Power for Lionel

Discussion in 'G / O / S Scale Model Trains' started by clemsparks, Dec 21, 2001.

  1. clemsparks

    clemsparks New Member

    Hi all,

    I've got a question about a transformer for a lionel train set. I'd like to get my older Lionel running for my daughter's enjoyment. This set is from my childhood and It needs only a transformer to be operational again.

    I'm not sure quite what I need to run this. I see some transformers that are very pricey. I see some Lionel units on ebay for less than $20.

    Can anybody please explain what is needed and what alternatives I have? I would greatly appreciate it.

  2. clemsparks

    clemsparks New Member


    If I need to list more details, please just ask. I'd love to get this train running again.

  3. roryglasgow

    roryglasgow Active Member

    Internet Hobbies has a basic looking power supply/controller for $42, but I don't know if this is what you need. You might want to check out www.lionel.com and maybe contact them with your question, too.

    Here's a question that I have: do Lionel trains run on AC or DC?

  4. billk

    billk Active Member

    Rory - If it's real old it runs on BC (before current?).
  5. clemsparks

    clemsparks New Member



    Anyway :). I found internet hobbies and found an MRC techII for $65.xx but didn't find the $48 one you mentioned.

    Here's the link for the techII:

    I appreciate the help. I didn't know if there were "aftermarket" ones available or not. This at least let me know that there are.

    Any more input appreciated.


    PS. It's not old enough to be "Before Current" as It was purchased around 1980 or so :).
  6. clemsparks

    clemsparks New Member

  7. Brian C

    Brian C New Member

    Hello Clem,
    The transformers you see listed on eBay for $20 are probably underpowered, and potentially unsafe as well. I personally endorse MRC transformers...their recently-released 100-watt throttle pack should work out well for you.
    If you want to purchase a used transformer, you'll want to buy a postwar Lionel LW or TW. You might also want to purchase a ZW, but those tend to cost anywhere from $400 to $500 depending on condition and box availablity.
    You might want to purchase a back copy of Classic Toy Trains magazine (I believe it was the January 1999 issue). There was a very good and very comprehensive article about transformers, both of recent and older vintage, new and used. It discussed ad nauseum how to choose, purchase, and inspect used transformers prior to laying out any cash for one.
    Hope this helps - Brian
  8. Brian C

    Brian C New Member

    Lionel and other 3-rail trains operate on AC current, but they use DC power "spikes" to activate the horn/whistle and bell sounds (if so equipped).
    - Brian
  9. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    I seem to remember that at one point Lionel divided their range into 2 parts (and I forget what they called them) and one ran on AC and the other on DC. But I think everything before 1990 was AC.
  10. wsdimenna

    wsdimenna New Member

    For a simple loop on a four by eight a basic AC variable transformer 75-90 watts will work. No need to pay more than $1/watt.
    K-line, MTH, Lionel, MRC all make variable AC transformers in this range. The MRC seem to be overpriced.
  11. Brian C

    Brian C New Member

    Lionel has always used AC for track power. There was a brief period of time during the late 1950s and into the early 1960s where they manufactured HO scale trains, and those are powered by DC. However, their 3-rail trains always have been, and always will be powered by AC.
  12. pcentral

    pcentral Member

    Yes, Lionel made DC trains

    I just joined and thought I would add my 2 cents worth. Some of the lower priced sets made in the 1980's by Lionel did have DC motors. If you have the original box it will be printed somewhere on it.

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