General Tips & FAQs

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The Lionel Command Control System and 027 Switches


The following tip will show you how to convert Lionel 027 style switches for optimum use with TrainMaster Command Control. This conversion will allow you to use the switches with or without the 6-12914 SC-1 or the 6-22980 SC-2 TrainMaster Command Control switch controllers.

Unlike their bigger brother, the "O" gauge switch, the 027 switch is designed to receive its power from variable track voltage and works best between 10 to 14 volts. It does not have a "fixed voltage" tap. These characteristics make it less than ideal when running in Command Control. That is unless you perform the following, very simple, modification.

First, you will need to remove the switch housing that covers the coils. To remove this housing take out the single screw that's holding it in place. The double coils are now exposed. You will see three insulated wires going to the two coils; one wire on each end and one wire in the middle between the two coils. This middle wire is the one that we will be changing. This middle-insulated wire is actually covering two copper wires within one piece of insulation. Gently pull on the insulation covering these middle wires to give yourself some exposed wire to cut.

Now, clip the insulation and wires about 1/2 inch from the coils. Wrap the clipped wire ends coming from the bottom of the switch with electrical tape. Next, using a modeling knife carefully scrape any clear varnish insulation that may be on the ends of the wires coming from the coil. Removing any varnish will allow for a better connection. Once you have removed the varnish, twist the two wires together. These wires will now need to be soldered to a small length of "jumper" wire, approximately 2 to 4 inches long. This small length of wire should be one or two strands thick. After you have soldered the wires together, use another piece of electrical tape to insulate your newly formed connection. You are now ready to replace the switch cover.

Before you replace the switch cover, cut a notch at the base of the cover using a modeling knife. This will allow the wire to come through the cover without getting pinched. Alternately, you may also route the wire through the holes in the top of the cover that are used to vent heat generated by the coils. Assemble the cover to the switch. Your modification is now complete and ready to use with TrainMaster Command Control. Note that the 027 switches will no longer function as before using variable- track power.

At this point you can now attach the jumper wire to a fixed voltage power source. If you are currently using a PowerHouse, you will need a separate power supply for operating your switches. You will need to attach a ground wire from this separate power source to the outside rail of your track or attach this wire to the "U" post on the PowerMaster. Your switches can now be operated on fixed voltage and can also be used with SC-1 or SC-2 Controllers.

Lionel ZW controller with 135 Watt or 180 Watt Powerhouse

1. The ZW controller shipped with the 135W or more recently with 180W PowerHouses operates in exactly the same way as a Post War Lionel ZW transformer. In addition, the new ZW controller can be used as four separate PowerMasters and controlled by a Lionel TMCC Cab-1 wireless remote controller.

2. How can I tell if my 180W PowerHouse is out-of-phase?

There is a date code heat-stamped into the bottom of the case near the plug of the 180W Powerhouse, at the time of manufacture. Any 180W Powerhouse with a date code of 2000 48 or lower is out-of-phase with other transformers.

3. What will Lionel do to correct my out-of-phase 180W PowerHouse?

Lionel will provide a Phase Adapter plug, which will attach between the Powerhouse and ZW controller to correct the out-of-phase condition.

The most recent production of the ZW controller with 180W Powerhouse will not have this condition and will not require a Phase Adapter. See #3 above.

4. Can I use my out-of-phase 180W PowerHouses before I have a Phase Adapter plug?

Until the Phase Adapters are available you may still use the 180W ZW controller and transformers without causing damage to your controller or engines, provided your track is only powered from this controller. Until the Phase Adapter is available, we do not recommend adding additional 135W or 180W PowerHouses to the controller.

5. My 180W PowerHouse circuit breaker trips more quickly than the 135W PowerHouse circuit breaker. Why?

As a safety feature, the 180W PowerHouse has an electronic circuit breaker which will trip quickly under short circuit conditions. The 180W PowerHouse breaker will not trip because of sparks created at switches or from dirty track. It will supply the rated 10 Amps under all normal operating conditions.

6. Does the ZW controller have built in overload protection?


The ZW controller has an internal, electronic overload protection circuit. This operates by reducing power supplied to the track in the event of an overload condition. See your operating manual for specific overload information.

7. Can I use 180W and 135W PowerHouses together on a ZW controller?


A ZW controller supplied with 135W PowerHouses can be used with up to four 180W PowerHouses or any combination of the two.

8. Can I use a 180W PowerHouse to power my PowerMaster?


9. How much current can a PowerMaster supply with a 135W or 180W PowerHouse?

No more than 7Amps.

10. Can I use a 180W PowerHouse to power my direct lockon?


11. How much current can a direct lockon supply with a 135W or 180W PowerHouse?

No more than 7Amps.

12. Will the 190W PowerHouse be produced?

Not at this time.

To go to the letter regarding the ZW controller, click here.