Recommendations for a Work Bench Transformer

2079 views
27 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    November, 2016
  • 68 posts
Recommendations for a Work Bench Transformer
Posted by AirMojo on Sunday, May 07, 2017 11:53 AM

I am currently using an old Lionel Type A 90 Watt transformer for my work bench that I picked up years ago, and also used it for a small train layout under a Christmas tree.

But it would be nice to have one that will activate a tender whistle.

I would like one that has knobs that don't easily come off, like the KW transformer horn whistle knob... I hate those things because they never seem to last long before the plastic retaining part gets stripped and the knob becomes useless... or is just me ?

Any recommendations ?

It doesn't have to be an old post-war transformer... maybe there is a more modern transformer better suited for the job and for Christmas tree layouts ?

Thanks !

  • Member since
    July, 2003
  • 1,623 posts
Posted by cwburfle on Sunday, May 07, 2017 11:59 AM

I use an LW. It's my favorite single train transformer.

  • Member since
    November, 2016
  • 68 posts
Posted by AirMojo on Sunday, May 07, 2017 2:27 PM

I'll check out the LW transformers... I was just looking at some RW transformers on ebay... thanks !

Ken

cwburfle

I use an LW. It's my favorite single train transformer.

 

  • Member since
    August, 2010
  • From: Henrico, VA
  • 7,118 posts
Posted by Firelock76 on Sunday, May 07, 2017 2:52 PM

Before you purchase a replacement KW whistle lever make sure it's got a re-enforcing steel band around the lug that mates up with the transformer.  It really keeps the plastic from wearing out, I haven't needed to replace one in years. 

I've seen some with, some without.  Next time you get one ask your parts dealer if the lever's got the band or if he's got the bands for separate sale.

  • Member since
    November, 2016
  • 68 posts
Posted by AirMojo on Monday, May 08, 2017 1:12 PM

The KW whistle lever that I have does have the re-inforcing steel band... I bought this as a replacement many years ago when I first got back into the o-gauge trains.  The replacement has not been used a whole lot, but still does not stay on very tight... the inner plastic just seems to get chewed up from use.

The KW transformer was the one that my brothers & I used on our trains back in the mid-1960s... I'm sure it was gifted to us from one of my father's friends whose kids outgrew their train hobby.

I think the original lever was either lost or broken way back then... I remember that we used a small pair of vice grips instead... which worked fine, but didn't look real good !

Firelock76

Before you purchase a replacement KW whistle lever make sure it's got a re-enforcing steel band around the lug that mates up with the transformer.  It really keeps the plastic from wearing out, I haven't needed to replace one in years. 

I've seen some with, some without.  Next time you get one ask your parts dealer if the lever's got the band or if he's got the bands for separate sale.

 

  • Member since
    July, 2003
  • 1,623 posts
Posted by cwburfle on Monday, May 08, 2017 3:45 PM

The original handles had a black compression ring (band) around the outside of the lugs that slide over the control shaft.
They also had a brass insert that went inside the lugs.
Many of the reproductions come with the black compression ring. I don't think I've seen a reproduction handle that came with the brass insert.
Unfortunately, I think the KW whistle control puts a lot or torque on those lugs. More than other transformer controls.

  • Member since
    November, 2016
  • 68 posts
Posted by AirMojo on Monday, May 08, 2017 3:53 PM

I think so too (puts a lot of torque on the lug).

Someone should make one machined from metal with a couple of set screws in it.

I would buy one for sure !

cwburfle

The original handles had a black compression ring (band) around the outside of the lugs that slide over the control shaft.
They also had a brass insert that went inside the lugs.
Many of the reproductions come with the black compression ring. I don't think I've seen a reproduction handle that came with the brass insert.
Unfortunately, I think the KW whistle control puts a lot or torque on those lugs. More than other transformer controls.

 

  • Member since
    August, 2010
  • From: Henrico, VA
  • 7,118 posts
Posted by Firelock76 on Monday, May 08, 2017 4:45 PM

Whoops!  I forgot about the brass insert!  Mine has one, got it at the same time I bought the replacement handle.  My apologies!

By the way AirMojo my KW is the one I had as a kid in the 60's just as you did.  Aside from the whistle lever I had to replace the power cord too, still works fine and gets the job done under the Christmas tree, which is about the only time I use it now.

  • Member since
    July, 2003
  • 1,623 posts
Posted by cwburfle on Monday, May 08, 2017 5:42 PM

Someone should make one machined from metal with a couple of set screws in it.

KW whistle control shafts are also prone to breakage. Brasseur carries replacement shafts that are cast in bronze and are guaranteed not to break.

A metal handle is an interesting idea. If I was using a KW, I'd probably buy one.

KRM
  • Member since
    January, 2011
  • From: North Bluff above Marseilles IL
  • 4,816 posts
Posted by KRM on Monday, May 08, 2017 5:47 PM

cwburfle

I use an LW. It's my favorite single train transformer.

 

 I second this idea. They have lots of power and are small in size.

 

 

Joined 1-21-2011    TCA 13-68614

Kev, From The North Bluff Above Marseilles IL. Whistling

 

  • Member since
    November, 2015
  • 3,295 posts
Posted by Sturgeon-Phish on Tuesday, May 09, 2017 8:15 PM

This is what I use

AF 8B 100 watts w/CB.  There is also a voltmeter and Ammeter for the variable voltage and a switched and always hot constant voltage

Jim

  • Member since
    November, 2016
  • 68 posts
Posted by AirMojo on Thursday, May 11, 2017 5:39 AM

Jim... I like your testing setup !

I just bought an LW transformer off ebay; it should arrive early next week.

I was watching the DVD "Maintenance & Repair Guide for Lionel Trains and Accessories", where they show a testing track setup; it also utilizes a Volt meter... they say they are readily available at electronics stores & the internet.

I definitely want to add one to my testing setup.

So I should be looking for one that is both a volt meter and an amp meter ?

I actually thought some time ago about wanting to add separate volt meters to my train layout transformers (currently a ZW and a KW), because the actual volts may be different than the markings on the transformers.

I noticed that the modern ZW-L transformer has dedicated meters.

Has anyone else added meters using their post-war transformers ?

Any recommendations of what meters to use ? Analog better than digital ?

I should be searching for "panel" meters, correct ?

Here is a photo from the DVD video...

Sturgeon-Phish

This is what I use

AF 8B 100 watts w/CB.  There is also a voltmeter and Ammeter for the variable voltage and a switched and always hot constant voltage

Jim

 

  • Member since
    November, 2016
  • 68 posts
Posted by AirMojo on Thursday, May 11, 2017 6:40 AM

Referring to the above photo that I posted from the DVD...

Why would you need two Sound Activation Buttons ?

The transformer being used is a Lionel Type 1034 that does not have a whistle feature, so I can see why you would need one sound activiation buttons, but why two ?

Tags: test bench
  • Member since
    July, 2003
  • 1,623 posts
Posted by cwburfle on Thursday, May 11, 2017 7:19 AM

I have analog volt and ammeters that I purchased from a Radio / TV / Electronics surplus shop. They suit my needs.

  • Member since
    November, 2016
  • 68 posts
Posted by AirMojo on Thursday, May 11, 2017 8:28 AM

cwburfle... I sure miss my local Radio Shack... it closed a couple of years ago.

There are a few around, but not very convenient to go to.

I was looking at some online at allectronics.com, but was also checking ebay and Amazon... allectronics.com seems to have what I may need.

Ken

cwburfle

I have analog volt and ammeters that I purchased from a Radio / TV / Electronics surplus shop. They suit my needs.

 

  • Member since
    November, 2015
  • 3,295 posts
Posted by Sturgeon-Phish on Thursday, May 11, 2017 10:51 AM

 

Analog works for me just ensure the gauge is of the proper range.  The ammeters are particularly handy.  You can tell when an engine needs lubed, or is starting to run hot or the response to a repair, PM, or modification.  I can’t remember the specifics off the top of my head but the AF had a spec  criteria for the number of amps while pulling a set number of cars around a specific  sized oval at a specific revolutions per minute.

 

The 8B circuit breaker function comes in handy too.

 

  • Member since
    November, 2016
  • 68 posts
Posted by AirMojo on Saturday, May 13, 2017 5:16 AM

Concerning the KW whistle handle... I ordered a new replacement, but it just has the metal outer compression ring, like the previous replacement that I bought 20 years ago.

My old 1033 transfomer has similar handles/knobs (two of them) except they are black (not orange)... I pulled one of them off, and it has the brass center support that goes around the transformer's post... which is really what the KW replacements need to have, otherwise the plastic will strip out eventually.

I noted that there is a replacement part# RW-24 (handle, black with support) available (hopefully)... I assume that the "support" is the brass center piece.

I'm going to order one and check it out... would be a much better replacement on the KW transformer !

cwburfle

The original handles had a black compression ring (band) around the outside of the lugs that slide over the control shaft.
They also had a brass insert that went inside the lugs.
Many of the reproductions come with the black compression ring. I don't think I've seen a reproduction handle that came with the brass insert.
Unfortunately, I think the KW whistle control puts a lot or torque on those lugs. More than other transformer controls.

 

  • Member since
    July, 2003
  • 1,623 posts
Posted by cwburfle on Saturday, May 13, 2017 5:31 AM

I noted that there is a replacement part# RW-24 (handle, black with support) available (hopefully)... I assume that the "support" is the brass center piece.

I am fairly cerain that it will not have the brass insert.
If you have an RW handle with the insert, why not use it on your KW?
The torque on an RW whistle control handle is much less, so the handle without the insert is less likely to break.

Or you can look for a 1044 or 4090 transformer handle. Originals are still around, and they usually have the insert. Ask your parts vendor.

  • Member since
    November, 2016
  • 68 posts
Posted by AirMojo on Saturday, May 13, 2017 6:11 AM

I will probably do just that, but it would be nice to find a workable replacement.

Years ago when I was going to the train shows, especially the Greenberg shows, there was always a good parts dealer there... but the one I went to in February was really lacking in any good parts... disappointing !

I sent an email to Olsen's Toy Train Parts, asking about it... got a bunch of parts that I want to order.

cwburfle

I am fairly cerain that it will not have the brass insert.
If you have an RW handle with the insert, why not use it on your KW?
The torque on an RW whistle control handle is much less, so the handle without the insert is less likely to break.

Or you can look for a 1044 or 4090 transformer handle. Originals are still around, and they usually have the insert. Ask your parts vendor.

 

  • Member since
    November, 2012
  • 457 posts
Posted by emdmike on Saturday, May 13, 2017 7:07 AM

With the rise of online ordering, I have seen less parts dealers at shows. As my work bench is also my Ham radio shack, I use a small 1041 transformer that came with my father's train set in 1948.  Only thing I have had to do to it was install a new cord.  Since I use a ZW to run trains with on the layout, the little 1041 was surplus.  I have a piece of 36" tubular track with a lock on and wires on it.  I just lay it on my bench when I need to test an engine.  Mike

Silly NT's, I have Asperger's Syndrome

  • Member since
    November, 2016
  • 68 posts
Posted by AirMojo on Saturday, May 13, 2017 8:21 AM

Yeah, that's what I figured... easier to sell the parts online... that's alot of stuff to setup at the local shows from what I remember.

Have not ordered anything online yet, except some ebay things.

Getting a list of things to order, and will try ordering from Olsen's to see how that goes, but I like dealing with live people so that I can ask questions... easier to do in person.

My problem with work benches, is that I have other hobbies that often clutters them up for working on trains.

Last fall I bought a small wheeled cart at Walmart that seems ideal for working on trains... I can wheel it over to my layout to work on stuff using jumper cables, etc... or move it near my main workbench that has better lighting.

Has 3 drawers for putting train-related stuff in, and decent work area with various tool holders.

I plan to add a raised test track that can be mounted with magnets to the side of the card so it can easily be removed.

I think I paid around $70 for it... shows listed for about $50 now online at Walmart... they sold out of these at the store pretty quickly.

emdmike

With the rise of online ordering, I have seen less parts dealers at shows. As my work bench is also my Ham radio shack, I use a small 1041 transformer that came with my father's train set in 1948.  Only thing I have had to do to it was install a new cord.  Since I use a ZW to run trains with on the layout, the little 1041 was surplus.  I have a piece of 36" tubular track with a lock on and wires on it.  I just lay it on my bench when I need to test an engine.  Mike

 

  • Member since
    November, 2016
  • 68 posts
Posted by AirMojo on Friday, May 19, 2017 3:06 PM

I found a 1044 red handle on ebay... has the brass insert and works great on the KW transformer whistle... way better than the orange replacements that do not have the inner brass insert !

Thanks cwburfle !

cwburfle

I noted that there is a replacement part# RW-24 (handle, black with support) available (hopefully)... I assume that the "support" is the brass center piece.

I am fairly cerain that it will not have the brass insert.
If you have an RW handle with the insert, why not use it on your KW?
The torque on an RW whistle control handle is much less, so the handle without the insert is less likely to break.

Or you can look for a 1044 or 4090 transformer handle. Originals are still around, and they usually have the insert. Ask your parts vendor.

 

  • Member since
    August, 2010
  • From: Henrico, VA
  • 7,118 posts
Posted by Firelock76 on Saturday, May 20, 2017 9:41 AM

That handle even looks better than the original KW handle!  From what I can tell it also seems to be a bit longer, which would be good for increased leverage.  I don't anticipate breaking any of my KW handles but I'll have to keep an eye out for a 1044 handle or two.

  • Member since
    July, 2003
  • 1,623 posts
Posted by cwburfle on Saturday, May 20, 2017 11:01 AM

The 4090 (MPC) handle is slightly improved over the 1044 handle.

  • Member since
    November, 2016
  • 68 posts
Posted by AirMojo on Saturday, May 20, 2017 3:59 PM

Definitely better than the KW handles without the center brass insert... and handle is actually shorter than the KW handle... but the flatness of the 1044 makes it seem longer with better leverage.

I just looked at some 4090 transformers on ebay and the handles look identical to the 1044... I wonder what the "improvement" is ?

Firelock76

That handle even looks better than the original KW handle!  From what I can tell it also seems to be a bit longer, which would be good for increased leverage.  I don't anticipate breaking any of my KW handles but I'll have to keep an eye out for a 1044 handle or two.

 

  • Member since
    July, 2003
  • 1,623 posts
Posted by cwburfle on Sunday, May 21, 2017 7:03 AM

Perhaps I should not have mentioned the improvement because it would not affect the handles use on a KW.
The postwar Lionel 1044 style handles are flat on the bottom. It's common to see 1044 transformers with scuff marks on the dial plate from the handle moving back and forth over it.
The MPC 4090 handle has a small bump molded on the bottom to hold it slightly above the dial plate. I guess that could cause a narrow band of scuffing, but to me that is preferable to scuffing the whole plate. The 4090 is also a different shade of red.

Be aware that some of the 4090 handles that I have purchased did not come with the insert, others didn't even have the compression ring. So if you are buying them, ask.

  • Member since
    November, 2016
  • 68 posts
Posted by AirMojo on Sunday, May 21, 2017 11:09 AM

I didn't really pay too much attention to the bottom of the 1044 handle, so I just looked... it really is consistently flat throughout the whole bottom length, especially compared to the bottom of the KW handle.

This probably helps add to the better feel of it in use as well... but I really like it !

Time will tell !

I took a photo of the bottoms of both...

  • Member since
    August, 2010
  • From: Henrico, VA
  • 7,118 posts
Posted by Firelock76 on Sunday, May 21, 2017 2:24 PM

Yeah, there should be an insert in the KW handle, looks like the 1044 handle has one, so your troubles are probably, definately over.

SUBSCRIBER & MEMBER LOGIN

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

FREE EMAIL NEWSLETTER

Get the Classic Toy Trains newsletter delivered to your inbox twice a month

Search the Community