Transformers in series?

Discussion in 'FAQs' started by GKRR, Jan 17, 2003.

  1. GKRR

    GKRR New Member

    we are newbies - running 3-rail O

    we are happily in our 2nd childhoods ... bought an MTH locomotive and passenger set ... then bought a Lionel locomotive and passenger set ... the first freight set won't be far behind.

    we have plenty of room to work with and want to know if we can (or should) use the MTH and Lionel transformers in series on the same track. We have 150 watt and 80 watts respectively with the MTH and Lionel. If so, what do we need to do to make it safe for the trains (don't want to fry anything). Or, should we just use the separate transformers on completely separate track within the layout?

    also - are all 3-rail Lionel and MTH track run on AC?

  2. Paul Davis

    Paul Davis Member

    nope don't put the transformers in series. the vlotages out of the transformers add together and will probably end up being too much for the motors.

    Don't put them in parallel either as you can only do that if the voltages are the same and they won't be.

    you should be able to it up using blocks so you can use two trains independantly at the same time using the two transformes.
  3. YakkoWarner

    YakkoWarner Member

    What Paul has aluded to is that you can isolate one section of the track from another. Similar to running two seperate tracks, you can run one track and electrically isolate one portion from the other. In this manner you can run more than one train independent of each other. you should never hook up more than one power source (transformer) to the same piece of track. you could damage your transformers and your trains.

    there is an article in the academy on wiring your track for dual cab operation using a control panel. it is here:

    good luck.
  4. Vic

    Vic Active Member

    Its either K-Line or Greenburg that publishes a reprint of the Lionel wiring book. Your LHS should be able to order it for addition to how to wire 3-Rail AC layouts it will also give you the wiring diagrams for all of those wonderful old no longer made accesories should you acquire some later on.
  5. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah


    Glenn & Kathy:
    Lionel made some low end sets that ran on DC. I'm not sure which ones. One of the collectors books may tell you.
    You can hook transformers up to separate sectors of track, separated by fiber pins. When you cross from one to the other, you may get a short. Lionel said to reverse the wall plug on one of the transformers. This assumes that you always hook the U post to the outside rail. (This advise pre-dates polarized plugs.)
    You could go wild and build a cab control panel to hook the different parts of the layout to any transformer (cab) that you choose.
  6. TR-Flyer

    TR-Flyer Member

    Hi, welcome to the gauge!
    Check out the OGR website, These folks focus on O-gauge modeling and can probably provide a wide range of options to you. I’m NOT trying to chase you away from the gauge, just wanted you to know about a board dedicated to “O”. You’ll like it here too; lot’s of good people and great advise/experience. I run “S” gauge equipment on AC power. The important thing when using multiple transformers is to have them in phase. If your power plugs on the transformers are three prong, or two prong with one being the wider blade, this will not be a problem. On older Lionel or Flyer stuff the prongs on the plugs are the same width and so fit into the wall outlet either way. If the transformers are out of phase you will get wheel sparking when the trains cross over from control of one transformer to the other. This is not good for the trains or the transformers. You also cannot gang the transformer together.

    I know folks who gang their transformers to increase capacity but I don’t know how to do this. If you have a 150-watt unit that should be able to power a good sized layout. At our last show we ran a 48’x 18’ three loop layout using a 180-watt Flyer transformer. The key is getting the power from the transformer to the track. We us a continuous buss under our modules for each track, and also one for accessories. We use 16-gauge wire for the most part but some of the fellas are changing over to 14 gauge for the busses. Then, on each module, you come up to the track and connect to it from the buss with 22 or 20 gauge wire. The transformer connects directly to the buss.

    The link Yakko listed is great info. I used it and made my first CAB control unit for use on my siding modules. Works great. Using this system you can use each transformer to control separate trains anywher on your layout. Not all 3 rail is AC. Again, check out OGR for more info. But AC is traditionally used on 3-rail, and using AC allows you to take advantage of all the railsounds and other features being built into the new equipment.

    Have y’all come up with a layout yet? Post a pic. We’d love to see it.

  7. GKRR

    GKRR New Member

    Wow - thanks Ted and all the others who have responded with advice on this topic.

    Thankfully we're just beginning this project ... although we have 3 locos already, don't have even one piece of track set up yet. We did clear out a room last weekend to use for the inside setup and are doing more reading and research. Glenn has just about decided he wants to go with an MTH DCS setup.

    we'll definitely send photos to The Gauge when we have everything set up, but that's gonna be awhile.

    take care,
  8. TR-Flyer

    TR-Flyer Member

    We like progress photos too. Allows us to Kibitz with ya along the way. Ya know, back seat modeling. "Oh, i wudda done it THIS way!"

    BTW, 12 curved sections of track make a circle, and then you've got an operating layout! And you only need to use the 80 watt transformer!

  9. GKRR

    GKRR New Member

    oh - we don't mind the kibitzing ... and we have way more track than that, just not quite ready to start setting anything up. Our start-up photo would be easy ... a totally empty room.

    Okay, in place of start-up photos, picture this:

    we live in a TINY house (2 bdrm, 2 bath) ... we've accumulated way too much stuff ... until last weekend the 2nd bdrm was CRAMMED full of dressers, bookcases, shelves (much needed storage) and Glenn's computer desk...

    that room is now completely empty and ready to start building a layout for trains. Of course there's no room to walk anywhere else in the house. Also we removed the woodstove from the living room to make room for his computer desk ... any guesses what the money from the sale of the woodstove will go for ... duh.

    so now I need "technical advice" about where to put the rest of this stuff. Maybe we could move the bedroom furniture into the dining room? or combine the living room and bedroom into a multi-purpose room? I wonder what dressers would look like in the kitchen? Whatever works as long as we have a TRAIN room, right? ha ha

    yikes - the things I do to help Glenn enjoy his various stages of childhood ;)

    I'm looking forward to working with him on the trains, but don't think it would have been my idea to reconfigure the house for it.
  10. TR-Flyer

    TR-Flyer Member

    I hope the woodstove wasn't the ONLY source of heat, it gets cold in the pacific NW doesn't it? Of course, if the bedroom is in the kitchen, there's always the stove in there to keep you warm. THAT'S IT! Throw out the electric or gas range and install a wood stove in the kitchen! Heat AND food from one source!

    Ok, space problem solved! Now, back to trains! But seriously. I understand your space problem, and i have a 3-bedroom home with a garage. Unfortunately, they don’t build homes with basements where I live. So I don’t have a permanent layout at home. I have four, four-foot modules that I take to shows and hook up into our club layout. I currently have a Christmas layout on the floor of our library. Do a search for a thread called “Christmas layouts” if you’d like to see it, but it has to come down after the super bowl. That’s when we put “Christmas” away for the year.

    See if any of these ideas help. 1. Remember, under a train layout there is a lot of space. USE IT. Design shelves for the narrow areas, or for the peninsulas (you can access the shelves from two sides). Design pull out drawers for the deeper areas. Store your off season clothes, tools or whatever in there. Put both of these on casters so you can get to your train wiring. 2. Get a fold out sofa so you can still have guests. Give them privacy in the morning by using a screen to shield the “bed” The screen could be bookcases, this increases your storage. 3. Do use your bedroom for other things. Otherwise it’s only used for one third of the day. 4. If you have a dining room and a breakfast area, can you give up the dining room and use it as something else?

    Our house is a traditional colonial. Front entry hall with a dining room on the left and a living room on the right. Walk straight though the foyer and you come to the “family room”. Well, our breakfast area is large enough for a table that will seat six to eight. So, our dining room was made into a kids play room, I’m sitting there now typing this note to you. The living room is our library. We do our “living” in the “family” room. We have a ton of books and records (you know, the old LP music kind, not files) so having a library just made sense.

    Houses are just empty boxes until you decide how you want to live in them. Get rid of the room labels and make the spaces do what you want them to do. ESPECIALLY if that includes a train layout!

    The nice thing about living in a cave is that anything can go anywhere. Well, maybe the restroom should go outside the cave!

  11. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Glenn & Kathy
    I built my railroad on top of bookshelves. Admittedly, they're a standard height and width, and my layout is pretty level. I took 2 L- girders (dod you know about them?) and put them along the top edges of the bookshelves and built the layout on top of them. You could do something similar, build a box to fit each piece of furniture and build the rest of the framework on that. (They're not antiques or heirlooms or anything, are they?)
    You'll want to arrange them around the room in some reasonable fashion.
  12. GKRR

    GKRR New Member

    thanks guys, but you took me literally and my sense of humor takes awhile to catch. I haven't written enough here yet for you to know me :)

    although we really did take an old woodstove out (inefficient and took too much room) ... we had planned to use some of the extra furniture underneath the train layout ... several of the dressers, nightstands are perfect height for that.

    you'll continue to hear from us as we get closer to the layout itself (for advice and humor)

    take care,
  13. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Kathy & Glenn:
    If you have a coffee table, you could use it as the base for a river or waterfall section.

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