Everything on model trains, model railroads, model railways, locomotives, model train layouts, scenery, wiring, DCC and more. Enjoy the world's best hobby... model railroading!

Make a Realistic Residential Street Scene with Realistic Detailing.

Which Transformer to Buy? What Wattage?

Jim asks readers:

“I’m building a medium sized o-guage layout for a single vintage 1954 Lionel train set.  The layout size is a multi-level 6 x 9′ with a few accessories including automatic switch tracks.  I am looking to upgrade from my old, small transformer but don’t want to spend any more money required to run this size layout.  Any suggestions or recommendations on a transformer that will meet my needs but not break the bank?  What size wattage is enough?  Should I buy a new transformer or a used one?  I’m new to all this.  Thank you.”

3 Responses to Which Transformer to Buy? What Wattage?

  • Rob Tennisonsays:

    Jim, I bought the MTH Z4000 transformer that provides 400 watts and very pleased. The cost was considerably cheaper than going with the old Lionel. This MTH has two separate controls to run two different tracks for the old conventional engines. The transformer has two different voltages for your accessories. I hooked up my 9 turnouts to one of these and used the other accessory to light my buildings and run my sawmill, control tower, and etc. This transformer also has the horn and bell functions for each track.
    I have a 6’ x 40’ layout with two primary tracks that are about 90’ long each. This transformer provides enough power over these tracks, but I ran the main power down the center of my layout and tapped off to every 30’ of track by soldering the positive to the center rail and soldered the negative to the outer rails. This way, I don’t have a power drops due to high joints (loose connections).
    If you are buying new engines, go DCC.

  • Gerry Keffersays:

    Rob is right on with his suggestion of using the MTH Z4000. That is what our club uses on our massive layout in our 20’x50’ room with an inner and outer loop plus staging yard and engine ride and multiple sidings (sidings are toggle switch controlled).
    The question is, “How much are you looking at spending on a transformer and just how big is you layout going to be when finished?” I ask this because there are a lot of lower wattage transformers available and both MTH and Lionel have some really nice ones that are a little cheaper than the massive Z4000…

  • Chris Lesebergsays:

    I faced the same problem when I started setting up my layout except I was HO scale and my trains were the old Gilbert sets. I contacted Walther’s Customer Service and they replied the next day with a list of recommended power sources which would not over extend the amperage you could use for these older engines . If you contact them give them as much information on your engines locomotives as possible. ie: make, model, year, etc.
    Their pretty good with getting you started in the right direction.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Add a photo or image related to your comment (JPEG only)

Use Tiny Railroad Micro Controllers

A micro controller is basically a small programmable computer device to help the model railroader “make things operate.” It is clever way to realistically replicate the movements, actions and functions you are likely to see on a full size railroad.

Model Train DCC HELP

Download Your Free Catalog

N Scale Track Plans

Watch Video

Model Train Help Ebook

Watch These Club Videos

Club members access helpful new resources each month: diagrams, video tutorials, articles, track plans and more. Watch the tour videos here.

Scenery Techniques Explained


Model Railroad Building House Plans

rail yard buildings


Submit Your Model Railroading Questions!

Before you submit your model railroading question please add some feedback, answers or comments to other postings on this model train blog. What goes around comes around... so if you can help others in the hobby, someone else may help you.

Important - Please add plenty of supporting details to any question you submit (eg. scale, solutions you have already tried etc.) , as the clearest and best questions usually get the best answers. Also, please check your spelling and punctuation as all questions need to be approved by the blog moderator prior to publication. Approved questions are normally published within a week (if not sooner).

Submit your model train questions here.

Scenery & Layout Ideas


Submit Your Article

Would you like to write an article and have it published?

Preference will be given to articles that help others progress in the hobby, maybe suggesting an idea for their layout, a quick tip or two... or perhaps a little bit of good advice based on your model railroading experiences.

We are all in this hobby together, so the more we can do to share ideas and help each other, the better.

Submit Your Article Here

Model Railroading Blog Archive

Reader Poll

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.