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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For some people, the only enjoyable part of cleaning Lionel track is arguing about how to do it. The rest of us don’t even enjoy that part. Recently I unearthed a decades-old secret that mostly eliminates the need to clean track. Sound too good to be true?
If your Lionel ZW or VW transformer lights up and hums but doesn’t output any voltage on one or more of its pairs of binding posts, there’s a good chance one or more of the binding posts is bad. It’s possible to repair Lionel ZW binding posts cheaply.
By far the most failure prone part of the Lionel ZW and VW is the binding posts where the wires connect to your track. Fortunately, there’s a workaround that works sometimes. But if you want something better than a workaround, a proper repair is cheap and not difficult.
Comparing Bachmann vs Lionel is a contrast between two very old, established names in electric trains. Lionel, in one form or another, has been selling trains since 1900. Bachmann, the largest seller of trains in the world, was founded in 1833, though they started selling trains in 1966.
Ironically, it was Lionel that got Bachmann into the train business. In the 1940s and 1950s, when every kid wanted a Lionel or American Flyer train, Bachmann sold buildings under its Plasticville brand so kids and dads could build towns for those trains to run in. As the focus shifted to smaller scales in the 1960s, Bachmann moved with it, with greater success than the companies it once shared a symbiotic relationship with.
Last week a commenter asked me why the whistle button makes a Lionel train speed up. This behavior may seem unusual but it’s normal and solves a problem.
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.