O Scale Newbie

Discussion in 'G / O / S Scale Model Trains' started by PAConrail, Mar 24, 2006.

  1. Dave Farquhar

    Dave Farquhar Member

    No problem, PAConrail. HO probably is a better fit, considering your available space and what you're after. Have fun!
  2. ampguy

    ampguy New Member

    Hi All,

    Just wanted to thank everyone again for the great info., and post an update.

    Received the Lionel O-Gauge Thomas set from a reputable on-line source factory sealed, and read me manual and watched the DVD with my son. We then assembled the basic oval Fastrack and plugged in the CW-80 and put the engine and 2 coaches on the track.

    Everything is working, but the direction switch is a little funky. We understand how the switch on the Thomas engine has to be enabled for the CW-80 to be able to control direction, and we only hit direction when the engine is stopped, but it sometimes takes 2 or 3 presses for anything to happen.

    We'll ramp up power and the white light will show voltage, but the train won't move (sometimes), then we'll bring power back down, press the direction once or twice, bring power back up and it will move (sometimes forward, sometimes reverse).

    We also tried to see if it was the engine by switching the direction off on the engine, and just getting it to go clockwise forward, but sometimes it would still need a random press (or two) of the direction button.

    The whistle works fine, and we can always get it going, but not consistently without some pressing of the direction button.

    I'm guessing that this is the strangeness that I was warned about with the CW-80? Is the best thing to contact the dealer (an authorized Lionel dealer) or Lionel tech. direct?

    Thanks for any suggestions. We love the train set and are already thinking about what to add on next!!
  3. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    The CW-80 is likely the culprit. It's design has some interesting "features" to say the least, and most are poorly documented. Under no or very light load, it often fails to bring the voltage low enough to let the e-unit (reversing module in the engine) cycle properly. A fix that usually works is to install a lighted lock-on or some other light across the track wiring. This provides enough load to cause the CW-80 track voltage to drop to near zero when it should.

    The Classic Toy Trains and OGR forums go into problems and cures for the CW-80 on a regular basis - just use the search feature. If you can get a hold of an older used transformer - can be from an older train set - you can try that transformer instead as a trouble-shooting aid. Thomas doesn't use a lot of power, so that's not a problem. If you are not going to use sounds in O gauge, the post-war Lionel 1033 transformers are ideal for a small layout.

    Hope this helps
  4. spankybird

    spankybird OTTS Founder

    The other big fault of the CW80 is the direction button. It often fails. Our local dealer says one out of very 5 transformers have be returned to him. This is one of the worst designs that Lionel has every put out. It's a shame that it is in the starter sets.
  5. ampguy

    ampguy New Member

    Thanks Fred and Tom, I did some googling and read a lot on the CW-80 on the other forums, as well as a couple of the official 12 page manuals, and since the thing is working, and my son has got the double press thing down for direction or isn't really complaining, I think we'll be OK until this just quits, then we get an older or better.

    The one thing I don't think that would be good now is more power, like the sometimes recommended ZW unit at 190W, my son likes to run the thomas at 60 or so and I've suggested we not go at above 50 or so to keep Thomas and his coaches happy and not reeling off the fastrack with those angry shifting eyes!... Though we have pegged it a few times, I am just guessing from common sense that taking it easy will be easier on Thomas in the long run.

    Now if we had this ZW 190 watter, and accidentally pegged it a few times, I think Thomas and his coaches would be splattered permanently against the wall or something!!

    Anyways, we are having a blast, and it's just not worth the hassle in sending the CW-80 back for the directional quirkiness, I just hope it lasts many months or a year, then we'll upgrade as appropriate. Thanks.
  6. Dave Farquhar

    Dave Farquhar Member

    I would e-mail Lionel tech support. When I got a bad CW-80 in a Polar Express set, Lionel sent me a replacement. Chances are the replacement will eventually go bad too, but I'd rather take my chances with a CW-80 that works right from the get-go, rather than one that starts out with problems.

    As far as bigger transformers, no worries. It's voltage that causes speed, not wattage. So Thomas will run at pretty much the same speed whether it's getting power from an 80-watter or a 190-watter. A few transformers can put out a maximum of 24 volts (I think the CW-80 maxes out at either 18 or 20 volts), so one of those will send Thomas flying. The 24v transformers aren't common, though, so you won't buy one of those accidentally.
  7. ampguy

    ampguy New Member

    Thanks Dave

    Lionel tech. support has been very responsive and is sending out a new terminal track with an embedded light to hopefully address the reverse issue. On the intermittent stops and hiccups, I'll probably have to get another engine like a marx 490 or something to verify if it's the CW80 acting up or the engine.

    Right now, Thomas can only go for about 30 laps (set very slow) before just stopping and resetting the whole system, with clean track and the fastrack oval set tight, and voltage measuring on all pieces.

    Also, it seems that over some pieces that thomas is going slower, not just the corners, as expected, but over some of the straights in the oval, very odd, like if run on super low power, just so he barey moves, I can predict where he'll stop.

    Definitely interesting things going on. Thanks!

  8. Dave Farquhar

    Dave Farquhar Member

    Ah, if they're sending a new terminal section, that could solve the intermittent issues. When you get it, use both terminal sections. Put them on opposite sides of your circle. Connect both sets of leads to the transformer if they'll reach. (Match the colors!) If not, extend the wires. It's possible you're having a problem with voltage drop, and having two power feeds will ensure more consistent voltage.
  9. ampguy

    ampguy New Member

    Thanks Dave

    Well the new terminal section with the Thomas set is a 10" straight, so for circles, they just aren't planning reversing support I guess, unless they are also sending a curved terminal strip with the embedded lamp circuitry.

    What the new terminal section for the Thomas sets (and maybe others) do, is have a built in lamp and maybe mini diode or something to drop enough voltage across the track, and for long enough for the engines stopping, and reverse circuitry to engage.

    I've been reading about this issue on several forums, and have a temp fix for the reversing issue by putting a couple of 12V bulbs in series across the track lines. This allows the direction button to work, press once, Thomas stops, press twice, Thomas reverses. Thomas has a whistle, but no beep, but there are still intermittent stops or slow downs, so I think I will get one of those plastic Marx 490s to know if these intermittent things (assuming the direction stays fixed, or remains fixed with new terminal board) are Thomas engine related or CW80 related. Here's a pic of my fix:


  10. Dave Farquhar

    Dave Farquhar Member

    I don't think they make curved terminal strips--I've never seen one. No problem, you only need one lamp to create enough of a load to make the set behave. The placement of the lamp doesn't matter--with the lamp on, creating a load, you can reverse anywhere on the layout.

    It's very common for people to wire multiple feeds to their transformer to solve problems with inconsistent speed, reversing, etc, regardless of the track type. If you look on the bottom of every Fastrack section, the spot is right there for attaching wires.
  11. ampguy

    ampguy New Member

    Thanks Dave, Yes, I understand that each fastrack has connections, but I've measured to ensure the V and A are the same from piece to piece during these Thomas slowdowns or shutdowns and the track V and A are consistent.

    Of course, when then engine is rolling there are some dynamics of movement, so I can see your point of wiring the transf. to multiple track sections. However, after isolating track electricity, and ensuring a clean track and connections, and proper tention on the dual spring contacts, their is still something intermittent going on.

    Maybe 1 in 5 times we try to start Thomas, he either needs a nudge, a complete shutdown or just doesn't run until we shut off and come back many hours later. I was going to wait until the new term. track came from Lionel tech. support with the official direction load fix, but I think I'll work on the issues with them in parallel.

    As of this time, we aren't sure if it's a CW80, or Engine quirk that we're looking at. The thing that had us confused for days was that sometimes a nudge would get thomas going, or a tad of pressur on the rear of the engine, and othertimes not, then we completely looked at the contacts and measured everywhere, and we're pretty sure the intermittent behavior is not in the contacts or track, but somewhere in the CW80 or engine.


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