about the Lionel CW-80 and how it compares vs older transformers. That’s a fair question, and one that tends to stir up a lot of emotions on train forums. So I’ll try to present the pros and cons in a fair manner.
Lionel used 15 different types of light bulbs in its O gauge electric trains in the postwar era, but in most cases–87% of catalog numbers, and a lot more than that in actual number of items produced–you can get by with two. Since knowing when can be difficult, here’s a Lionel train light bulb chart.
Lionel almost always specified 14 or 18 volts. Using an 18-volt bulb in place of a 14-volt original, or a 22-volt bulb in place of an 18-volt original results in longer service life. And there were two base types that Lionel used more than any other. Read more
I have a Lionel RW transformer that I would like to put on Christmas tree duty next year. I had a KW on that duty last year, which is a nice transformer, but it’s overkill, and my sons find it easier to operate the whistle with a button like the RW has than with the KW’s handle.
I repaired the RW last year, but I didn’t do anything about the paint. The original paint wasn’t in too bad of shape, but it had some scratches and dings in it, as you would expect a well-loved 60-year-old toy to have. But since the paint wasn’t perfect, I could repaint it without offending anyone, which is what I wanted to do, seeing as the original paint dated to before 1978, and therefore might contain lead.
The job didn’t take long. I didn’t do a full disassembly, and I didn’t do anything resembling a professional restoration. My goal was to make the transformer presentable and safe, and I think I succeeded at that. Read more
I had a Lionel RW transformer that I bought nearly 10 years ago, at one of my first estate sales. I’m sure I remember using it after I bought it, but it was far from in working order when I found it this time. The accessory posts all showed voltage, but the critical A and B posts showed zero volts when connected to the U post, no matter how I turned up the handle. So while the transformer could power accessories, I couldn’t run a train off it using the variable output.
And I was uncomfortable using it without knowing exactly why part of it wasn’t working.
I like Turnkey Linux, which is a collection of pre-built server appliances based on Ubuntu. When you need a server fifteen minutes from now, it’s about the only way you can make it happen.
But as far as I can tell, it doesn’t mount USB drives automatically. That’s fine; these servers are designed to have the minimum necessary for their stated purpose in life and nothing more. Here’s how I mount a USB drive to use for making backups.