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What to do when engines lose power?

Howard from Maine asks readers:

“On my O gauge layout I run four trains at the same time using a Lionel ZW transformer. I look after my locomotives servicing them correctly and each one works perfectly on its own. The problem is when I try to operate all four at the same time. That’s when things start to go pear shaped. The older ones in particular lose voltage and slow down usually in the same spot. I have tried attaching leads directly beneath the problem area, but the problem has not resolved. Can someone provide a possible solution, or at least suggest what to look for?

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7 Responses to What to do when engines lose power?

  • Frank Bsays:

    Your transformer is rated to supply a certain amount of current, probably sufficient for one or two locos.
    When operating too many locos, the available current is so thinly shared out that all locos slow down.

    1) Get a more powerful transformer, rated at around double the output current of your present one.
    2) Get another transformer the same, and run two locos from each.

    There will always be some volts dropped in the rails, proportional to the amount of current and the length of rail between supply and loco, so extra power cables to the far side of a layout are also good

  • montysays:

    you my be pulling more AMPS from the transformer than it can supply,,try to measure the amount of AMPS that each loco is pulling, then add them up to get a total of amps being drawn by all 4 locos, if it is more than the transformer can supply then that is your problem. hope this helps
    good luck Monty

  • Ronald J. Dombrowskisays:

    Ditto the above. I can only run 2 locos at the same time. When I try 3, I blow the fuse. I am using a ZW also.

    • Peter D dombrowskisays:

      you need to supply more amps this will sort the problem its you amp foot print ok for 2 locos not the four . at club we have 6 circuits on main layout we building and max amperage have loads engines running sound in sidings 4 main line running and trains shunting on branch new tdm average supply is 1 1/2 amps with bigger power supply and booster we have 6amps worth.

  • mike lsays:

    I run 2 plus a trolley on my ZW and that’s about it along with some LEDs. Do things work OK when you only run 2 or maybe even 3, if so then 4 is two much draw for your ZW.

  • Gerrysays:

    All of the statement above are spot on. It’s all about the amps/current your transformer can supply. You have to also remember that not only do the engines require a certain amount of amps (older ones seem to draw more than newer ones) but each and every car that has lights or some other action to it requires amps as well.
    Simply stated, you are overpowering the transformer to the point that you could actually cause damage to it. Even our hurky Z4000 transformers have trouble with three or more trains running at the same time. That problem was solved by running them with an MTH DCS System.

    • Gerrysays:

      …and even with doing this and running DCS we have to be carful not to run too main trains that have lighted cars and or have some other action requiring amps to run…

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