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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.”

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3 Responses to Which Transformer to Buy? What Wattage?

  • Rob Tennison says:

    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 Keffer says:

    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 Leseberg says:

    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.

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