Modern set transformers

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  • Member since
    January, 2002
  • From: Western Pennsylvania
  • 687 posts
Modern set transformers
Posted by prewardude on Thursday, August 22, 2002 7:20 PM
Has anyone else besides me noticed that these modern transformers that they're packing with train sets are JUNK with a capital "J" ?! I'm not talking about their low wattage output; I AM talking about their modified wave form.They seem to be extremely hard on motors,electronics,etc.If you don't believe me, try setting up a loop of track and running a train first with a modern low-end set transformer,and then with a post-war "low-end" set transformer. I'll bet the post-war transformer runs the train much more smoothly and quietly regardless of wattage output.I'm sorry to rant and rave like this,but I hate paying for garbage - and the big TWO toy train companies are responsible for including these horrible power supplies in their train sets.I'm really suprised CTT hasn't hasn't made mention of this.
  • Member since
    January, 2001
  • From: US
  • 440 posts
Posted by Algonquin on Friday, August 23, 2002 12:44 PM
This issue was discussed in some detail last year on several train forums. However, there is not a lot of verified research on the issue. The issue came to light a few years ago when QSI boards began to fail. QSI developed a voltage surge suppressor called the PowerGaurd to protect their boards from voltage spikes from some newer transformers that were generating higher voltage spikes damaging components on their boards.

Based on my reading of the "QSI Technical Report on PowerGuard", including the Addendum issued January 1999, QSI's testing indicated that voltage spikes from ZWs were less severe and of shorter duration than those of newer transformers and therefore, it can be presumed that circuit board lives would be longer and there would be fewer catastrophic failures of boards when power is supplied from these older transformers.

My personal opinion is that the issue was overblown last year. Two factors are primary in failing boards. One, the strength and duration of the voltage spikes from a transformer, and two, the design of the circuit board to handle these higher voltage spikes.

Quality conrol on boards is probably the biggest issue. Even if designed well failures of boards will occur from time to time based on defective parts or parts supplied for boards that do not meet the requirements of their design. This is a fact of life in balancing quality control and cost control. I think most manufacturers are trying to minimize part defects by purchasing their boards from suppliers with good quality programs.

Other than a few transformers, such as the MTH Z-750, most new or old transformers should not cause a problem.

Two years ago I added TMCC to my main layout which is powered by old Lionel ZWs and now run most of the time in command mode. The sparks generated from my derailments in command mode are much more spectacular then previously in conventional mode since I usually have a higher voltage going to the track when the derailment occurs. I have never had a board failure. I use my newer transformers (all Lionel) to power my floor layouts and have also never had a board failure.

I contacted Lionel last year on the issue of voltage spikes from newer transformers. They indicated that they had not seen evidence of these spikes causing any problems to their boards, on the contrary, they indicated that I should invest in a fast circuit breaker, like the ones that are supplied on all new transformers, because the old thermal breakers on my old ZWs are slow and may cause board failures due to current overloads due to shorts.

To date I have incorporated neither a voltage surge suppressor or a fast circuit breaker and I have still had no problems.

However, if you are still concerned, I believe you can still purchase the Powergaurd from QSI (You could think of it as an insurance policy). Also, you should be able to purchase the old QSI report from QSI. It was previously advertised for $15.00 on their website when I purchased it last year.


Tim Pignatari

A penny saved is a penny earned. But every once in a while it is good to treat yourself to a gum ball.

  • Member since
    January, 2002
  • From: Western Pennsylvania
  • 687 posts
Posted by prewardude on Sunday, August 25, 2002 10:38 PM
Thanks for the info,Tim ! At least I know I'm not alone in this.
  • Member since
    April, 2003
  • 302,230 posts
Posted by Anonymous on Friday, September 13, 2002 3:06 PM
Knowing what the new trannies are like, I am sticking to Postwar trannies. My main ones are a couple of "V" transformers. Reliable stuff!

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